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The Ultimate A-to-Z Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Musicians and Bands Editors' Picks

The Ultimate A-to-Z Encyclopedia of LGBTQ Musicians and Bands

Written by Dan Loughry on November 08, 2018
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For even the most seasoned music lovers and sound hounds, discovering LGBTQ musicians can prove daunting.

Only a handful identify as “LGBTQ musicians” 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 LGBTQ musicians 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 LGBTQ musicians 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 LGBTQ musicians:

The 1975

1975 lgbtq musicians

We’re not positive that anyone from this English foursome is on our side of the Kinsey Scale, but frontman Matt Healy sure does love to flirt with boys and play with his feminine side. It also helps that they have a bunch of fantastic EPs (with the best version of their song “Sex”) and two hit records behind them — the singles-heavy self-titled debut and the follow-up I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unware of It. Two new records are on their way (one this November, one next May) preceded by the jumpy single “Give Yourself a Try” and the indie pop wet dream “TooTimeTooTimeTooTime.”

Kevin Abstract / Brockhampton

LGBTQ Musicians Kevin Abstract

On the strength of 2016’s American Boyfriend — an album that details the trials and tribulations of high-school same-sex lovers — this L.A.-based wunderkind is an artist to watch. On tracks such as “Empty” and “Echo” he’s the natural heir to Frank Ocean, only less complicated and less artsy, though that’s not to say his music isn’t artful. And his “boy band” Brockhampton just dropped its own debut, Saturation (“Star”).

Courtney Act

Courtney Act, drag queen musicians 17

In 2015 this Australian queen released a five-track EP entitled Kaleidoscope, an album of electro-pop love songs. On a few of the album’s tracks, Act co-wrote with gay musicians Sam Sparro and Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters. Courtney Act was also part of The AAA Girls with fellow Drag Race alums Alaska Thunderfuck and Willam Belli.

Adult Mom

adult mom lgbtq musicians

Fronted by the genderqueer Stephanie Knipe, this decidedly low-key indie act is a modern blueprint of bedroom pop. “Drive Me Home,” from 2017’s Soft Spot, is a good place to start — guitar jangle that starts sweetly and gently before revving up (or mid-tempo-ing up, as the case may be) into the type of anthem that should get out of its bedroom more often.

Clay Aiken

LGBTQ Musicians clay aiken

Whether he’s remembered as a public servant or musician, only time will tell. But this second place American Idol contestant from the early naughts has done his bit for the cause. How many musicians can you think of who tried to effect change not just through their artistry but by actually running for public office? Sure, he lost. So what? At least he didn’t remain “Invisible,” as one of his better songs puts it.

Matt Alber

LGBTQ Musicians Matt Alber

This Portland-based bisexual had a viral moment in 2008 with the slow-burning video for “End of the World” that showed off his fancy footwork with another man and revealed his steadfast way with a Rufus Wainwright-esque ballad. His sophomore release from that year, Hide Nothing, was a lovely surprise. And whether he’s kept a low profile since then because he’s living his life or because it’s hard for an independent musician to get traction in this world, he’s still the pining balladeer with which a young gay man might fall in love.

Peter Allen

LGBTQ Musicians Peter Allen

The Academy Award-winning Aussie songwriter was always served better by other artists than on his own — I mean, do you even know his version of the song made famous by Olivia Newton-John, “I Honestly Love You”? Still, he made an impression. It was a camp one, to be sure, as he became more flamboyant as he grew more popular. Yet back in the ’70s it was slim pickings for openly gay artists, and we all knew how to read an artist that made a joke about being “bi-coastal” (he even named an album that) while throwing himself across the stage like a hyperactive chorine on a Broadway belter like “I Go to Rio.

Marc Almond / Soft Cell

LGBTQ Musicians Marc Almond

A New Wave dolly back when indie songs got played on the radio (and before there was such a term), Marc Almond and his Soft Cell instrumentalist David Ball brought us “Tainted Love” before our love was, well, actually tainted. But oh how he explored the beginnings of the decadent ’80s, from “Sex Dwarf” to the gloriously sleazy “It’s a Mug’s Game” through a solo career and reunion that’s lasted ages — longer than anyone who described such exploits had any right to expect.

Neil Amin-Smith / Clean Bandit

LGBTQ Musicians CLean bandit

Because all dance bands should have — or, sadly, should have had — a hot violinist to make them fly (“Rather Be ft. Jess Glynne”).

Anohni / Antony & The Johnsons

LGBTQ Musicians Anohni
Let us admit that we miss the art cabaret that brought Anohni to the attention of the masses, with the help of the patronage of Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson, when she explored in song the longing and awkwardness and awakening of the transgender consciousness. “For Today I Am a Boy,” from I Am a Bird Now, was a deeply felt novelty for many listeners that sounded like a rallying cry for the still-nascent transgender movement, and for those in the midst of their own transitions must have hit them like a comet from the heavens.

Here was the voice of an artist on the verge of transforming hearts and minds. Anohni may do even more with her electronic indie pop, the perfect Trojan Horse of commercial sheen and activism — songs about the NSA (“Watch Me”) and war crimes (“Drone Bomb Me”) — to administer lessons about the world we live in now.

Arca

LGBTQ Musicians arca
The skittish electronics of Venezuelan musician Alejandro Ghersi — beloved by, amongst others, Björk — began to morph on his third, eponymously titled release into something resembling pop music. Not the expansive New Wave of the ’80s or the melodic grunge of the early ’90s, but the alternative, dystopian fragmentation that’s become the lingua franca of contemporary music (FKA Twigs, Anohni, etc.). His sounds are both scary and soothing, and his sound effects downright frightening, but try to stop listening or to look away from his videos. “Reverie” and “Desafío” — both from this year’s Arca — fetishize eroticism to the point of obsession.

Army of Lovers

army of lovers lgbtq musicians

If this Swedish pop outfit isn’t as well-known globally as Ace of Base or ABBA (what’s with all the ‘A’ bands, Sweden?), it’s because they didn’t have a song as catchy/annoying as “The Sign” or anything by ABBA. While they still perform live occasionally (without former leader Alexander Bard — songwriter and, uh, founder of a religious movement), they left behind four studio albums, of which “Crucified” might give you a taste of what you’ve been missing.

Laith Ashley

LGBTQ Musicians Laith Ashley

Best known as a transgender model, Ashley’s music career is embryonic. The single “Can’t Wait” is pleasant enough for what it is — mid-tempo electro R&B — but there’s no way of knowing if there’s any there there. But he’s an exciting presence on the world stage nonetheless, so we are tipping our hat to him for his future accomplishments.

Austra

LGBTQ Musicians austra
Katie Stelmanis, the lesbian frontwoman of Canada’s Austra, could hardly have predicted the world into which her band was going to release this January’s Future Politics — but here we are, post-Trump, and her songs have the feeling of prophecy or irony or both. The single “Utopia” is a louder cry for tolerance now, the title track a call to arms, and “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself” a reminder that, in the midst of darkness, there’s someone there to normalize your feelings. Love is love, and while that’s not enough, it’s the right start.

Kevin Aviance

Kevin Aviance, drag queen musicians 04, drag queen albums 04

Citing “punk, Boy George, Devo and Grace Jones” as musical influences, Aviance grew up as a member of the House of Aviance during the heyday of New York City ball culture. He has since released two dance albums, Box of Chocolates and Entity, and has even performed with musicians like Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston. Most recently Aviance performed with renowned DJ Junior Vasquez and released a 2008 track with the trans rap group La’Mady, entitled “This is New York City (Bitch!).”

Aye Nako

LGBTQ Musicians Aye Nako
These Brooklyn punks — who are all over the spectrum — returned four years after a self-released 2013 debut to further define their Liz Phair/Breeders indie anthems (“Nightcrawler,” “Spare Me”) for the rainbow coalition.

The B-52s

LGBTQ Musicians B-52s

Long before I knew they were all gay (except for Cindy), I loved them for their crazy sound. No one sounded like these Athens, Georgia, transplants when “Rock Lobster” took over the world in 1979, and no one sounds like them now. They’re goofy but not stupid, and no live band has ever thrown a better party. Their artistic high points were the period from 1979 to 1983 (silly as it was, “Song for a Future Generation” was also heartfelt), they lost Ricky Wilson to AIDS in 1985, bounced back in 1989 with the ubiquitous “Love Shack” and “Roam,” and even released a super solid post-reunion record in 2008 with Funplex. Maybe they look like they’re having too much fun to be considered legends, but that’s what they are.

Baby Dee

baby dee lgbtq musicians

A transgender artist who hasn’t gotten as much traction as Anohni, Baby Dee’s been releasing music since 2001 in basically the same singer-songwriter vein as Tom Waits or early Antony & the Johnsons. Her voice, to put it mildly, is make or break for most people — displayed to great effect on this live studio performance of “Safe Inside the Day” (from her album of the same name). I wish I’d had a chance to see her when she was “an accordion-playing hermaphrodite” in Coney Island, according to her Wikipedia page, but life goes on.

Baby Ghosts

baby ghosts lgbtq musicians

Utah foursome traffics in punky uplift that harkens back to the heydays of Husker Dü or The Ramones, but multi-gendered and kind of tuneful. Check out their 2014 release, Maybe Ghosts (here in its entirety) and you will instantly know within the first three chords if this is your thing.

