The Ultimate A-to-Z Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Musicians and Bands, Pt. 5 (T–Z)

The Ultimate A-to-Z Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Musicians and Bands, Pt. 5 (T–Z)

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This is part 5 in our series on LGBT artists, bands and musicians. Click for “The Ultimate A-to-Z Encyclopedia of LGBT Artists, Musicians and Bands” parts One, Two, Three and Four.

For even the most seasoned music lovers and sound hounds, discovering LGBT artists and bands can prove daunting.

Only a handful identify as “LGBT artists” themselves, as most identify simply as musicians, preferring not to box themselves into a set sound, lyrical set or target demographic. For the same reason, it’s rare to find a comprehensive listing of LGBT artists on online stores or streaming apps; all artists, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, are typically grouped by genre.

But with a little research and a lot of listening, we’ve created this living encyclopedia of LGBT artists that can be used to discover new queer artists and give music-lovers an even deeper appreciation for those you already loved.

Below you’ll find our comprehensive encyclopedia of LGBT artists, musicians and bands, from T–Z:

Tacocat

Seattle’s Tacocat are taking the Emerald City by storm. They’ve done the theme for the new Powerpuff Girls reboot, and their surfpunk sound (“Crimson Wave“) is sure to get lodged in your head — but you won’t want it to go away.

Tami T

Born Tami Tamaki, this Swedish singer/composer has never met an AutoTune device she didn’t love, so be grateful she favors a strange version of Europop that’s just eccentric enough to pass as indie.  (“Princess”; “Mucous Membrane”)

Tatianna

Despite exiting from two different seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race too soon — Season 2 and All Stars 2 — Tatianna still managed to release a handful of EDM singles between the two. “Same Parts” is a track that took Tatianna’s spoken-word creation from All Stars 2 and made it something you’d hear in the club. And in 2018 Tatianna released T1, an eight-track album featuring “beat-heavy dance tracks and moody R&B ballads.”

Tegan and Sara

These gay Canadian twins have been around for roughly 18 years, and their transformation from super serious alt-rockers to internationally known electropop LGBT artists is complete. I prefer their later work, especially last year’s Love You to Death (“Boyfriend,” “BWU”), though true fans gravitate towards The Con from 2007 with its convincing title track.

Alaska Thunderfuck / Alaska & Jeremy

Initially known as a comedy queen, the Season 5 Drag Race contestant snatched the crown in All Stars 2 and subsequently proved musical chops through two solo albums and two collaborations, the latter being the 2017 album Access All Areas — created with The AAA Girls (fellow Drag Race vets Willam Belli and Courtney Act) — and the 2018 collaboration Amethyst Journey, created with longtime collaborator Jeremy Mikush.

Pete Townshend / The Who

The facts around Townshend’s bisexuality are sketchy, especially from Townshend himself, the songwriter/guitarist for The Who. Whether he’s ever had a gay experience is between him and whomever, but he certainly understands the homoerotic attraction between young mods and wrote one classic on the subject from his best solo record, 1980’s Empty Glass, “Rough Boys.”

Justin Tranter / Semi-Precious Weapons

His gay-glam band having gone next to nowhere over the course of three records (2014’s Aviation was the last, and best — check out “Aviation High”), Tranter — with his frequent writing partner Julia Michaels — turned himself into a crack songwriter for other acts, some of them also LGBT artists. Gwen Stefani’s “Misery,” “Cake by the Ocean” from DNCE and Imagine Dragon’s “Believer” — to name just three — are his handiwork. He’s also a board member of GLAAD.

Stephen Trask

Though Trask is currently operating as a film score composer, we all know and love him for his music and lyrics to the stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, wherein Trask and his band performed as Hedwig’s band in the original 1998 production. What a difference a few decades can make: A feature film in 2001 (“Angry Inch”) and then a Broadway revival in 2014 that won Tonys for Best Revival of a Musical (“Sugar Daddy”), Best Lead Actor in a Musical (Neil Patrick Harris), Best Featured Actress in a Music (Lena Hall),\ and an ongoing gift to cisgendered actors worldwide to step into Hedwig’s pumps (so far, those have included Michael C. Hall, Taye Diggs, Darren Criss, Andrew Rannells and, oh yes yes yes, original Hedwig John Cameron Mitchell).

