Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Here Are 16 Queer Artists to Celebrate this Pride Month

Without the contribution of queer artists and the LGBTQ+ community, today’s musical landscape would look very different and would most likely be a lot more boring. 

Although queer culture should be celebrated all year-round; it is important to highlight the people that are breaking boundaries and providing a source of inspiration for those living in a society that still refuses to accept people for who they are. 

By no means is this list exhaustive; but those featured have, and continue to, change the way we perceive ideas of gender, relationships and sexuality through their art.

 

Avery Tucker (Girlpool):


Hailing from sunny Los Angeles, Avery Tucker and Harmony Tividad of Girlpool have made a name for themselves in indie-rock circles throughout the world. Exploring surreal themes through minimal instrumentation; their 2015 debut features almost no percussion, and sweet vocal harmonies which made Girlpool’s earlier sound instantly recognisable. Having come out as transgender and beginning to take testosterone in 2017, Tucker (who uses they/them pronouns) states they have struggled with how their transition has impacted the sound of the band. Although Tucker’s voice is now an octave lower; the band has managed to adapt their sound which can be seen on the angsty yet sensitive 2019 release ‘What Chaos is Imaginery’. Girlpool’s future is exciting, and the openness of Tucker’s transition has served as an inspiration to many.

 

First Listen: ‘Cut Your Bangs’ and ‘Hire’

Deep Cut: ‘Chinatown’

Get to know more about Avery and Harmony in the over/under video they did with Pitchfork: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3jBg_Pr5Nw


 

Black Dresses:


Canadian musicians Ada Rook and Devi McCallion are the minds behind the distorted and jagged, yet thoughtful sound of Black Dresses. Formed in 2017, the outfit met on twitter and soon accumulated a dedicated following drawn to the band’s disorienting brand of noise pop. Rook and McCallion’s position as trans women within the queer community has inspired their music to tackle some difficult topics, such as gender dysphoria; but their ethos of love and acceptance transcends their harsh sound and dark subject matter. Song titles such as ‘Beautiful Friendship’, ‘Express Yourself’ and ‘Please Be Nice’ from their 2020 release ‘Peaceful as Hell’ exemplify their will to make the world a kinder place. Although the band are no longer officially together, following a dispute with their own fanbase, they still actively upload their work to bandcamp alongside their solo projects. 

 

First Listen: ‘BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP’ and ‘MiRRORGIRL’

Deep Cut: ‘Nausea 2019’

Check out Black Dresses’ first release, a cover of ‘Paper Planes’ by M.I.A: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIlLg_3Z4CQ


 

Courtney Barnett:


The Grammy-nominated Courtney Barnett is perhaps best known for her deadpan and witty delivery on tracks such as ‘Pedestrian at Best’ and ‘Depreston’, but the Australian musician has also carved out a space as an LGBTQ+ icon. Although admittedly shy, Barnett’s openness about her sexuality as a lesbian has allowed for her to take on a more vulnerable and honest public persona. While struggling with performance anxiety, her career has been marked through collaborations with other artists, notably the joint album with The War On Drugs’ Kurt Vile. Barnett’s appreciation for music as an art form that brings people together culminated in the creation of her own record label ‘Milk Records’ in 2012.

 

First Listen: ‘Pedestrian at Best’ and ‘Avant Gardener’

Deep Cut: ‘Nameless, Faceless’

Watch Courtney Barnett’s interview with BUILD to see her talk about her most recent album: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1vVaTOGr5s

 


Dorian Electra:


Known for their pencil-thin moustache and outlandish music videos, Dorian Electra is as much a visual artist as they are a hyper pup innovator. Beginning their career-making tongue-in-cheek politically charged music videos, see ‘I’m in Love with Friedrich Hayek’ and ‘Ode to the Clitoris’ for examplesElectra soon discovered the term ‘gender-fluid’ by which they now, loosely, identify with. However, Electra’s androgyny goes far beyond the aesthetic. Their full-length releases ‘Flamboyant’ and ‘My Agenda’ see Electra confidently and intricately tackle complex themes of masculinity and consumerism alongside a satirical look at the darker corners of internet culture such as inceldom. Aside from its messaging, Electra’s music also sonically plays with gender dichotomy, balancing rampant abrasive soundscapes, often provided by producer Dylan Brady of 100 gecs, with typical pop tropes.

 

First Listen: ‘Flamboyant’ and ‘Career Boy’

Deep Cuts:‘Musical Genius’ and ‘Monk Mode’.