Julien Baker

julien baker lgbtq musicians

This Memphis songwriter, who got her start in the alt-rock band Forrister, has a strong, clear voice and a refreshingly direct emotionality that’s as deep as it is centered. Her songs — especially those on her second release, Turn Out the Lights — are deceptively simple: plucked electric guitars that gather force and amass into guitar orchestras and multi-tracked vocals both earthy and angelic, and they pack a collective punch (check out the title track and “Appointments”). She deserves more than a dedicated cult following, though that cult would be well-rewarded for their devotion.

Long John Baldry

LGBTQ Musicians Long John Baldry

The late blues singer was well-connected and openly gay in the ’60s — he had a brief relationship with Dave Davies of The Kinks. He worked early with Rod Stewart and Elton John, and had chart success in 1967 with “Let the Heartaches Begin.”

Azealia Banks

lgbtq musicians azealia

Currently on her mea culpa tour (for, amongst other things, supporting Trump) and trying to get the focus back on her music, this mouthy bisexual MC threw away a lot of goodwill by turning her career into a spectacle of wrong-footedness — her use of slurs against gay men has been widely reported. So forgive us if it’s hard to hear her qualities through the ugliness, though it seems they’re tied in to her anger management issues. “212 ft. Lazy Jay” makes a good case for cunnilingus (amongst other things), and much of her 2015 debut Broke with Expensive Taste is fun enough (“Ice Princess”). Album two is in the offing, hence the current PR spin. Will it be enough? Stay tuned.

Courtney Barnett

LGBTQ Musicians Courtney Barnett
Her shambling story-songs might sound like the deadpan musings of an Australian slacker, but don’t mistake Barnett’s lack of affect for laziness. She’s clear-eyed and sharp — whether she’s wringing pathos from a suburban house hunt with her partner (“Depreston”) or describing an allergic reaction to a day of yard work (“Avant Gardener”) — and when the words fail her, which they rarely do, she knows how to make her guitar do the talking. She has one studio release to her name — a great one, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit — with a follow-up coming down the pike. Right now she’s a fascinating artist with the potential, and the chops, to become a great one.

Richard Barone / The Bongos

LGBTQ Musicians Richard Barone

Rumors have spread about Barone’s sexuality since he fronted the much-loved Hoboken cult-act The Bongos in the ’80s. What is no rumor is the depth of his talent, flaunted most spectacularly on 1987’s Cool Blue Halo, an acoustic-with-strings version of The Bongos and solo tunes long before MTV Unplugged became a thing. And his covers — whether it be his version of The Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror” from 1990’s Primal Dream, or last year’s Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s — are a thing of beauty.

William Basinski

william basinski lgbtq musicians

Basinski is a Texas-born minimalist who makes his home in NYC. And while he isn’t as well-known as avant-gardist John Cage (elsewhere on this list) or Brian Eno (with whom he shares a fascination for ambience), he’s definitely world class. With just under thirty releases to his name (including a few collaborations), you’d have a lot of ground to cover to catch up. For drone lovers, “The Trail of Tears” from 2013’s Nocturnes is a perfect jumping off point.

Lance Bass / N’SYNC

LGBTQ Musicians Lance Bass

It should come as no surprise how many members of boy bands are on this list, and while we can all shed a tear that Justin Timberlake isn’t one of them, we can take comfort that his N’SYNC compatriot is. Bass will probably be remembered more as a television personality and LGBTQ spokesman, but when we want to recall where he got his start, the pop-friendly likes of “Bye Bye Bye” and “I Want You Back” are just a YouTube click away.

Baths / Geotic / [Post-Foetus]

LGBTQ Musicians baths

Will Wiesenfeld’s electronic music has been released under a few monikers, including [Post-Foetus], Baths and Geotic, and what ties them together is his sonic exploration. [Post-Foetus]’s The Fabric remains the blueprint for all that’s come since — the glitch-y indie-pop of the confessional Baths (especially 2013’s aching Obsidian with its despondent anchor track “No Eyes”) and the ambient soundscapes of Geotic (Abysma, from this year, is a shimmering example of chillwave; check out “Nav”). Whether he wants to have commercial success or remain on the artsy fringes is completely up to him; he’s talented enough to have it any way he chooses.

Rostam Batmanglij / Vampire Weekend

LGBTQ Musicians Rostam Batmanglij
It will be interesting to hear where Vampire Weekend goes now that one of its core members has ventured out on his own, but they seem like a nice enough and resilient bunch. As for Mr. Batmanglij, the world is his for the taking. As a collaborator and producer he’s extracted great work out of Hamilton Leithauser (“A 1000 Times”) and Ra Ra Riot (“Water”). And as a solo entity, ROSTAM, he’s just getting started, but his sophisticated ear (“Gwan”) and embrace of diverse genres means he’ll continue to surprise us for years.

Carl Bean

carl bean lgbtq musicians

Somewhat lost to history, Bean founded the inclusive Unity Fellowship Church Movement and was responsible for the early gay lib anthem “I Was Born This Way.” Hmmm, I wonder if Lady Gaga was old enough to know this track…

Jackie Beat / Dirty Sanchez

Dirty Sanchez, Jackie Beat, drag queen musicians 03, drag queen albums 03

The L.A. electroclash band Dirty Sanchez included well-known drag performer Jackie Beat alongside Mario Diaz and DJ Barbeau, performing provocative songs like “Fucking on the Dancefloor,” “Really Rich Italian Satanists” and “We Hate Youth and Beauty.” While Dirty Sanchez performed mostly from 2001 to 2008, Beat is also well-known as one of the most famous, raunchiest drag queen musicians around by releasing numerous music parodies both on his own and alongside other drag performers.

Ryan Beatty

ryan beaty lgbtq musicians

His recent debut release, Boy in Jeans (read our review here), is a solid start for this young Californian, who wouldn’t be out of place on a private mix that includes Years & Years and Troye Sivan. “God in Jeans,” his latest single, would fit perfectly between Y&Y’s “Sanctify” and Troye Sivan’s “Dance to This (feat. Ariana Grande).

Andy Bell / Erasure

LGBTQ Musicians Andy Bell
Coming after Depeche Mode and Yaz (or Yazoo, depending on where you live), Vince Clarke’s partnership with vocalist Andy Bell as Erasure might have felt like a comedown. Neither as tinkling or experimental as early Depeche Mode, or as soulful as Yaz’s secret weapon Alison Moyet, Erasure was merely pop. Yet since 1986 Andy Bell has made it soar with his emotional vibrato and flights of falsetto. From “Oh L’Amour” to “A Little Respect” to this year’s bouncy “Love You to the Sky,” he shines a light on desire as inclusive as it is jubilant.

Willam Belli

Willam, drag queen musicians 13

Known for a quick wit and sharp tongue, Belli followed up an unexpectedly short stint on Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race with hilarious music parodies of pop hits that mocked Chick-fil-A’s anti-gay politics (“Chow Down (at Chick-fil-A)”), praised well-endowed men (“Love You Like a Big Schlong”) and skewered secret bedroom submissives (“That Boy is a Bottom”). Willam Belli has released two albums and was a member of The AAA Girls with Alaska Thunderfuck and Courtney Act and — prior to that — the group DWV alongside Detox and Vicky Vox, who had us chuckling with the track “Blurred Bynes,” a parody of controversial Robin Thicke song “Blurred Lines.”

Bellows

bellows lgbtq musicians

Oliver Kalb’s indie chamber pop couldn’t be more reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens, but with less angst and religiosity and more, you know, gentle hooks (“Thick Skin” is a standout). With three albums and some EP’s beneath him, he’s ripe for discovery by the inward looking and sensitive gay boys who flock to, let’s say, Baths and Chris Garneau.

Taylor Bennett

LGBTQ Musicians Taylor Bennett

The bisexual brother of Chance the Rapper is still finding his way. He has one studio release, Broad Shoulders (a reference to his hometown of Chicago) and a series of mixtapes including his latest, Restoration of an American Idol, that features his brother, plus Lil Yachty and other luminaries. He’s a community activist and now, potentially, a spokesperson for our community. His music hasn’t quite caught up to his magnanimity, but give the young man time. For now, enjoy the buoyant grooves of “Neon Lights (ft. Supa Bwe & Lil Yachty)” or “Grown Up Fairy Tales (feat. Chance the Rapper & Jeremih).”

Tommy Beruit

tommy beruit — only photo of him that's online — lgbtq musicians

Ambient noise is the cri de cœur of this New Jersey guitarist whom, it seems, you can only find on his bandcamp site. All sales proceeds go 100% to The Trevor Project.

Big Freedia

LGBTQ Musicians Big Freedia

Freddie Ross, dba Big Freedia, is a local New Orleans artist who went nationwide on the back — and the backside — of the late 2000s bounce craze. (If you don’t know what this is, it will all be made clear to you in this video for “Gin in My System.” Now go practice.) Since then Freedia has parlayed the moment into a Fuse reality program, Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce, appeared on Beyoncé’s Lemonade and has kept a distinct brand of booty-shaking and rump-rolling in the public eye.

Mykki Blanco

LGBTQ Musicians Mykki Blanco
She’s a transgender hyphenate — rapperactivistpoet-etc. — with one studio release to her name, a few mix tapes, a few EPs and a point of view that’s changing as quickly as the gender she refuses to define or be defined by. It makes no difference what you call her. Transfeminine? Check? He/she/they/whatever. But listen and learn how a trailblazing spirit specifies itself from day to day and turns into the human being of his/her/their/whatever’s dreams (“High School Never Ends ft. Woodkid,” “Loner ft. Jean Deaux”).

