Queer Your Ears: LGBTQ Artists Across Genres
Music has always been a powerful vehicle for self-expression—and LGBTQ artists have been at the forefront of using their talents to challenge societal norms and shape the cultural landscape. To better celebrate Pride month, here’s a fresh selection of LGBTQ musicians from various genres, each leaving an indelible mark on the music industry.
Pop: Troye Sivan
Pop music has seen a surge of LGBTQ representation in recent years, and one artist who stands out is Troye Sivan. Sivan gained popularity through his heartfelt, vulnerable songs, including the popular “Angel Baby.” With a silky-smooth voice and relatable lyrics, he’s become an icon for LGBTQ youth. Search out the themes of self-acceptance and sexuality in his albums, with lyrics like “Long nights, daydreams/ Sugar and smoke rings, I’ve been a fool/ But strawberries and cigarettes always taste like you” from the song “Strawberries & Cigarettes.”
Hip-Hop: Mykki Blanco
Moving into the realm of hip-hop, Mykki Blanco is making waves. As an American rapper, performance artist, and activist, they’ve been hot on the hip-hop scene since the 2010s. Blanco is a queer artist and is vocal about their experiences as a transgender person of color. Treat your ears to a fusion of hip-hop, punk, and experimental, with raw, unfiltered lyrics that touch on themes of gender, sexuality, and identity.
Hip-Hop: Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean‘s influence cannot be overstated. The enigmatic singer-songwriter burst onto the scene with his critically acclaimed 2012 studio album, Channel Orange, which received widespread praise for its introspective lyrics and soulful sound. Ocean’s decision to open up about his bisexuality in a heartfelt open letter showcased the power of authenticity and representation in an industry that has historically perpetuated stereotypes.
Hip-Hop: Big Freedia
Big Freedia, known as the “Queen of Bounce” or “Queen Diva,” creates energetic and infectious music that fuses hip-hop with New Orleans bounce. As a gay artist, Big Freedia has become an advocate for LGBTQ visibility and acceptance in the hip-hop community. He cleared up questions about his gender identity and sexuality in 2020, telling interviewers: “I do not mind if you call me ‘he’ or ‘she.’ Both are right! […] I was born male and remain male — physically, hormonally and mentally. […] If I had known the ‘queen’ in Queen Diva would cause so much confusion, I might have called myself the king!”
R&B: Janelle Monáe
Turning to the world of R&B, we find the enigmatic talent of Janelle Monáe. Monáe’s genre-bending music seamlessly blends R&B, funk, and futuristic elements, creating a sound that is uniquely her own. Her last album, 2018’s Dirty Computer, explores themes of sexuality, identity, and liberation through songs like “I Got the Juice” and “Crazy, Classic, Life.” Monáe came out as pansexual in 2018 and recently shared with the public that she’s nonbinary, adding that when it comes to sharing details about her identity, “nobody tells me what to do.”
Recognized as one of the most innovative producers and songwriters of her time, SOPHIE challenged conventions with her experimental sound and boundary-pushing production techniques. As a transgender woman, she fearlessly broke barriers, emphasizing the importance of trans visibility and inclusivity. Her music, characterized by vibrant synths, infectious beats, and gender-bending lyrics, celebrates the complexity and diversity of human identity. Tragically, SOPHIE died in an accident in 2021, but her legacy continues to inspire new generations of LGBTQ musicians.
Rock: Tegan and Sara
Rock music has long been associated with rebellion and pushing the boundaries of social norms. In this realm, queer artists like Tegan and Sara have been instrumental in paving the way for LGBTQ representation. The Canadian twin sisters’ indie-pop-rock sound has captivated audiences with songs like “Where Does the Good Go.” Tegan and Sara fearlessly navigate themes of love, heartbreak, and queer identity in their music, including in their latest album Crybaby (2022).
Rock: Laura Jane Grace
Laura Jane Grace is an American musician, singer, and songwriter best known as the lead vocalist and guitarist for the punk-rock band Against Me! . As a transgender woman, Grace has been open about her experiences with gender dysphoria and the challenges of coming out in the punk-rock scene. Her raw and unapologetic lyrics touch on themes of identity, politics, and social justice: “I don’t know the source of my faith / But I know I will be full again / Come on in and take a swim” from her 2020 track “The Swimming Pool Song” attests to her unique lyrical style.
Country: Orville Peck
Orville Peck, the masked cowboy with a rich baritone voice, has redefined country music with his unique blend of traditional country and modern influences. Peck’s music embodies the spirit of LGBTQ rebellion, challenging stereotypes and heteronormativity in one go. With his unequaled stage presence (he’s known for always wearing a fringed mask) and poignant songwriting, Peck is a well-rounded artist. He’s getting credit for it too—his latest album, 2022’s Bronco, was nominated for a Juno award for Country Album of the Year and was longlisted for a Polaris Music Prize.
Indie: Perfume Genius
Perfume Genius is the stage name for American singer-songwriter and musician Michael Alden Hadreas. He’s been vocal about his queer experiences and the challenges of growing up gay in a conservative environment. That experience brings emotional depth to his music, which is full of haunting vocals and experimental soundscapes—you’ll hear it in his 2014 hit song “Queen.” Hadreas’ fusion of indie, electronic, and pop creates a unique and dynamic sound that has earned him critical acclaim and a loyal fan base.
Playlist for Pride and Beyond
Through their songs about LGBTQ culture, LGBTQ music artists express their identities and share their experiences, empowering others from the community—and beyond—to live out their true selves. Their art challenges preconceived notions, encourages dialogue, and fosters empathy, ultimately helping to create a more accepting society for all.
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