TR/ST

Electronic project spearheaded by Robert Alfons, a “young gothy Luke Perry circa Beverly Hills 90210,” and, honestly, what more do you need to know?  Oh, the music is slithery, grimy darkwave with nods to industrial – big on echo and I imagine a lot of fog machines when they play live.  (“Iris”; “Colossal”)

Trash Kit

This London post-punk outfit shares a primary member – guitarist Rachel Aggs – with another post-punk group, Shopping.  Yet whereas Shopping is more dance-punk (Gang of Four, Talking Heads, etc.), Trash Kit has a decidedly West African vibe, especially in its slinky guitar lines and call-and-response.  In both bands, however, the gayness is front and center.  (“Horizon”; “Medicine”)

Two Nice Girls

They were three nice girls, sometimes four, who called themselves “dyke rock” and put out three releases from 1989-1991. Their debut includes their best known track, the twisted country tune “I Spent My Last $10 on Birth Control & Beer” as well as their gorgeous mashup of Lou Reed and Joan Armatrading called “Sweet Jane (With Affection).” Their Like A Version EP is five covers (another mashup on Donna Summer and Bad Company on “I Feel (Like Makin’) Love”) and a repeat of the country tune. And then they went out with Chloe Liked Olivia, when they should have just been getting started. But before they did they left us with “Let’s Go Bonding” and, right, “The Queer Song.”

Uh Huh Her

This indie-electro duo took their name from a PJ Harvey album (though they sound nothing like PJ Harvey) and have been releasing compelling indie-electro as LGBT artists since 2007. Their 2008 full-length debut, Common Reaction, set the template (“Not a Long Song”) they’ve explored ever since. When not in the band, backing vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Leisha Hailey appeared on The L Word.

Chad Vaccarino / A Great Big World

Middle-of-the-road ballads and faux show tunes make it easy to dismiss this soft-rock duo of Ian Axel and Chad King (born Chad Vaccarino). But a great ballad has its own center of gravity, and their song “Say Something” made believers of many of us, including Christina Aguilera, who’s co-version induces goosebumps. And for a mainstream pop act, they certainly went out on a limb with “Everyone Is Gay.”

Village People

They weren’t all gay, just the “types” they were depicting when they took over the discos and the charts with their paeans to the YMCA (“YMCA”), servicing your country (“In the Navy”) and what it means to be a man (“Macho Man”). Sure, it was all a joke, but the joke sustains to this day. And the songs are classics — camp classics, for sure, but hard to ignore nonetheless.

Villagers

Conor O’Brien was already a critically acclaimed songwriter for Villagers on the strength of his first two releases — Becoming a Jackal (“I Saw the Dead”) and {Awayland} (“The Waves”) — before coming out on 2015’s beautiful Darling Arithmetic. He did it in his subtle way, with his soft yet powerful voice, by speaking abstractly about “Courage,” directly about racism (“Little Bigot”), from experience regarding homophobia (“Hot Scary Summer”), and why it matters in the face of love (“Dawning on Me”). We can hardly wait to find out what comes next.

Pabllo Vittar

Pabllo Vittar first became known in Brazil around 2015 for the song “Open Bar,” a version of Major Lazer’s song “Lean On” but featuring original Portuguese lyrics. In 2017 Vittar released debut album Vai Passar Mal (“It’s Going to Be Bad”), which rocketed her to national fame. Vittar is well-known in Brazil and even caused a conservative kerfufflewhen uptight citizens complained about his inclusion in a competitive Coca-Cola promotion earlier this year.

Rufus Wainwright

He sticks out, for certain, and not for all the right reasons. But when he gets onstage and opens his mouth, it’s over. He was always going to become somebody, and while that is still coming to pass — almost two decades since his debut — he has become one of the most fearless and unburdened songwriters of his generation. His most rabid fans cannot understand why he isn’t an enormous star, though the most famous member of his family — his father, Loudon Wainwright III — became one for a brief period on the back of a novelty song that nearly ruined his career. Yet it may be genetically impossible for Rufus, as good taste and subtlety are entwined into his DNA. “April Fools” from his 1998 debut, “California” from its follow-up, then “Out of the Game” from 2012’s album of the same name are all catchy and smart tunes, but their qualities seem to come from another era entirely — one where songcraft counted for something and melody was discovered through inspiration and not culled together via algorithms. If we sound bitter, it’s because we are — at the great mass of consumers who don’t seem to get it, but, more importantly, at those in our own community who should be talking him up every chance they get.