Blood Orange / Lightspeed Champion / Test Icicles

blood orange lgbtq musicians

Devonté Hynes is no stranger to bands. The sexually fluid singer/performer/producer had two before the one that’s solidified his standing in the alternative R&B community. And while I love his commitment to the cause, I find myself less moved by his recorded output (in any of the iterations). His latest, Negro Swan, is his Frank Ocean move – an inward-looking and sonically adventurous collection anchored by “Saint” and “Orlando.”

Mal Blum

mal blum lgbtq musicians

Grungy indie and gentle folk are the twin poles that Mal Blum has explored since 2007, when they released their debut The Malblum Album. Their last record was 2015’s You Look A Lot Like Me (with the fun tracks “Cool Party” and “Better Go”). They haven’t put any new music out since then, but they’ve been touring (as a three-piece and solo) in 2018, so we’re hopeful that new music is around the corner.

David Bowie

LGBTQ Musicians David Bowie

We struggled with including him on this list because, let’s face it, Bowie’s flirtation with bisexuality had the whiff of publicity about it; no doubt he dabbled and experimented and refused to be pinned down to one thing when others were available. Yet he earns his place here because, regardless of primary sexuality, he understood what it meant to be a changeling, an outsider. “Rebel Rebel,” as one of his tunes put it, and he damn well was. Long after he became famous — when nearly all artists settle into a contemptuous relationship with banality — he pushed the envelope beyond any natural constrictions. And he did it all the way up to his death (witness “Blackstar” and “Lazarus”), which he treated as the art project the rest of his life was.

Boy George / Culture Club

LGBTQ Musicians Boy George
Though there were plenty of preening androgynes with flamboyant plumage back in the ’80s, Boy George was truly the peacock’s tiara. That he topped charts along with his Culture Club bandmates kept him, and them, in the cultural conversation for much of the decade. And though it isn’t as if the kind folks of the Heartland had never seen anything quite like him — believe me, I was there and they had — it’s just that they didn’t talk about it much. With our Boy (and such smooth radio hits as “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” and “Karma Chameleon”) nobody could stop talking about him.

Jay Brannan

LGBTQ Musicians jay brannan
This singer-songwriter and actor came to our attention as part of the fearless cast of John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus wherein he played Ceth (pronounced, duh, “Seth”), the third partner in a threesome. Who knew while watching them in various permutations that Brannan could even sing (especially with, you know, that thing in his mouth)? Mitchell must have, because one of Brannan’s own compositions, “Soda Shop,” appears on the soundtrack, and, voilá, a star was born. Or, at least, a cult act, whose unflinching honesty and beautiful tenor could soundtrack the wet dreams of many budding young gay boys looking for a “Half-Boyfriend” or a breathtaking partner to leave you bereft (“Rob Me Blind”).

Cait Brennan

LGBTQ Musicians Cait Brennan

With only two albums to her name — Debutante and this year’s ThirdCait Brennan has proven herself to be an outstanding songwriter who knows her way around a hook. Third was recorded at the famous Ardent Studios in Memphis — the same place Big Star recorded their album Third — with her producer/collaborator, Fernando Perdomo. She also has an amazing five-octave range. If you’re a fan of Harry Nilsson, Badfinger or David Bowie, you’ll want to check out songs like “Bad at Apologies” or “Benedict Cumberbatch.”

Bright Light Bright Light

LGBTQ Musicians Bright Light Bright Light

Like his friends from the sadly silent Scissor Sisters, Rod Thomas has all the qualities necessary to make a real commercial impact: Big pop hooks. Smart lyrics. An enormous heart and an overall optimistic outlook on life that makes his melancholy all the more bittersweet. He also has an artistic benefactor in his friend Elton John. Kudos to Thomas for doing it all as an independent musician and entrepreneur. But, dammit, record companies (or whatever’s left of you), do the brother a solid and distribute him to the masses. If you can’t hear the hit potential in songs like “I Believe,” “Disco Moment” and “Into the Night” then all hope is lost.

bulldog eyesbulldog eyes lgbtq musicians

In case anyone wasn’t sure, bedroom pop has no gender, as evidenced by Georgie Gould’s bulldog eyes project. It’s also not that conducive to relaxation as a normal bedroom might be. Alternating between noisy and tuneful (and sometimes both at the same time), you can find his work on iTunes and Bandcamp. Seeya, from 2013, which features “Boys,” is the one to which his admirers flock.

John Cage

john cage lgbtq musicians

Cage’s reputation as the modern master of the avant-garde has no serious challengers to his legacy, and though much of his work was probably best experienced in performance (“4’33’” and “Water walk,” for instance), he inspired like-minded rebels everywhere, from Laurie Anderson to Sonic Youth, to truly push the boundaries of what could be considered “music,” including — and this was big for Cage — silence. His early piano pieces were more delicate than you could imagine (“Ocean of Sounds”), and he provided much soundtrack work for his romantic partner, the choreographer Merce Cunningham (“Roaratorio”).

Cakes da Killa

Cakes da Killa LGBTQ musicians
Photo by Justin Eisner

The rapper born Rashard Bradshaw has one studio album out — Hedonism — and a few mixtapes. He’s one of the bright lights in the still nascent LGBTQ hip hop genre, and his flow is rapid-fire. “Gon Blow feat. Rye Rye” will turn your head.

Michael Callen / The Flirtations

michael callen flirtations lgbtq musicians

Callen will always be remembered for his tireless fights at the forefront of the AIDS crisis. Diagnosed in 1982, when the nascent complex was still called “gay-related immune deficiency,” Callen was — in essence — a first responder. Yet between his activism, authorship (How to Have Sex in an Epidemic: One Approach), journalism, and acting (Philadelphia, Zero Patience), he founded and sang with the gay acapella group The Flirtations (“Everything Possible”) and released one solo album, Purple Heart (“Talking Old Soldiers”), while he was alive. A second, Legacy, was issued posthumously.

Anna Calvi

anna calvi

The last time I was as excited by a new female artist prior to the 2011 release of Anna Calvi’s eponymous debut was way back in 1992 (PJ Harvey’s Dry, if you were wondering). Calvi came across with the same unbridled passion, both vocally and in the way she plays guitar. Her third release, this year’s Hunter, finds her exploring gender roles and sexuality with equal commitment, and stretching out sonically. She’s here to stay. (“Hunter,” “Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy,” “As a Man”)

Camp Cope

camp cope lgbtq musicians

This generally ebullient female trio from Australia is still finding their way — they’ve released two albums in the last three years — but once they hit their stride they could well be unstoppable (for indie freaks only, of course). “Done,” from their eponymous debut, has drawn comparisons to Courtney Barnett (you know, because they’re both Australian and female), but their trajectory is more straightforward than that. Mostly, they like to rock. If you still do, this could be the band for you.

Car Astor

car astor

Brooklyn-based gay electropop artist formerly doing business as SEE is about to make a dent with her latest single “Girlfriend.” SEE traded in acoustic balladry (“She Cries”), while Car Astor is all indie electro, and though the template is familiar, her strong vocals put her a notch above the usual wan bedroom pop of her peers.

Car Seat Headrest

LGBTQ Musicians car seat headrest
Will Toledo is a young alternative type who can burn up a stage as well as any of his forefathers (Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Pavement, etc.), and he gives presence to the confusions and joys of a young man making his way through the world of love, and the scarier world in general. After years of self-releasing his music, he signed with indie kings Matador and put out, in quick succession, Teens of Style (which comprised re-workings of his catalogue) and last year’s Teens of Denial — his first major label release of new music, which was also the best rock release of 2016. True, this might not be the historical moment for rock songs such as “Drunk Drivers (Killer Whales)” and “Vincent,” but when it comes back in fashion, as it always does, he’ll be ready.

Brandi Carlile

LGBTQ Musicians Brandi Carlile

She’s been out since before she recorded her 2005 debut, though it was no big deal. “There were people before me who paved the way,” she told the Los Angeles Times. And yet, while that’s true, she’s set her own bar for how to be authentic and make your way through the world of Americana and alt-country. Her 2007 breakthrough The Story, with its slow-burning title track, set the course for her career, and it’s being revisited this year as Cover Stories with interpretations by Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam and others, with proceeds going to War Child UK to benefit refugees.

Wendy Carlos

LGBTQ Musicians Wendy Carlos

This trailblazing transgender artist came to prominence under her birth name in the late ’60s with synthesized versions of classical music (Switched-On Bach sold over a million copies after its release in 1968). She was a pioneer in more ways than one, being one of the first musicians to come out as trans in the 1970s. She’s also known for her scores for Stanley Kubrick (A Clockwork Orange and The Shining) and the Disney film Tron.

Vanessa Carlton

vanessa carlton lgbtq musicians

Best known for her song “A Thousand Miles” from 2002, this singer-songwriter came out as bisexual during Nashville Pride in 2010. She’s been quiet since 2015’s Liberman, though no doubt busy raising her daughter; however, starting in March 2018 she’s been releasing one of six cover songs a month (here’s her version of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend”) while working on her forthcoming sixth album.

Caves / Worriers

caves lgbtq musicians

More punk-ish songs split between Bristol’s Caves and Philadelphia’s Worriers, both featuring Lou Hanman. Caves is the more aggressive band (“Need It Most”); Worriers the more pop-friendly (“The Possibility”) featuring vocalist Lauren Denitzio.

