The LGBTQ Musicians You Need to Be Listening to Right Now

Pride Month may be over, but our celebration of the LGBTQ community never ends with this eclectic list of artists serving as the soundtrack.

By Billy Nilles Jul 15, 2020 7:00 AMTags
Related: Troye Sivan Jumps Back Into Acting With "Boy Erased"

"My music is queer because I'm queer. But queer artist is not a category. You can't make a playlist for queer artists because they're not all the same."

That's what King Princess had to say to The New York Times back in March 2020 on the topic of queer music. And, to a degree, she's right. 

It's impossible to classify music strictly as "queer" because what does that even sound like? It's certainly not a genre with identifiable sonic characteristics like R&B or zydeco. And yet, in recent years, there's been an explosion of openly queer musicians. These rock (or pop or country or...) stars are living loud and proud lives across the LGBTQ spectrum while absolutely thriving in an industry that hasn't always been so welcoming.

So, while there is no such thing as queer music, there are queer artists. Lots of them, and in nearly every genre of music there is, too.

Pride Month may have ended a few weeks ago, but our celebration of the LGBTQ community never ends. And if you've been thinking your Apple Music library looks a little, well, straight, we've got your back with a list of queer artists who've taken the music world by storm these last few years. (But, whatever you do, don't call it a playlist.)

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The Best Music of 2020—So Far

From import acts like Years & Years (whose frontman Olly Alexander celebrates his 30th birthday on July 15) and Pabllo Vittar to homegrown stars like Orville PeckVictoria Monét and, yes, King Princess, these are the folx across all genres who've been in constant rotation in our world. And while the list is not meant to be exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination, it's a great place to start.

Getty Images; Shutterstock/E! Illustration
Olly Alexander

Must-Listen Track: "Sanctify"

As the frontman of British synth-pop band Years & Years, Alexander (along with bandmates Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen) has delivered two of the most stunning albums of the latter half of the last decade. Palo Santo, their 2018 concept album, was a heady exploration of the intersection where religion and sexuality often meet, all wrapped up in a glossy, provocative dance-pop package. We literally can't wait to see what they do next.

MNEK

Must-Listen Track: "Tongue"

An in-demand songwriter, working with the likes of Madonna and BeyonceUzoechi Emenike set out to prove that he's a star in his own right. And when Language, his debut album, dropped in 2018, he did just that. His vocal prowess is just unreal. 

Donna Missal

Must-Listen Track: "Let Me Let You Down"

On her just-released second LP Lighter, the bisexual singer-songwriter puts her gorgeously husky vocals to work on a sound influenced by the country and rock sounds of Shania Twain and Sheryl Crow, pressed through queer lens. It's a break-up album for the ages.

Shea Diamond

Must-Listen Track: "I Am America"

You don't just listen to Shea Diamond sing. You feel her deep into your bones. The trans rights activist is one of the most exciting voices in soul and R&B right now. Do not sleep on her.

Orville Peck

Must-Listen Track: "Dead of Night"

With his fringed Lone Ranger mask and baritone warble, the pseudonymous Peck has staked his claim in country music—a genre historically not too kind to gay people—with a gorgeously haunting retro sound.

Blimes & Gab

Must-Listen Track: "Shellys (It's Chill)"

Bay Area-bred Blimes is queer. Seattle-based Gab is not. Together, the MCs just dropped Talk About It, their debut album full of tracks that explore all the versatile genre of rap has to offer. 

Victoria Monét

Must-Listen Track: "Moment"

This year, the celebrated songwriter has fully stepped into a much-deserved spotlight, delivering track after funky track of '70s-inspired R&B-pop. Her debut album Jaguar, due August 7, is poised to be something major.