Holcombe Waller

This Portland-based composer still lives very much under the radar, and that may be best for a songwriter who tends to create performance pieces in collaboration with the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art or various choreographers. Here is indie folk as you’ve never heard it, though influenced by Antony Hegarty and Sufjan Stevens and Radiohead but not indebted to anyone. Waller takes his time, extending and exploring metaphor to the breaking point, and connecting emotionally no matter how twisting the journey to get there becomes. The flirtation he limns throughout “Hardliners,” the recognition of predetermined lovers (“Shallow”), the pain and beauty of penetration (spiritual and physical) of “The Unicorn” — in each of these his instincts are flawless.

Stuart Warwick

In the vein of Sufjan Stevens and Anohni (back when she was fronting Antony & The Johnsons), this U.K. songsmith hasn’t released a record since 2013’s The Butcher’s Voice, and that’s a shame. His 2010 song “When Plagues End” is equally at home when thinking about AIDS or COVID-19; he has something to say about the primal stupidity of conversion therapy (“Ex-Gay”); and his love songs are without peer (“A Vital Organ”; “I Promise You”).

Wendy & Lisa

As a duo releasing music from 1987 to their last EP in 2011, Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman met with indifferent sales numbers in the U.S. (though, internationally, they were better received), which is something of a surprise as their template didn’t move far from what they were doing as part of The Revolution in the early-to-mid-’80s. “Waterfall” and “Lolly Lolly” were slinky numbers and pleasant enough. But we will always know them most for their work with Prince during his heyday — Lisa earlier, beginning with Dirty Mind, and then Wendy joined for 1999, and they reached apotheosis on Purple Rain while the rest, as they say, is history, including their soundtrack work and Emmy win for the theme music to Nurse Jackie.

Chris Willis

Willis is a gospel singer who finally reconciled his sexuality while transitioning out of the gospel music industry (though in 2014 he married his friend Jacqueline Leiske). He’s now known for his featured vocals with David Guetta (“Just a Little More Love,” “Love Is Gone”).

Patrick Wolf

He’s sampled tons of musical styles since his 2003 debut Lycanthropy (and before that, he was a member of The Hidden Cameras). He excels when he’s exploring the odd corners of various genres: the pastoral industrial on “To the Lighthouse,” for example, or the Victorian gothic of “Tristan” from Wind in the Wires. Since 2007’s The Magic Position, where he dabbled in the pop arena for the first time, he now seems to move back and forth, like Goldfrapp, from commercial releases to more experimental ones. And, like Goldfrapp, we tend to enjoy them all. The Bachelor, in 2009, featured Tilda Swinton on “Theseus” (and you are officially hip when you start hanging with Tilda); and with 2011’s Lupercalia he went all in on love songs (“Bermondsey Street,” “Together,” “The City”). So we guess it’s time for a weird one.

Gia Woods

Woods came out – as we all should – in a video (her 2015 debut “Only a Girl”). Since then, she’s kept her promise of pride and visibility for the LGBTQ+ experience in pop music, which is fuller than it used to be, but could still use a whole lot more as far as we’re concerned.  (“EGO”)

Wrabel

Stephen Wrabel has two EPs out — 2014’s Sideways, this year’s We Could Be Beautiful — and though it’s hard to get a bead on where he might go, this much I can say: bring it on. He had a hot song in 2014 with Afrojack’s version of his track “Ten Feet Tall.” And his new EP is of-the-moment electro. The title track’s a love meditation for millennials, “11 Blocks” rues the day his first lover moved away and “Bloodstain” shows just how messy all relationships can be, although the one in the video is most definitely of the same-sex variety. And, based on the just released “The Village,” written the day after our 45th president stripped federal protections for trans students in public schools, and released in the wake of the trans military ban (you spot a trend here?), Wrabel is going to be a heartfelt voice for our community at large.

Chely Wright

Wright had moderate success throughout the ’90s as a country singer (“Shut Up and Drive” was one of her Top 40 tunes), but she was living a closeted life that didn’t sit well with her. So in 2010 she came out, released Lifted Off the Ground (with “Wish Me Away,” the song that would later become the title of the documentary about her struggle), and she’s been honest about the financial impact it’s had on her earning ability (not to mention the hate mail, etc.). And she’s fine with it. So now it’s up to us to change her fortunes and support an artist that is doing her bit for the resistance.