Cayetana

cayetana lgbtq musicians

Yet more indie rock and punk, this time from another all-female Philadelphia trio who do a stellar version of New Order’s “Age of Consent” and released a solid sophomore set with 2017’s New Kind of Normal (“Bus Ticket”). The way these queer-centric indie bands are proliferating, I’d say “new kind of normal” is just the norm these days.

Cazwell

LGBTQ Musicians Cazwell
There’s nothing subtle about American rapper Luke Caswell, and that’s as it should be. He’s been representing since 1999 while his debut — Get Into It — came along six years later. He must have been amassing a lot of experience to put into his vulgar and funny and fundamentally out-loud songs. From “The Sex That I Need (ft. Avenue D)” to “Ice Cream Truck” to “Unzip Me” (with Peaches), he’s a sex positive love-master who’s all up in your face, or, as he likes to put it, “All Over Your Face.” And sometimes he runs into Queen Bey in the strangest places (“I Seen Beyoncé at Burger King ft. Jonny Makeup”).

Chanel and the Circus

chanel and the circus

L.A. synthpop group that implores fans to “come dance in our glittery reality of fearless self-expression.” The band’s debut, Eat Your Heart Out, is available now. (“Bullets,” “Eat Your Heart Out”)

Tracy Chapman

LGBTQ Musicians tracy chapman
The multiple Grammy Award-winning artist has always been coy about her sexuality, but no one is fooled. Almost from the get go — when “Fast Car” ruled the airwaves — we claimed her for our own. And though she hasn’t scaled the chart heights the way she last did with 1995’s “Give Me One Reason,” she’s still in the game.

Choir Boy

choir boy lgbtq musicians

Adam Klopp, who fronts for this ethereal electropop outfit, was called a “choir boy” (pejoratively, it seems) while he was growing up. Idiots. His angelic soprano (think Bronski Beat, Jeff Buckley) is what brings you to their music; the floating atmosphere and trippy synths is what makes you stay. “Sunday Light” is an appropriate taster.

CHRISTEENE

LGBTQ musicians christeene

A “human pissoir of raw unabashed sexuality,” CHRISTEENE’s queer punk persona is something to be seen. She’s toured with acts as diverse as Faith No More and Peaches; is a staple at SXSW in her hometown of Austin, Texas; and her videos have been showcased worldwide in LGBTQ film festivals in Paris and New York City. Among our favorite visual journeys into this drag terrorist’s mind are “Fix My Dick” and (the extremely NSFW) “Butt Muscle.”

Christine and the Queens

LGBTQ Musicians Christine and the Queens

Héloïse Letissier, inspired by her London drag friends, named her band in honor of them and to channel their strength into her own electropop. It worked. Her one and only release thus far, Chaleur Humaine (simply Christine and the Queens in the dull U.S.), has been an international hit. And her approach to sexuality has been refreshing (“Jonathan ft. Perfume Genius”) with a series of graphically blocked and choreographed videos (“Tilted” is the best). We look forward to the next installment.

Brandy Clark

LGBTQ Musicians Brandy Clark

Is it easier to be a lesbian than a gay man in the genre of country music? That homophobia runs deep, but the ladies seem to have an edge on their out male counterparts. This may come down to talent — Chely Wright and this Music Row songwriter offer detailed songs that speak to the heartland without labels, and Clark has co-written a number one hit for The Band Perry and collaborated with both Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert. She’s a Grammy nominee with a first-rate debut, 12 Stories. And like that other country singer (well, she was at the time) kd lang, it’s just a matter of time before the world recognizes her fully. Until then, enjoy Clark’s stoned housewife on “Get High” or her heartbroken hellcat on “Love Can Go to Hell.”

Jen Cloher

jen cloher lgbtq musicians

Cloher may be better known to audiences as Courtney Barnett’s partner, but she’s a righteous rock and roll force on her own (she’s been writing and recording since 2005). Her self-titled 2017 release is the best (so far) of what she has to offer. “Analysis Paralysis” will remind you of Barnett — their styles of guitar playing are similar — though her vocal delivery is dryer and more serious.

Cœur de pirate

couer de pirate lgbtq musicians

The Pulse nightclub shooting opened a lot of closet doors, including the one of Béatrice Martin, who is the Canadian pop heart of Cœur de pirate. Her fifth release is the French language En cas de tempête, ce jardin sera fermé (“Prémonition”).

Coil

LGBTQ musicians coil

Coil, the project of Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson and Jhonn Balance — both of Genesis P-Orridge’s Psychic TV, and in the case of Christopherson, industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle — were always very upfront about their gayness. They not only did the very first AIDS charity single (“Tainted Love“), they worked with Derek Jarman and scored a video called The Gay Man’s Guide to Safe Sex. They’re not for everyone — after all, their score for the horror film Hellraiser was rejected for being too scary. A famous slogan of theirs was “When you listen to Coil, do you think of music?” and you should.

Shea Couleé

drag queen musicians shea coulee

This queen from Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race slayed the competition with imaginative fashion and Chicago attitude. Shea Couleé then went on to release a three-track EP entitled Couleé-D and has since released a handful of singles, including “Cocky” with Season 10 queen The Vixen and “Gasoline,” an ethereal R&B track with the U.K. psychedelic group GESS.

Bradford Cox / Deerhunter / Atlas Sound

LGBTQ Musicians Bradford Cox
The leader of the alternative band Deerhunter (and his solo project as Atlas Sound) identifies as queer, but more fully as asexual. He’s a tall, bony, awkward man with the genetic disorder Marfan syndrome, but his music has morphed over the years from a droning confusion to a muscular, eloquent directness. 2015’s Fading Frontier was a breakthrough — tuneful and tough, dealing with the aftermath of a near-death experience and reinforced love of life that lit up songs such as “Snakeskin” and “Living My Life.” Cox’s sensibility is more outlaw than outsider; he’s overcome more than you or I will ever encounter, and he’s turned himself into the beautiful man of his dreams by the sheer forcefulness of his talent and imagination.

Jayne County

LGBTQ Musicians Jayne County

Rock’s first openly transgender performer was there for the Stonewall Riots and is still performing today. Her best known song, “Are You Man Enough to Be a Woman?,” says it all; then again, so does “Fuck Off” back when she was still performing as Wayne County & The Electric Chairs.

Cub Sport

cub sport lgbtq musicians

With two releases behind them, this Australian band is poised to become the next Years & Years or Troye Sivan — an electropop indie concern that waves the gay flag proudly and produces beautiful synth-based tunes perfect for contemplation (“Chasin’”) and romance (“Crush”).

CupcakKe

Queer Rappers Cupcakke

CupcakKe is sex — plain and simple. To be completely honest, she spits bars that make Lil’ Kim look like a prude. With a fanbase she’s dubbed “slurpers,” CupcakKe’s hypersexuality has resonated with the queer community outside the comprehension of heteronormative folks. Whether she’s in a video sucking down dildos or praising the LGBTs, Cupcakke is keeping it queer AF.

Cyberbully Mom Club

Cyberbully mom club lgbtq musicians

Great band name, but who’d a thunk they’d be bedroom pop and not indie rock? Well, they’re more Moldy Peaches than Sleater-Kinney, so if that’s your scene, Shari Heck’s quartet will rock (or not rock) your world. (“How Do You Tell a Girl You Really Like Her Eyes?”)

Miley Cyrus

lgbtq musicians miley

If you don’t know Miley Cyrus, the pansexual, sexually fluid pop star and ex-Hannah Montana star, you might be legally dead. But whether you prefer her poppier side or her gooey, glittery Flaming Lips phase, she’s unforgettable. Whether she’s fighting with the douchebags behind Dolce & Gabbana or squealing over Shea and Sasha, we love her.

Dana International

dana international lgbtq musicians

Sharon Cohen, who does business as Dana International, was Israel’s contestant for Eurovision 1998 and a transgender pop artist with a handful of releases to her credit. This version of her international hit “Diva” features tons of semi-naked eye candy, and she’s got a great set of pipes. If she went head to toe with Conchita Wurst, I’m not sure who’d win, but the battle royale would be fierce.

Dave Davies / The Kinks

LGBTQ Musicians Dave Davies

So this was news to me — that Dave Davies, guitarist of The Kinks — identifies as bisexual. Well, Dave, in the words of your more famous brother, “You Really Got Me.” And though you only got one or two songs a record, you never wasted a moment. “Trust Your Heart” from 1978’s Misfits; “Death of a Clown” from 1967’s Something Else by The Kinks; “Strangers,” the best song on 1970’s Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One — they’re classics in a canon overseen by your brother yet impossible without you.

Vaginal Creme Davis

Vaginal Creme Davis, drag queen musicians 02, drag queen albums 02

Part of the queercore movement of the 1980s, this intersex performer embodied the movement’s brand of gender-fucked politics through solo performances and collaborations with bands like Black Fag, ¡Cholita! The Female Menudo and The Afro Sisters, all of which dealt in overtly sexual and racial themes. Interestingly, Davis doesn’t self-identify as a musician and has said, “My goal has never been to purposely entertain anyone.”

Spencer Day

LGBTQ Musicians Spencer Day

Day is a handsome jazz singer with pop smarts who’s unafraid to plumb emotional depths in his music. His early career focused on standards, but he’s ventured far and wide since then. The Mystery of You, from 2013, is a song cycle about a doomed relationship and the struggles to make it out alive, and features one of Day’s best songs, “Nevermind.”