Watch Electra’s interview with the internet’s busiest music nerd for a candid chat about their music, gender identity and the state of the internet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1o67Fqftco

 


 

Freddie Mercury:


There is little that can be written about the late and great Freddie Mercury that hasn’t already been said before. However, leaving Mercury out of this list would feel like a cardinal sin during Pride month. Best known as the frontman and pianist of legendary band Queen, Mercury composed numerous global hits such as ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, ‘We Are the Champions’ and ‘Under Pressure’. What is often quoted to have made him stand out, asides his four-octave vocal range and impressive song-writing chops, is his flamboyant stage presence. Despite his extroverted theatricality on stage, Mercury was particularly reclusive and actively avoided interviews. When the press theorised he had contracted HIV, Mercury stringently denied the claim until a few days before his death from the disease. Although during his life Mercury stayed relatively quiet on the HIV/AIDS crisis and his sexuality, his love of music and ‘I am what I am. So what?’ attitude helped change minds and opened the world up to the ambiguity and possibilities of gender and sexuality.

 

First Listen: ‘Another One Bites The Dust’ and ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’

Deep Cut: ‘Flick Of The Wrist’

Watch this iconic performance of ‘Radio Gaga’ at Live Aid 1985: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-0ygW-B_gI


 

Hayley Kiyoko


If you don’t recognise Hayley Kiyoko from her acting roles in films such as Scooby-Doo! or Lemonade Mouth, then you probably know her from the viral video for ‘Girls Like Girls’ or her collaboration with Kehlani. An illustrious musician, dancer and actress, Kiyoko’s mark on popular culture is hard to deny but her upfront and honest approach surrounding her sexuality has earned her a dedicated fanbase. Since the age of six, Kiyoko knew she was attracted to girls but waited until she was twelve to tell her parents. Her music aims to normalise lesbianism in a way that she was not exposed to growing up. While she maintains a clean pop sound, Kiyoko’s music alters the heteronormative perspective present in most pop songs without eroticising or fetishizing queer life.

 

First Listen: ‘Curious’ and ‘Girls Like Girls’

Deep Cuts: ‘Molecules’

Watch Hayley Kiyoko’s interview with Logo where she discusses her new fragrance as well as her first experiences in queer spaces: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YbnRzT2uHck

 


Janelle Monáe


Whether you know Janelle Monáe from her immaculate music career, or her astounding performances in the 2016 film Hidden Figures and the recent Amazon Prime series Homecoming, you will understand why Boston City Council have officially named October 16th ‘Janelle Monáe Day’. Since her first solo release Metropolis, Monáe has basked in ambiguity and conceptualism. Her 2010 ‘The ArchAndroid’, for example, explores the concept of Afrofuturism through the lens of contemporary class and racial prejudice. While her most recent musical venture Dirty Computer looked to shed the metaphorical approach of her previous work, and opt for a more upfront homage to women, people of colour and the queer community. Monáe’s sound is often likened to Prince, who happened to have worked with her on Dirty Computer before he passed, and she cites his androgynous aesthetic as well as his sound as an inspiration. Monáe’s disregard for the gender binary is seen in her visual and sonic presentation as well as her identification with both pansexuality and bisexuality.

 

First Listen: ‘Django Jane’ and ‘Q.U.E.E.N’

Deep Cut: ‘Many Moons’

Watch Lexy Savvides and Janelle Monáe discuss sci-fi, android and Slack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WLHAa-1D2WU


 

Kelela


Balancing a passion for the experimental with the soulful sound of R&B, Kelela’s music easily finds its way into both underground and mainstream consciousness. In a four-year run up to her debut album, Kelela released the 2013 mixtape Cut 4 Me and the stellar EP Hallucinogen in 2015. Cut 4 Me is an impressive and eclectic first release, taking distinctive instrumentals made by producers from Fade to Mind and Night Slugs record labels and layering Kelela’s impassioned eerie falsetto over the top. Hallucinogen showed more of Kelela’s conceptual potential as an artist. The EP follows the story of a relationship - starting at its pitiful end and finishing at its fruitful beginning. Her latest project, 2017’s Take Me Apart, only solidified her conceptual and artistic prowess. Delving deeper into the themes of relationships and breakups, Take Me Apart saw Kelela work with a wealth of queer artists, as well as identifying as queer herself. One collaboration being, non-binary Venezuelan producer Arca who takes on the production on several songs as well as the lead single ‘LMK’ spawning a remix featuring Junglepussy, Cupcakke, Ms Boogie and Princess Nokia.