VINCINT

Must-Listen Track: "Be Me"

After competing on Fox's short-lived The Four, Vincint Cannady has kept us captivated with his sumptuous synth-pop sound and his outrageous vocals. As masterful with a full-throated belt as he is slipping into a soft falsetto, his is a voice

Keiynan Lonsdale

Must-Listen Track: "Gay Street Fighter"

Since hanging up his speedster suit as Kid Flash on The Flash, Lonsdale has dived headfirst into his music career. And the results, including debut album Rainbow Boy, have been absolutely thrilling. Full of retro-futuristic R&B flare and a surprising vocal elasticity, his work is unapologetic in every sense of the word.

Pabllo Vittar

Must-Listen Track: "Flash Pose" feat. Charli XCX

Thanks to a breakthrough feature on Major Lazer's "Sua Cara" in 2017, the Brazilian drag queen has gone truly global, helping bring tecnobrega to the world. With three albums under her belt, she's since surpassed RuPaul herself as the most followed drag queen on the planet.

MERLOT

Must-Listen Track: "The Fall"

The NYC nightlife sensation is only a few singles deep into a music career, but, with each successive release, their signature sound—full of swirling synths and silky vocals—only has us more and more excited for what's to come. Get into them now so you can say you knew then when. 

Ryan Beatty

Must-Listen Track: "Evergreen"

With two breathtaking albums—2018's Boy in Jeans and 2020'2s Dreaming of David—under his belt, the frequent Brockhampton collaborator has proven himself to be a master of dream pop.

Isaac Dunbar

Must-Listen Track: "makeup drawer"

After teaching himself music theory via YouTube tutorials, the openly gay rising star has quickly proven himself to be a pop prodigy. With recent EP isaac's insects under his belt, he's delivering fresh and startlingly mature alt-pop sounds that rival any of the veterans of the genre. And he's only 17.

Christine and the Queens

Must-Listen Track: "People, I've been sad"

French singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier has been amassing legions of fans with her pristine electropop for nearly a decade now, but it's not too late to discover her magic for yourself if you're late to the party.

Big Freedia

Must-Listen Track: "Karaoke" feat. Lizzo

The queen of bounce—a buoyant genre of hip-hop born in New Orleans—Big Freedia the Queen Diva is finally getting her due, landing her first major label deal in 2018 and collabs with heavy-hitters like Lizzo and Kesha. All you need to know about her sound is it's loud, it's proud and it's guaranteed to keep a smile on your face.

King Princess

Must-Listen Track: "Prophet"

Since the release of her debut single "1950" in 2018, the indie pop phenom born Mikaela Straus has kept her queerness front and center, with lyrics soaring on their specificity. Her unflinching honesty and smoky vocals caught the attention of super producer Mark Ronson, who gave her the ultimate co-sign by making her the first artist signed to his label. Cheap Queen, her debut 2019 album, is a knockout.

Joy Oldaokun

Must-Listen Track: "mercy" feat. Tim Gent

The queer singer-songwriter has developed a sound all her own, a gorgeous mixture of influences drawn from folk, soul, gospel and R&B, all anchored by her pristine vocals. Look out for her sophomore effort, in defense of my own happiness (vol. 1), due this month.

Kim Petras

Must-Listen Track: "Sweet Spot"

No one is doing pure pop quite like the German-born Petras. Not only has the trans icon delivered one absolute bop after the next, but she's the only pop star who's been able to overcome the inherent kitsch of the Halloween song, releasing Turn Off the Light, a dark and moody dance collection tailor-made for All Hallow's Eve. And for that reason alone, we have to stan.

Hayley Kiyoko

Must-Listen Track: "Curious"

Since dropping "Girls Like Girls" in 2015, Kiyoko—aka Lesbian Jesus—has been filling a longtime void as pop's preeminent sapphic star. Her patented brand of synth-pop borders on the sublime.

Troye Sivan

Must-Listen Track: "Bloom"

Since his major-label arrival in 2014 with the EP TRXYE, Sivan has proven that he does pop very, very well. Bloom, his most recent LP, was one of the best 2018 had to offer. And after the release of "Take Yourself Home" earlier this year signaled the start of a new era, he seems poised to impress yet again.

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