Dazey and the Scouts

dazey and the scouts lgbtq musicians

They have one 2017 EP — Maggot — and they’re a foursome, and that’s about all I know about Dazey and the Scouts. Oh, and they’re keeping the fires of queercore burning brightly. (“Wet”)

Dead or Alive

LGBTQ Musicians Dead or Alive

Fronted by the androgynous and unclassifiable Pete Burns, Dead or Alive’s career basically ended after 1986 with Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know (with its massive hit “Brand New Lover”), but infamy followed Burns to the end of his life. What we’ve been left with are some classic New Wave disco cuts like “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” and an idea of ’80s camp that looks quaint in retrospect (“That’s the Way (I Like It)”).

Adore Delano

Adore Delano, drag queen musicians 07, drag queen albums 07

Six years before appearing on Season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Adore Delano appeared out of drag on the popular reality TV singing competition American Idol. But since his Drag Race premiere, Delano has released three albums entitled Till Death Do Us PartyAfter Party and Whatever; has toured America and the U.K.; and subsequently got involved in a lawsuit with a former manager over performance fees.

Ani DiFranco

LGBTQ Musicians Ani DiFranco

Bisexuality’s always been a tough sell. Too weird for straights; too ambiguous for gays. But songwriter Ani DiFranco was its perfect spokesperson in the ’90s and tackled it head-on in her track “In or Out.” She’s been a great role model to a panoply of different communities, and she’s stayed true to herself as an artist and a human being. Her latest record, Binary, is out now.

Beth Ditto / The Gossip

LGBTQ Musicians Beth Ditto
She’s a big, beautiful lesbian, and don’t you forget it. Not that Mary Beth Patterson is going to let you. Not when fronting the punk-ish The Gossip (“Standing in the Way of Control”) or as she heads off into the unknown of her solo career (“Fire”). Her solo debut, Fake Sugar, is out now.

Divine

Divine, drag queen musicians 09, drag queen albums 09

Divine is among the most famous drag queen musicians on our list. John Waters‘ trashy muse re-imagined herself as a bathhouse disco diva in the ’80s and released four albums. Divine gradually integrated his songs into his nightclub and gay bar performances, and eventually he began touring the United States and Europe, where he gained a large following. Some of his hits include tracks like “Born to Be Cheap” and “You Think You’re a Man” and the albums Jungle Jezebel and Maid in England.

Doll Skin

doll skin lgbtq musicians

Arizona female rock quartet pounding out those three necessary punk chords with finesse. (“Let’s Be Honest”)

Downtown Boys

downtown boys lgbtq musicians

For those who believe nothing good ever came out of Providence, Rhode Island, we direct you to this fearsome bilingual, multi-racial and gendered quintet of political activists and punks. (“Wave of History”)

Dreamcrusher

dreamcrusher lgbtq musicians

Gender non-binary Luwayne Glass is the architect of the musique concrete he calls “Nihilist Queer Revolt Music” and who are we to argue? (“Codeine Eyes”)

The Drums

LGBTQ Musicians The Drums
What began as a four-piece now seems solely the work of Jonathan Pierce. Their jangly indie pop remains the same, the gay content has expanded and deepened, and one day the cult that loves them for their melodic surf-guitar and fun grooves — “Let’s Go Surfing,” “Money,” “Let Me” (to name a few) — might have to share them with more people. Abysmal Thoughts — their fourth release featuring “Blood Under My Belt” — just dropped.

Dyke Drama

dyke drama lgbtq musicians

Sadie Switchblade (probably not her real name) is Dyke Drama. The transgender artist traffics closer to the Against Me! strain of rock and roll than the punkier artists elsewhere on this list. “The Hardest Years,” from 2015’s Tender Resignation, is emblematic. Notable fact: after a transphobic Twitter war was started by the shoegaze band Whirr, that band’s label immediately dropped them. The current President of the U.S. notwithstanding, tweet at your own risk.

Continue to Page 2 of the LGBTQ Musicians Encyclopedia >>

Electrelane

LGBTQ Musicians electrelane

For a brief moment — 2001 through 2007 — these four English ladies made some joyful alt noise. 2004’s The Power Out — wherein The Velvet Underground met Stereolab — is my favorite (especially the driving “Take the Bit Between Your Teeth”), though great songs abound across their oeuvre.

Melissa Etheridge

LGBTQ Musicians Melissa Etheridge
Her big heart and bigger voice made her a star from the start, and even though she didn’t officially come out until the ’90s, one listen to “Bring Me Some Water” from her 1988 debut and we just knew. Along the way she’s won an Academy Award (“I Need to Wake Up”), a couple of Grammys and the respect accorded to a Midwestern artist who turned herself into an icon by sheer will and hard work.

Excuse 17

excuse 17 lgbtq musicians

Carrie Brownstein’s pre-Sleater-Kinney queercore trio were active between 1993 and 1995. They recorded two beloved records that have inspired countless humans to take up guitars. And they were best when they were revved up and raging. (“The Drop Dead Look”)

Mark Feehily / Westlife

LGBTQ Musicians Westlife

Because Irish boys — and Irish boy bands — need gays, too. (“Swear It Again”)

The Feeling

LGBTQ Musicians The Feeling

Dan Gillespie Sells and his compatriots in this English rock band kicked around for nearly 10 years before unleashing their tuneful debut Twelve Stops and Home in 2006. Why “Sewn” and “Never Be Lonely” didn’t blow them up worldwide is a mystery. But they’re still an active concern — last year’s eponymous release was a rocking one, featuring “Wicked Heart” — and here’s hoping they catch a break.

Ferras

LGBTQ Musicians Ferras

He hasn’t made his mark yet — though he had a moment with “Hollywood’s Not America” from his 2008 debut Aliens & Rainbows — but don’t count him out. Signed to Katy Perry’s Metamorphosis Music, Ferras Alqaisi should have new music coming down the pike. And if his 2014 eponymous EP, featuring “Speaking in Tongues,” is any indication, he’ll have his finger on the electropop pulse of the moment.

Ferron

queer musicians ferron

I should know more about this trailblazing artist than I do, though it’s enough to state how far her music reaches: Ani DiFranco, Mary Gauthier and Indigo Girls have all claimed her as an influence. You can hear it in tracks like 1980’s “Testimony” and 1984’s “Shadows On a Dime.” And young artists can learn a thing about sustaining: Ferron’s last record, Lighten-ing, was released in 2013 at the age of 61.

Fever Ray / The Knife

fever ray lgbtq musicians

Karen Elisabeth Dreijer was one half of The Knife with her brother Olof, where their brand of combative electronica helped them win the Pop Group of the Year award in 2003 at the Swedish Grammis. On her own as Fever Ray since 2008, the gender fluid Dreijer, across two releases, has continued to shapeshift her electronic textures closer to the indie mainstream while fiercely remaining intellectually independent. And her videos to support 2017’s Plunge — including “To the Moon and Back” and “IDK About You” — make her seem less gender fluid and more interspecies flexible; a rogue from planet Björk or an elder star child who gave birth to SOPHIE.

Fifth Column

fifth column lgbtq musicians

All-female Canadian post-punks were active between 1981 and 2002, though during that time they managed to release only three full-lengths and lots of standalone singles (“Like This” is one of their best). All three of the core members – Caroline Azar, G.B. Jones, and Beverly Breckenridge – have kept themselves busy as members of the Canadian counterculture, and participated in the 2012 documentary about the band, She Said Boom: The Story of Fifth Column.

Florist

florist lgbtq musicians

Emily Sprague’s Brooklyn indie pop band were last heard from with 2017’s If Blue Could Be Happiness, written and recorded before the passing of her mother, but in many ways about her (most definitively on the track “Glowing Brightly”). They’re decidedly low-key and tuneful, ambient, reflective.

Hardy Fox / The Residents / Charles Bobuck

hardy fox lgbtq musicians

This former composer for San Francisco avant-noise collective The Residents is a solo concern now. And the man is busy. 2018 alone has seen four new albums, plus two compilations. Our favorite song by far, “Trump,” is on Egg Booty.

Frankie Goes to Hollywood

LGBTQ Musicians Frankie Goes to Hollywood

First they asked us to “Relax,” then they gave us “Krisco Kisses” and then — like so many other one-night stands before them — they disappeared. Still, their videos are unforgettable.

Ezra Furman

LGBTQ Musicians Ezra Furman

This gender-fluid singer-songwriter (and observant Jew) is a striking original. It’s hard to tell where Furman might end up — Brill Building hooks (“Lousy Connection”), classic rock (“Restless Year”) and political protest (“American Soil”) all end up in songs as pointed as they are passionate — but one thing is certain: the journey will be unlike any other.

G.L.O.S.S.

gloss lgbtq musicians

Girls Living Outside Society’s Shit is the full name of Olympia’s trans-feminist hardcore punk band who lived amongst us for a mere two years (2013-2015). That’s the thing with righteous rage — it’s hard to sustain, though it’s noisy and joyful while it lasts. (“Give Violence a Chance”)

Chris Garneau

LGBTQ Musicians Chris Garneau

He could be Sufjan Stevens’ younger gay brother or a protégé of Rufus Wainwright, though those are just easy signifiers for this composer’s baroque traipses through pop’s leftfield. “Dirty Night Clowns” and “Fireflies” from 2009’s El Radio may give you a better sense of his sensibility.

Stephen Gately / Boyzone

LGBTQ Musicians boyzone
Another boy band, another gay member. Gately’s 1999 coming out was trés public, followed by a ceremony to his partner in 2003 in Las Vegas and another in London in 2006. He passed of congenital heart failure in 2009, just months before Boyzone’s 2010 release of Brother (named in his honor) and the video for “Better,” wherein all the members sing to women, except for Gately.