 

First Listen: ‘LMK’ and ‘Rewind

Deep Cut: ‘Bank Head’

Watch Kelela go through ‘Take Me Apart’ track by track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWPDww10aic


 

Labi Siffre


British musician Labi Siffre may not have released anything new in a few decades, but his previous work has made a lifelong impression on popular music. Releasing six studio albums in just five years, Siffre’s passion for jazz and soul was made evident in the seventies. While he achieved moderate success from these releases, his music is perhaps best known for its influence and appearances in other musicians’ work. His song ‘It Must Be Love’ was famously covered by ska band Madness in the early eighties and several sections of the infectious ‘I Got The…’ have been sampled in hip-hop music. You only have to look to one of Eminem’s biggest tracks, ‘My Name Is’, to hear that iconic guitar lick and striding bass to see Siffre’s influence. Siffre was openly gay and in a relationship with Peter John Carver Lloyd for nearly fifty years. During a time where homosexuality was not as accepted, Siffre’s unapologetic self-expression paved the way for many to come. Although his music has been widely heard, Siffre remains an often-overlooked musician and queer icon.

 

First Listen: ‘I Got The..’

Deep Cut: ‘Crying, Laughing, Loving, Lying’

Watch Labi Siffre perform ‘Something Inside So Strong’ on Later with Jools Holland: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xenWEbokhQo

 


Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!)


Best known as the founder and lead singer of American punk rock band Against Me!, Laura Jane Grace has helped to change the rampant toxic masculinity that is persistent in alternative rock spaces. Coming out as transgender in 2012 after meeting a trans fan, Grace uses her platform to openly express and discuss her feelings of dysphoria, with the band’s 2014 album ‘Transgender Dysphoria’ Blues being a prime example. Against Me! are known for their part in the early noughties’ resurgence of punk rock, alongside other acts such as Rise Against and Bad Religion; and they defined themselves through Grace’s guttural vocal delivery and often humorous lyricism. Operating in such a hyper-masculine space, Grace has said her transition was difficult and still struggles with feelings of dysphoria. Nonetheless, she harnesses this angst in true punk rock fashion as seen in her burning her birth certificate during a live show in May 2016.

 

First Listen: ‘Thrash Unreal’ and ‘I Was a Teenage Anarchist’

Deep Cut: ‘Fuckmylife666’

Check out Laura Jane Grace talk about her story in the Netflix series First Time I Saw Me: Trans Voices: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xm6LXg01mEw

 

 

Laura Les (100 gecs)


After the virality of the ridiculously fun ‘Money Machine’ last year on TikTok, Laura Les and Dylan Brady of 100 gecs have become well-known in internet and music circles. The influence of internet culture is felt throughout 100 gecs’ music, as well as the duo’s other projects. While their lyricism boarders on parody and at times, the production sounds as if they are jovially skipping through their sample library, 100 gecs’ will to experiment has defined the sound of the current hyperpop phenomenon. Les has also stated that the project has allowed her to deal with feelings of gender dysphoria. Identifying as transgender, Les states that pitching her voice up, similarly to how vocals are manipulated in nightcore, has helped her feel more comfortable in her gender. Thus, Les’ music blurs gender boundaries by creating an amalgamation of woman and machine. Although, Les keeps a relatively low profile and seldom talks about her trans identity within her music, an earlier release called ‘How to Dress as Human’, released under the moniker Osno1, discusses her anxiety as a trans woman and has remained a fan favourite for several years.

 

First Listen: ‘Money Machine’ and ‘Ringtone (Remix) [feat. Charli XCX, Rico Nasty and Kero Kero Bonito]

Deep Cut: ‘Haunted’

Check out the video for ‘How to Dress as Human’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meSHvah0AA4

 


Lucas Silveria (The Cliks)


Lucas Silveira remains the only consistent member of the everchanging lineup of Canadian rock band The Cliks. Stemming from a portmanteau of ‘clit’ and ‘dicks’, The Cliks are unashamedly political and powerful. Their music manages to maintain the accessibility of pop music, while simultaneously venturing into the harder elements of rock. Alongside touring with big names such as The B-52s and Cyndi Lauper, Silveira is the first openly trans man to have been signed by a major record label. While he is a notable presence within the trans community and has written several articles for the Huffington Post about trans issues, Silveira believes his identity comes second to the music.

