14 Legendary LGBTQ+ Musicians You Need On Your Summer Soundtrack, ASAP
Express your Pride through music!
Summer is all about celebration, and there’s a lot to celebrate when it comes to one’s identity. So, truly, we’re blessed to live in a world where summer vacation is kicked off by Pride Month.
Musicians know this better than most everyone, and we’re lucky to have so many talented queer musicians out there to discover. These are some of the best queer musicians to jam out to this summer— with all the love and pride.
Lil Nas X
Yeah, duh, no list like this would be complete without The Boy. Lil Nas X has had, perhaps, the most publicity of any modern queer artist, and with that has come quite a bit of negativity. But our boy has dealt with it with grace and humor, and none of it has stopped him from putting out some of the best pop songs ever made.
In particular, I love this song as a love letter to young queer folks who are still finding their way. It’s a lonely journey for many of us, and it means a lot when such a public figure makes the effort to write a song that says, I see you, I am you, and it gets better.
Few modern producers are as prolific, poetic, and just plain as pretty as Frank Ocean. His songs carry a profound weight to them, and it’s no wonder that every song he touches—whether his own, or from one of his many talented associates—has something special to it.
Honestly, every member of Odd Future is pretty talented in their own right, but when it comes to bicons, nobody is quite like Frank. I have a feeling he’ll be remembered for his talents for many generations to come.
BROCKHAMPTON was rightfully criticized for some of their past actions, but I think it’d be a shame if those criticisms overlooked how impactful Kevin Abstract’s work was on the LGBTQ+ community. He said it best on JUNKY: “Why you always rap about being gay? Cuz not enough *** rap and be gay.”
Kevin has always been upfront about who he is, even when it wasn’t exactly common. In doing so, he helped pave the way for other queer BIPOC rappers to come out and be proud of who they are. In any case, “Peach” is just a great song for every summer.
Heyo, we stan Asian lesbians! It annoys me to no end that Deb Never didn’t take off like she should have, which is why I’m putting her on this list. She’s masc and openly sapphic as an Asian woman, which we don’t see often in the music industry.
Even aside from all that, her songs are bangers. They’re lyrically impressive, as well as skillfully produced, and her voice is just…*chef’s kiss.*
Now, one of us who did make it (and in spades!) is Rina Sawayama, who you’ve probably heard of. At least, you ought to have heard of her. Come on, y’all, she was one of pop’s top princesses last year. Get with it.
She’s been stated as having sung most of her love songs to women, and identifies as both bisexual and pansexual. As for her thoughts on men—well, clearly judging from the above song, the message is, Do better.
If you were a queer teen during the mid-2010s indie-rock revival, you were absolutely feasting on the lyrical prowess that was Courtney Barnett’s discography. While she’s remained fairly low-key in the past few years, it cannot be denied that she’s one of modern rock’s ultimate badasses.
I’m featuring the above song because it’s a rare ode to sapphic domesticity, but don’t let its soft sounds fool you: Barnett runs the entire gamut. From Beck-like ballads of nonchalance, to punky shouts of discontentment, if you’re a rock fan, you’d be remiss to miss out on her.
Angel Olsen recently came out as a lesbian—yay! Of course, that’s not the only reason we love her. Like Barnett, she toed the line of femme-indie-rep, but with a unique blend of sounds and lyrical sensibilities that continue to make her stand out from the rest.
On top of that, her work has a certain powerful catharsis to it that I haven’t found in many artists of her ilk. Beginning with her EP “Strange Cacti,” she’s only continued to create a discography based on a keen understanding of humanity, suffering, and endurance.
“Madeline, I’m begging you, stop talking about Japanese Breakfast“—okay yeah, I’ll do that WHEN I’M DEAD. Listen to Japanese Breakfast. All the cool kids are doing it.
Trans people have always been in music, but SOPHIE was a trailblazer who made it clear that they’re here to stay, and they have all the talent to offer and then some. Without her, we wouldn’t have modern pop as we know it. All the sounds we’ve come to love wouldn’t be quite as good.
Rest in peace, angel. We love you.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge pop person, so I never had my Hayley Kiyoko phase when all the girlies were having their heyday. But I love what she stands for, and I love how much fun she’s brought to the pop scene.
She continues to be one of the most powerful advocates for queer rights in the music industry, and she’s always been unapologetically out as a lesbian. Kiyoko is undeniably a powerhouse, and I don’t see her slowing down any time soon.
Although we’re living in an era that’s being progressively gender-liberated, we don’t have that many nonbinary musicians to look up to. Janelle Monae really stepped up and said, “I gotchu.”
To quote a dear friend of mine, they seem to operate by the mantra “hearts, not parts,” and that’s really cool and refreshing to see in a star as big as them. They truly operate by their own terms of existence, a thing that many of us could stand to learn from.
Yes, I am pissed that they more or less replaced their drummer Janet with St. Vincent. But band politicking aside, Sleater-Kinney was many a young queer girl’s introduction to Riot Grrrl, and for that, we have to appreciate them (even if many would argue that there are better riot grrrl bands, to which I say, again, stop pitting bad bitches against each other!).
Sleater-Kinney was a powerhouse of angry femme energy back in the 90s, with Carrie Brownstein’s signature kicks, Corin Tucker’s incomparable voice, and Janet Weiss’ amazingly aggressive drumming. From love songs about queer relationships to testimonies about why the west coast sucks, Sleater-Kinney will forever be one of those must-listen bands for anyone even remotely interested in rock.
As perhaps the most obscure band on this list, many might be wondering why it “deserves” a spot here. But if you were a queer kid in crusty punk scenes during the last two decades, then you for sure know that Dear Nora was just one of those bands that was spoken about like gospel.
It’s a rare band that can combine relatively simple instrumentality with earnest lyrics and make cult hits out of the two, yet Dear Nora has done that in spades. They inspired all manner of musicians, and though this might be an ambitious reach, I’d even say they paved the way for what we now call bedroom pop (for better or for worse–I much prefer gnarly guitar riffs to synth beats, but that’s just me).
Sister Rosetta Tharpe
If you take anything away from this article, let it be that rock and roll was invented by a queer Black woman, who played the guitar as though she was being blessed by the very God she sang the gospel for. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a badass, an incomparable musician, and an inspiration to musicians even to this day.
We love you, Sister! Thank you for giving us rock!
(featured Images: Columbia Records/Getty)
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