Mary Gauthier

LGBTQ Musicians Mary Gauthier

Though she’d been kicking around since 1997’s Dixie Kitchen, chances are most of us hadn’t heard of Gauthier until 2005’s Mercy Now (and its trenchant title track). Talk about a slow burn. Amongst artists, however, she’s always been well-known, and covered by the likes of Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton.

Teddy Geiger

teddy geiger lgbtq musicians

Geiger, who now focuses on songwriting and production for other artists, began her transition in late 2017. (She co-wrote Shawn Mendes’ “Stitches”.) She also has two releases – 2006’s Underage Thinking (“These Walls”) and 2013’s The Last Fears (“Walking in the Sun”).

Giant Kitty

giant kitty lgbtq musicians

These Houston punks, featuring transgender guitarist Cassandra Chiles, have mobilized in the age of Trump, especially during the first phase of the Muslim ban, a pet cause for Syrian vocalist Miriam Hakim. They only have one release thus far, This Stupid Stuff, and while their politics are pointed, their songs tend towards the humorous. We’re particularly fond of their Keanu Reeves homage, “Don’t Stop That Bus.”

Billy Gilman

billy gilman lgbtq musicians

He started as a country child star (“One Voice,” “There’s a Hero”) who confronted his budding sexuality and reinvented himself – with some help during his 2016 season on The Voice – into a pop act (“Fight Song”).  Still no post-country debut, however.

Girlpool

girlpool lgbtq musicians

Before the World Was Big, the 2015 debut from this Los Angeles duo (now trio), was a subtle indie rock keeper — reminiscent of similar bands such as Beat Happening and Moldy Peaches. The selling point, as witnessed on the title track, are the harmonies of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad. I spend less time with the follow-up, Powerplant, which has less to do with the quality of the work than my own interests elsewhere, though no doubt when I need a dose of gentle navel-gazing indie, as on “123,” I’m certain I’ll put it on.

Tyler Glenn / Neon Trees

LGBTQ Musicians Tyler Glenn
He had a huge hit with “Animal” in 2010 as the frontman for the indie rock group Neon Trees, and as catchy as it was (as were the band’s two follow-ups), it wasn’t until this Mormon-raised singer came out in 2014 that we really took notice. Last year’s solo debut, Excommunication, was a huge step forward for him, in which he laid bare his difficulties reconciling his sexuality to his faith (“Trash” and “Shameless”) to the accompaniment of some edgy electro-indie.

God Is My Co-Pilot

god is my co-pilot band lgbtq musicians

Sharron Topper and Craig Flanagin have steered this queercore band since 1992’s I Am Not This Body (“Kissing Frenzy”). All of their albums have been released on independent labels, so undying adulation and commercial success was never the end game. Their last album was in 1998, though they recently reunited for a UK tour. Maybe they’re gearing up to release new material?

Ari Gold / Sir Ari / GoldNation

LGBTQ Musicians Ari Gold
This singing child star (Pot Belly Bear: Songs and Stories, anyone?) has been a fixture on the club scene since his eponymous debut in 2001 and has been releasing music under his own name, as Sir Ari, and GoldNation (“Sex Like a Pornstar”) since.

Goldfrapp

LGBTQ Musicians Goldfrapp

Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have released fascinating electro since 2000’s surreal Felt Mountain. They’ve pivoted between whiplash dance music (“Strict Machine”) and pastoral explorations (“Clowns”) nearly every other album. Both iterations make magnificent use of Gregory’s rich melodies and Goldfrapp’s malleable soprano. And 17 years in, they’re still making music worth hearing. This year’s Silver Eye — with the Teutonic “Systemagic” — is one of their best.

Lesley Gore

LGBTQ Musicians Lesley Gore

A chart-topping solo artist for a brief run in the ’60s — “It’s My Party” and the proto-feminist “You Don’t Own Me” have stood the test of time — Gore co-wrote songs with brother Michael Gore for 1980’s Fame, and co-hosted PBS’s LGBT issues-oriented In the Life. As was the way, she kept her sexuality close to the vest until later in her career. In retrospect, however, isn’t it a rich irony that the voice of (white) teenage girls belonged to one of our own?

Laura Jane Grace / Against Me!

LGBTQ Musicians Laura Jane Grace

Before she transitioned, Laura Jane Grace was tearing up the alt-rock world fronting Against Me!, confronting the powers that be with the same scalpel she was using on her own emotions. So what a gift that she’s doing the same thing now and has blossomed into a forthright and powerful spokeswoman for the transgender community. The title track of 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues was notice to the transphobes and homophobes that it would be business as usual. And if you were too stupid to hear it, then feel free to fuck off.

Steve Grand

lgbtq musicians steve grand

It’s hard to talk about Steve Grand and not focus on his looks. I mean, the man is fine, as you can tell from every picture he’s ever taken (and his side career as a model). So let’s not make the mistake of thinking that’s all he is — another pretty face or set of abs — but let’s also admit that he has yet to prove himself as an artist. His one and only release, All American Boy, is good, not great. But he has talent — as “Stay” and “All American Boy” itself attests. Let’s hope his fame doesn’t distract him from the business at hand.

John Grant / The Czars

LGBTQ Musicians JOhn Grant

Six or so albums in and his Denver-based band The Czars were going nowhere. So John Grant took some time off, lived his life and came back strong with 2010’s Queen of Denmark. Sure, you could have guessed there was something gay going on back in The Czars (their cover of “Where the Boys Are” from 2005’s Sorry I Made You Cry — duh!), but Grant hasn’t been pussyfooting around the subject on his own. He’s become a bear icon (much to his delight, no doubt), and he’s one of the best songwriters in the world today. “Queen of Denmark” (either his or Sinead O’Connor’s cover), “Glacier,” “Guess How I Know” — each a great song from each of his three solo releases, and not the only ones. He’s making up for lost time and creating a modern classic canon in the process.

Grayson / Neu Youth

grayson

Raised in the Mormon Church, this non-binary indie artist just dropped a preview of their forthcoming EP with the song “Brother.”  It’s such a weird, catchy earworm we’re excited for their pending extended play.

Green Day

lgbtq musicians green day

Though their breakthrough hit, “Longview,” was about the glories and boredom of masturbation, who knew that frontman Billie Joe Armstrong could have been jacking off to boys as much as girls? He declared himself bisexual in a 1995 interview with The Advocate — somehow we missed that issue — and has touched on it many times since (claiming that Dookie, the band’s massive 1994 album, touched on bisexuality a lot, especially in the song “Coming Clean”). And while Green Day is often derided for not being pure enough as a punk band — whatever the hell that means — the band has left behind a lot of great and forward-thinking material, from “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” which became the go-to wedding song for ’90s kids, to the future Tony-winning American Idiot (about the Bush years, but even more prescient now).

Gregory Gray / Mary Cigarettes / Rosetta Stone / Perfect Crime

LGBTQ Musicians Gregory Gray

This Irish musician, born Paul Lerwill, began in the ’70s as guitarist for Rosetta Stone, fronted the ’80s band Perfect Crime, then released three records as Gregory Gray between 1986 and 1995. (Good luck finding them, though.) Proto-electro, before it was the rage; gay-specific without irony or distance or faux importance: he captured a moment in his life as an ex-patriot on foreign shores with some catchy tunes and thoughtful lyrics. And he wrote one of the best songs about AIDS ever, “Three Minute Requiem.” Do yourself a favor and seek it out.

Grizzly Bear

LGBTQ Musicians Grizzly Bear

Singer-composer Ed Droste is the openly gay one, and his songs tend to be more romantic and emotional, but just in degrees, as it’s often hard to tell his compositions apart from his bandmate Daniel Rossen. Their 2004 debut, Horn of Plenty, was demo ephemera; 2006’s Yellow House was experimental and uneven, though its high points were huge; and since then it’s been modest commercial success and a move closer to the center. Their cover of “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” from their Friends EP caused some controversy, though more than anything it pointed the way towards their mix of classic girl group sounds and alt-rock. Their fifth release, Painted Ruins (due August 2017), adds electro-elements (at least on the first single, “Three Rings”).

Halestorm

halestorm lgbtq musicians

Pennsylvania hard rocking combo, fronted by vocalist/guitarist Lzzy Hale, does things the old fashioned way — non-stop touring, releasing a record every two years or so, and keeping the heavy metal-ish fires alive for headbangers and rock fiends everywhere. (“Uncomfortable”)

Rob Halford / Judas Priest

LGBTQ Musicians Rob Halford

As one of the (very) few out frontmen in heavy metal, Halford gives extra meaning to the phrase “rock out with your cock out.” Additionally, given the buggery laws in the U.K., it’s a kick to know in retrospect exactly what law this classic metal screamer was breaking when he was “Breaking the Law.”

Halsey

LGBTQ Musicians Halsey

Young, bi, still finding her footing artistically, but promising, promising, promising. Her sophomore release, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (featuring “100 Letters”), is ambitious and overreaching, but unlike some of her more underachieving contemporaries, at least she’s trying. And for her efforts she just scored a U.S. number one.

Mark Andrew Hamilton / Woodpigeon

LGBTQ Musicians Woodpigeon

Active since 2006 and fronted by the openly gay Mark Andrew Hamilton, this Calgary outfit — which is basically Hamilton and anyone who plays with him — gets compared to nearly any indie rock outfit of note. Last year’s T R O U B L E has some lovely work on it — “Faithful” and “Whole Body Shakes” — that is similar to Sufjan Stevens (but only because of the softness of Hamilton’s voice).