Xiu Xiu

Jamie Stewart’s experimental group, of which he has been the only constant, is at times like being inside the mind of someone who’s having a nervous breakdown (“Ian Curtis Wishlist”). Sometimes Xiu Xiu are easier to take, though Stewart’s love of dissonance is never far from the melody (“Boy Soprano”). And sometimes he attempts something that feels like it shouldn’t work and it does (Play the Music of Twin Peaks, from last year, was a loving tribute; his take on “Falling” was perfectly in line with both his aesthetic and that of Angelo Badalamenti). But love him or hate him — and you can go both ways within the space of a single song, it seems — we need Stewart. He’s the antidote to the homogeneity of what often gets described as “gay” or “LGBTQ” music.

The xx

Three albums in and this English band is either loved or met with a shrug and a comment. “I don’t get it,” we’ve had someone say to me about them and, well, we don’t get that. True, there has not been enough musical growth from the debut until this year’s I See You, but these were shy kids just learning their instruments and how to sing in front of crowds back when they started. And whether they are confiding thoughts and feelings to each other across soft or loud music, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim never fail to create intimacy. With Jamie Smith on board for dynamics and production, they’ve finessed their sound to the point where slamming club beats and rousing choruses don’t take away their emotional connection to the listener (“Say Something Loving”). And we’re sure we’re not the only people who believed Croft and Sim were an item when they started and were talking about their own relationship, not the ones they were having with their respective girlfriends and boyfriends.

Yaeji

Yaeji grew up a transplant, moving from New York to Atlanta to South Korea to Japan, and eventually back to the United States to study conceptual art and East Asian studies. Now bound to NYC, Yaeji is shifting perceptions of what hip-hop can be. A blend of electronic music and trap beats with hushing vocals, there’s a good chance you’ve never heard anything like her before. Yaeji’s also known to host a queer party called “Curry in No Hurry” in her New York City apartment, where she blasts new music and serves up Japenese-style curry.

Years & Years

This UK trio was one of the bands that helped me coin the term “post-gay” to describe certain types of — not exactly music, but LGBT artists. Their standard electropop was still exciting back in 2014 and then, at the launch of their debut, Communion, they impressed with their first-rate singles “King” and “Real.” We have faith in their talent, along with Troye Sivan and Bright Light Bright Light and Syd and too many others to mention, to lead us further into the post-gay landscape of music and, hence, the world.

Young M.A

Young M.A became a household name in 2016 with the release of “OOOUUU,” a brashly lesbian summer bop. She then followed it up with one of the best-delivered freestyles during the BET Awards cyphers. While hip-hop hasn’t necessarily had a shortage of bar-spitting or sexually fluid femcees (though the genre’s lack of LGBT artists is blatant), none have challenged gender as aggressively as Young M.A. She’ll boastfully get head from any cheap ho rich bitch.

Will Young

Though you’re not going to hear his name cross the lips of too many other LGBT artists, at the ripe old age of 38, pop artist Will Young deserves some kudos. He was out prior to the release of his debut, From Now On (with shades of Sam Smith here, as he was basically forced to do it); he’s sustained a career both as a musician and, later, for a time, as an actor; and he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously (for evidence, I present the Top Gun homage of “Switch It On”). So all the kids coming up in London must tip their hat to him, even though they don’t necessarily need to extol his musical virtues (which would never happen to the first winner of the first season of Pop Idol). Yet anyone who can go from the superficial delights of “I Want a Lover” to the elegant electro-balladry of “Home” has talent to spare.

Zebra Katz

Zebra Katz’s breakthrough hit highlighted one of ball culture’s most fundamental pastimes — reading. With dart-like verbal accuracy and a knee-quaking beat, “Ima Read,” featuring Njena Reddd Foxxx, is thought by many to be the first true crossover from the wave of queer rappers during the early 2010s. Zebra Katz has since been featured in Rick Owens’ fashion show, remixed by Grimes and Busta Rhymes, has collaborated with Gorillaz and has gone on tour with Scissor Sisters.

Zolita

Cali lesbian dismantling misogyny one jaunty pop song at a time.  (“Fight Like a Girl”; “U Remind Me”)

Head here for “The Ultimate A-to-Z Encyclopedia of LGBT Artists, Musicians & Bands, Pt. 1 (A–E)”

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