 

First Listen: ‘Dirty King’

Deep Cut: ‘Soul Back Driver’

Watch Lucas Silveira and AJ McLean (Backstreet Boys) in the Consequence series Peer 2 Peer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE_ZbJClMkc


 

Lynn Gunn (PVRIS)


The alternative rock scene, particularly within the world of Warped Tour and AP magazine, had long been a difficult environment for women to assimilate. Few women (aside from the likes of Hayley Williams of Paramore fame) had been able to garner as much recognition as their male counterparts until the release of PVRIS’ 2014 debut ‘White Noise’. The dark and macabre lyricism of Lynn Gunn paired with the band’s blend of pop and rock earned them a spot as the first-female fronted band to sign with Rise records. At the age of just 19, Gunn left for tour. It was around this time that she came out to her parents as gay. Thus, not only was Gunn entering a highly masculinised space as a woman but as an openly gay woman. Since, she has remained a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and has stated she wants to be a figure for young queer people without it retracting from her musical credentials. It is certain that Gunn’s queerness has not overshadowed her talents as a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer as the band’s second and third LPs amassed a significant degree of attention from both the fanbase and critics.

 

First Listen: ‘You And I’ and ‘My House’

Deep Cuts: ‘Ghosts’ and ‘No Mercy’

Read Lynn Gunn’s interview with Playboy: https://www.playboy.com/read/lynn-gunn-rewrites-the-rules-of-sex-appeal

 


Rina Sawayama


Following the release of last year’s wildly successful debut album ‘SAWAYAMA’, Rina Sawayama is quickly becoming a household name and shows no sign of slowing down. Aside from a collaboration with Elton John and a feature in the upcoming John Wick film, Sawayama’s blend of hyper-feminine pop and nu-metal has stunned critics. Songs such as ‘STFU!’ and ‘XS’ take glistening vocals akin to Britney Spears and balance them with earth-shattering riffs likely to be found on a Korn record from the early 2000s. While ‘SAWAYAMA’s’ subject matter takes on topics such as racism and toxic masculinity, Rina Sawayama has often written about her attraction to women, stating she identifies with both bisexuality and pansexuality. After struggling with both her queerness and heritage growing up, Sawayama’s visibility as a queer Asian woman is crucial to young members of the LGBTQ+ community.

 

First Listen: ‘XS’ and ‘Cherry’

Deep Cut: ‘Akasaka Sad’

Watch Rina Sawayama talk about Asian beauty standards and her struggle as an Asian woman living in Britain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbtd86HMdKM

 


Sophie


The beginning of this year saw the loss of one of the queer community’s greatest contemporary icons. Without Sophie Xeon, artistically stylised as SOPHIE, pop music would not look the way it does today. While her impressive catalogue of collaborators and production credits for artists such as Charli XCX, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Vince Staples is telling enough of her talent; her solo work brought meaning beyond her signature bubbly, yet abrasive sound. Take 2015’s compilation album Product which, amongst its effervescent synth work and cutesy vocals, provides astute commentary on the commodification of pop music. Her magnum opus, however, came in the form of her sole studio release Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. Coming out as transgender during the press release of the album, OEPUI showed a vulnerability to Sophie that had yet to be displayed. Amongst the sonic carnage of tracks such as ‘Ponyboy’ and ‘Faceshopping’, Sophie’s message of acceptance of oneself shone through. On ‘Immaterial’ she wrote, “I could be anything I want/Anyhow, any place, anywhere, anyone/Any form, any shape, anyway, anything I want”. It was this ethos, alongside her trailblazing production, that allowed for Sophie to become one of the most important figures in modern-day queer culture.

 

First Listen: ‘Immaterial’ and (if you’re brave enough) ‘Faceshopping’

Deep Cut: ‘Vyzee’

Check out Sophie’s video for the song ‘It’s Okay To Cry’ which features the first public appearance of her voice and face: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_S0qCeA-pc

 


Sylvester


Dubbed the ‘Queen of Disco’, Sylvester’s presence has been felt throughout queer culture for nearly six decades. At the age of just 22, Sylvester moved to San Francisco after his church in Los Angeles expressed their disapproval of his homosexuality. Here, he found solace in the developing counterculture and joined the drag troupe The Cockettes. Around the same time, urban nightlife was beginning to change as disco grew in popularity. The dominance of rock was waning as disco revived dance music and challenged rigid forms of masculinity. Sylvester’s part in this cannot be overstated as he became notorious for his androgynous presentation and lush falsetto. Sylvester even challenged definitions of masculinity formulated within the gay community and advocated for acceptance of everyone no matter how flamboyant or extravagant they presented. Throughout his life Sylvester dedicated his time to LGBTQ+ activism and when he was diagnosed with AIDS in late 1987 continued to speak openly about his struggle with the virus and its impact on the queer community.

 

First Listen: ‘You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real’ and ‘Dance (Disco Heat)’

Deep Cut: ‘I Need Somebody To Love Tonight’

Watch Amazon Music’s short documentary on Sylvester’s life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3q-cKZX2Og

 

 


Moni Lerpiniere

Instagram : moni_lerpiniere

Twitter : monilerpiniere

Image: File:Dorian Electra.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

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