Debbie Harry / Blondie

LGBTQ Musicians Debbie Harry

She’s been an icon longer than many of us have been alive, and the proof is in the music. Not sure why we’d never known she was an out bisexual, but that’s one of the beauties of putting together a list like this: discovery. Oh, and remembering her great songs both with her primary band (“Call Me”) and on her own (“French Kissin’ [In the USA]”).

Sophie B. Hawkins

LGBTQ Musicians

She’ll always be known for her 1992 debut, Tongues and Tails, and its inescapable hit “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover,” though there are good songs scattered throughout her other records. She’s been quiet since 2012’s The Crossing.

Darren Hayes / Savage Garden

LGBTQ Musicians Darren Hayes

Though Hayes has been recording solo four times as long as his work with the group Savage Garden, it’s “I Want You” and “Truly Madly Deeply” we’ll all remember.

Angel Haze

Angel Haze Queer Rappers

Detroit-born, New York City-based rapper Angel Haze is both pansexual and agender. Hitting the scene fast and hard in the early 2010s, Haze took the arguably queer-baiting Macklemore and Ryan Lewis hit “Same Love” and gave it an authentically queer presence. (Though let it be known the featuring act in the original song, Mary Lambert, is indeed a lesbian). Haze’s latest mixtape, Back to the Woods, has received critical acclaim.

Nona Hendryx / Labelle

LGBTQ Musicians Nona Hendryx

As one-third of Labelle back in the ’70s, she helped to make “gitchy gitchy ya ya da da” into an inescapable hook (“Lady Marmalade”) and got us reprimanded in French class when we showed our mastery of the language by singing “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?” (But at least we knew the most important thing to ask a Frenchmen when we finally got to Paris.) She wrote or co-wrote some of the band’s best tunes and — inspired by New York’s downtown no wave scene, not to mention New Wave — had a fine solo career in the ’80s. She’s still active and a fierce fighter for LGBTQ rights. So, you know, respect.

Hercules and Love Affair

LGBTQ Musicians Hercules & the love affair

With a new release on the horizon, it’s time to praise this music project started by DJ Andy Butler that turned into a real, rotating rainbow coalition of artists. Their eponymous debut featured vocals by Anohni on club smash “Blind,” and subsequent tracks have included the protean John Grant (“I Try to Talk to You”) and, on the current single “Controller,” Faris Badwan.

Ty Herndon

ty herndon lgbtq musicians

Dogged by rumors about his sexuality following an alleged public exposure incident in Fort Worth in 1995, Herndon — after struggles with drugs and alcohol — finally came out in a 2014 People interview. Along with the crop of younger out artists (Steve Grand, Brandon Stansell), he’s making inroads for LGBTQ people within the straitjacket of a fiercely traditional genre. (“House on Fire”)

The Hidden Cameras

LGBTQ Musicians Hidden Cameras

Their second album and first major label release, The Smell of Our Own, featured a song about the glories of piss (“Golden Streams”) and, well, you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. Actually, you’re in the Canada of mastermind Joel Gibb, who has steered what began as, in his words, “gay church folk music,” through numerous genres and subject matters (the bullying “Gay Goth Scene” from 2014’s Age is a standout).

Kristian Hoffman

LGBTQ Musicians Kristian Hoffman

No doubt you’ve known Kristian Hoffman in some iteration or another: as a member of The Mumps (which also featured Lance Loud); as Loud’s friend in the PBS documentary and ’70s cause célèbre An American Family; his numerous collaborations with — amongst others — James White and the Blacks, Ann Magnuson, and the much missed Klaus Nomi; or his ongoing solo work. Both & (2003) and FOP (2010) are worth your time, especially &’s Matthew Shepard homage “Scarecrow ft. Rufus Wainwright.”

The Hotelier

the hotelier

Worcester’s finest indie outfit, with open and outspoken front-man Christian Holden, and three fine releases under their name. One day — we shall see — they might become as big and beloved as The National. They certainly have the talent. (“Piano Player”)

Human People

human people lgbtq musicians

Female foursome with a just minted debut, Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears, and snotty attitude to spare. (“California”)

Hunx and His Punx / Seth Bogart

LGBTQ Musicians hunx and his punx

Exactly as advertised (“Cruising”), and even funnier when Seth Bogart — that would be Hunx — goes solo (“Lubed”).

Hurray for the Riff Raff

hurray for the riff raff

This New Orleans rock band representing for sexual outliers and Puerto Ricans released its best record after a decade, this year’s The Navigator (“Hungry Ghost”). And though it’s taken some time, Alynda Segarra has become a forceful and necessary presence in the age of Trump.

Janis Ian

LGBTQ Musicians Janis Ian

Though not out until 1993, Ian’s best known songs — “Society’s Child” (interracial romance in the ’60s) and “At Seventeen” — understood otherness from the inside. She’s still writing and recording, with a Grammy win for 2013’s Best Spoken Word Album of her autobiography, also called Society’s Child.

Imperial Teen

LGBTQ Musicians Imperial Teen

Boy-girl queer alt-rock, but you take away the “queer” and this quartet is just a great indie band. Featuring Roddy Bottum of Faith No More, they release sporadically, about every five years, so it’s about time for new music to join the ranks of classics like “You’re One,” “Yoo Hoo,” “The Hair the TV the Baby and the Band,” and “Ivanka” (about you know who, and I wonder how they feel about her now?).

Indigo Girls

LGBTQ Musicians indigo girls

A bit too serious for some, but it’s no wonder legions of young lesbians have flocked to them since “Closer to Fine” was a modest hit in 1989.

The Irrepressibles

LGBTQ Musicians irrepressables

Beautiful art rock, European division, with the quivering vocals of Jamie Irrepressible (né Jamie McDermott) and provocative videos (“In This Shirt,” “Two Men in Love”).

Maja Ivarsson / The Sounds

LGBTQ Musicians Sounds

These New Wave-loving Swedes, fronted by the bisexual Ivarsson, have been bringing their love of Blondie and Missing Persons to a new audience since 2002 (“Shake Shake Shake”).

Joan Jett / The Runaways

LGBTQ Musicians joan jett

We’ve loved Jett since she power-chorded her way through The Runaways’ punk hit “Cherry Bomb,” but it wasn’t until the band imploded that she conquered the world. She made something of her cover versions — Tommy James and the Shondells’ pronoun-specific “Crimson and Clover,” Gary Glitter’s “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” and “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” among them — while adding classics of her own to the history of a rock and roll she’s always loved and still embodies (“Bad Reputation,” “Any Weather”).

Jobriath

LGBTQ Musicians jobriath

The first openly gay rock star to be signed to a major label, and if you didn’t know how that was going to end, then you weren’t alive in the ’70s. The man born Bruce Wayne Campbell came and went in a flash, and though glam rock encouraged all kinds of androgynous experimentation, the real thing was too much to take. He’s a legend now — as much as he wanted to be in his lifetime, cut short by AIDS in 1983 — in part thanks to Morrissey’s involvement in a 2004 compilation release, Lonely Planet Boy, and, of course, due to some songs that are both quite of their time and also timeless (“I’maman,” “Inside”).

Elton John

LGBTQ Musicians Elton John

Sure, he could have come out earlier, but then would the world have actually paid attention to this formidably talented piano player and hit machine? Or would generations of people — straight, gay, whatever — have seen the fashion-forward showman at his peak, making the world safe for platform boots and feathers and whatnot? He was something — still is — and his advocacy has no end. So thank him for “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Your Song” and “Tiny Dancer” and, hell yes, “The Bitch Is Back” and too many more to mention. And find the wealth of great songs he’s been putting out in his late period renaissance (“Home Again”) because — admit it — we owe him.

Jolivi

LGBTQ Musicians JOLIVI

This Hawaiian-born, Los Angeles-based up-and-comer has one EP out (Just for You) and the type of buzz money can’t buy. Her latest single, “Love Who You Wanna Love,” should put her on your radar, and once she takes off into the stratosphere — and she will — we can all say, oh, I knew about her back in the day.

Janis Joplin

LGBTQ Musicians janis joplin

She’s the female rock singer all other female rock ‘n’ rollers will be compared to, and not simply because she was the first; she was also the best. Her bisexuality seemed a byproduct of her hedonism, but she was in full formal flower during and after the Summer of Love (“Summertime”), so it was as much part of who she was as that freakish voice that knew pain and pleasure in ways we could only imagine (“Piece of My Heart”). She inspired the greatest rock movie thus far (The Rose). And her legend continues apace because she died young, before she really had the chance to, you know, suck.

Continue to Page 3 of the LGBTQ Musicians Encyclopedia >>

Kaytranada

LGBTQ Musicians Kaytranada

Louis Kevin Celestin is a Haitian-born, Montréal-based DJ/producer with one stellar release under his belt, 99.9%, and a Rolodex anyone would be proud of — Syd features on “You’re the One,” Anderson .Paak on “Glowed Up” — and no doubt we will be featuring him plenty in the years to come.

Kazaky

LGBTQ Musicians kazaky

Here is a boy band — from Ukraine — unlike any before. They have since disbanded and, given the witch hunt happening in neighboring Russia, we hope they’re in hiding or seeking asylum in a more tolerant society. For now, we are left with their androgynous videos and hi-NRG Eurodisco (“Love”).

Kehlani / Poplyfe

LGBTQ Musicians Kehlani

This Bay Area biracial bisexual took on the world with her 2017 debut SweetSexySavage (“CRZY”).

Rachael Kilgour

LGBTQ Musicians Rachael Kilgour

A bad breakup precipitated this Minnesota folk singer’s best and latest record, Rabbit in the Road. She’s a sharp one, especially when she comes up with a title metaphor and a title track that encapsulates her broken relationship with damning efficacy.

Kingdom

LGBTQ Musicians kingdom

Ezra Rubin (aka Kingdom) is a club music impresario who dropped his debut this year, Tears in the Club, with guest turns from Syd (“Nothin”) and SZA (“What Is Love”), and some deeply useful instrumental pieces that are dark and beats-wise, like the title track.

Kitchens of Distinction / Stephen Hero / Fruit / Lost Girls

LGBTQ Musicians Kitchens of Distinction

Patrick Fitzgerald waved the shoegaze flag for gay boys everywhere, from 1989’s Love Is Hell through 1994’s Cowboys and Aliens, then went on hiatus and recorded under many other monikers, reuniting 19 years later for 2013’s Folly. Though under the radar then and now, some of their work broke through, especially 1991’s Strange Free World and its signature song “Drive That Fast.”

Jonathan Knight / New Kids on the Block

LGBTQ Musicians jonathan knight

Another boy band, and this time the gay one is Jonathan Knight (who, with his partner Harley Rodriguez, participated in the 26th season of The Amazing Race). Though the New Kids aren’t so new anymore, they released their sixth album 10 in 2013, though it’s “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and “Step by Step” that burns brightest in our memories.

Lady Gaga

LGBTQ Musicians Lady Gaga

Not only is she a great friend to our community, she’s part of it. Her story is still unfolding as she stretches out to the world of TV and film, flitting from genre to genre as the shapeshifter she not only desperately wants to be, but actually is. After last year’s roots move Joanne, no doubt we all shared a sigh of relief when she dropped the electropop “The Cure,” but it’s churlish to deny her the opportunity to stretch out. The woman who unleashed our modern LGBTQ anthem on the world, “Born This Way,” can do whatever the hell she wants.

Ladyhawke / Two Lane Blacktop

LGBTQ Musicians Ladyhawke

Phillipa Margaret Brown’s Kiwi electropop made inroads worldwide with her eponymous 2008 debut singles “Back of the Van” and “My Delirium.” She stumbled with her 2012 follow-up, Anxiety, but returned to form last year with the strong Wild Things (“A Love Song”). Her lower public profile could be a result of too many similar artists coming up at the same time (La Roux, etc.) or the self-esteem issues she grappled with prior to her marriage to actress Madeleine Sami, but she’s back and raring to win you over again.

Adam Lambert

LGBTQ Musicians Adam Lambert

The career trajectory of this American Idol runner-up (quick, name the winner … didn’t think so) has been like a sales graph — up, down, way up, crash, etc. And, musically, he’s all over the place as well, but you would be, too, if you had the instrument to sing whatever you wanted. That was obvious on his first post-Idol debut For Your Entertainment (“Whataya Want from Me”) and solidified when he was asked by Queen’s guitarist Brian May to fill the shoes of Freddie Mercury on a world tour. His second release, Trespassing, debuted on the U.S. charts at number one (the first for an openly gay performer), and 2015’s The Original High showed enormous maturity in his writing (“Ghost Town”). There’s a masterpiece in him, and when he finally gets to it, he’ll be even more unstoppable than he already is.

Mary Lambert

LGBTQ Musicians Mary Lambert

Hers was the authentic voice — or, at least, the gay one — on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love,” and though it allowed her to quit her bartending job, it’s also overshadowed her solo work. Too bad, as her debut Heart On My Sleeve was prime pop (“Secrets”), and the stopgap EP she put out this year, Bold, bodes well for her next full-length (“Know Your Name”).

Daniel Land / Engineers / riverrun / Daniel Land & the Modern Painters

LGBTQ Musicians Daniel Land

This shoegaze guitarist has been releasing music for eons with Engineers (former member) and a series of solo projects, but we hadn’t heard of him until last year’s gorgeous In Love with a Ghost, wherein he delineates the thrills and anxieties of life in a new city (“New York Boogie Woogie”) and falling in love (“Holes on the Dancefloor,” which cribs its opening melody from Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy”).

kd lang

LGBTQ Musicians kd lang

She hasn’t released a solo record since 2008’s Watershed (though last year saw a collaboration with Neko Case and Laura Veirs called case/lang/veirs), but she’s kept herself busy with acting and activism. She’s damn near a perfect singer — live, we cannot recall anyone with the technical control she has — and Ingénue, from 1992, featuring “Constant Craving,” was a, ahem, watershed. She has a way with standards and covers (“Black Coffee”) and I wish she hadn’t forsaken her country roots as quickly as she did (“Big Boned Gal”), but she’s one of our best.

Le Tigre / MEN / JD Samson

LGBTQ Musicians Le Tigre

This electroclash trio fronted by Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman, and later joined by out lesbian JD Samson, combined the grit and fun of The B-52’s with politics and social commentary (their eponymous debut, with “Hot Topic,” is the shit). Samson and Bateman went on to form MEN with a focus on gender politics (“Credit Card Babies”), and Samson has continued co-writing with various artists such as Peaches and Christina Aguilera.

Le1f

LGBTQ Musicians Le1f

Three mixtapes, two EPs and one full-length put the American rapper Khalif Diouf aka Le1f into the conversation, yet despite the highlights of that full-length Riot Boi (“Koi,” “Umami/Water”), homophobia in hip-hop runs deep. Maybe by the time his sophomore record drops — and thanks to the inroads made by Frank Ocean and others — he’ll get the public hearing he deserves.

Ivri Lidir / The Young Professionals

LGBTQ Musicians YOung Professionals

This big pop star in Israel came to our attention via the synth band The Young Professionals. Imagine Chromeo, but gay, and you’ve got it. And Lidir, with Johnny Goldstein, can rock some pumps (“D.I.S.C.O.,” “All of It but Me ft. Anna F.”).

Limahl / Kajagoogoo

LGBTQ Musicians Limahl

Christopher Hamill is too boring a name to be a pop star, but the anagram Limahl, now that was mysterious! Add to that a cuckoo’s hairdo and a band name like Kajagoogoo, and any old New Wave song could be a hit (“Too Shy”). Their run was brief, then Limahl went on to solo glory with “The Never Ending Story.”

Little Richard

LGBTQ Musicians Little Richard

Patti Smith once said, “To me, Little Richard was a person that was able to focus a certain physical, anarchistic and spiritual energy into a form which we call rock ‘n’ roll. I understood it as something that had to do with my future. When I was a little girl, Santa Claus didn’t turn me on. Easter Bunny didn’t turn me on. God turned me on. Little Richard turned me on.” This Georgia native was an effeminate black boy severely punished by an unforgiving father and haunted by his sexuality for years on end. But he was also one of the primary architects of a still-young art form, rock ‘n’ roll, and while most of us may know more about the character he became on talk shows later in his life, let’s not forget that the roots of much of our most beloved genres — glam rock, rockabilly, it goes on — lives in his pompadour (“Tutti Frutti,” “Good Golly Miss Molly”)

Tove Lo

LGBTQ Musicians Tove Lo

Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson wears her bisexuality like a well-worn pair of jeans; it’s easy and comfortable on her, even though her electropop has a grunge edge. Her debut, Queen of the Clouds, was Top 20 around the world (and featured the love-as-addiction anthem “Habits [Stay High]”), and her follow-up, Lady Wood (great title), was announced with a 31-minute short film, Fairy Dust, that included the first half of the record.

LP

LGBTQ Musicians LP

Laura Pergolizzi has been kicking around since 2001, though her star has been on the ascent as of late, thanks to last year’s Lost on You, centered around a breakup and its messy aftermath. The title track and “Tightrope” are standouts, and it’s easy to hear why she’s been a go-to writer for Cher, Christina Aguilera and others.

Manilla Luzon

Manila Luzon, drag queen musicians 19

Three years after appearing on Season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Luzon released the 2014 album Queen. Its title track is a piano homage to Luzon’s deceased drag queen lover, Season 2 competitor Sahara Davenport. Manila Luzon has also released a handful of singles, some solo and others featuring fellow Drag Racers, like “The Chop” with Season 4 queen Latrice Royale, “That’s a Man, Maury” with Willam Belli and “Bring It” with Season 5 winner Jinkx Monsoon.

Barry Manilow

LGBTQ Musicians Barry Manilow

A collective yawn went up when Manilow came out this past April, not because it wasn’t newsworthy, only because everyone already knew. And while his middle-of-the-road soft rock and pop has never blazed any trails, it’s impossible to deny the craft and comfort of his many, many hits, including “Mandy” and “Copacabana (At the Copa).”

Ricky Martin

LGBTQ Musicians Ricky Martin

Yet another performer with a boy band past, Martin’s not the chart-stormer he was back when “Livin’ La Vida Loca” was inescapable, but he’s living his truth openly now, a role model to a vastly underrated community, and looking damn good doing it.

Matmos

LGBTQ Musicians Matmos

The couple at the heart of Matmos — M.C. (Martin) Schmidt and Drew Daniel — have been terrorizing the world with their electronic experiments since 1997’s eponymous debut. Last year’s Ultimate Care II was put together primarily from the sounds of their Whirlpool washing machine (“Ultimate Care II Excerpt Nine”) and, as someone who admits to finding rhythm in both the bustle of a Xerox and the pounding during an MRI, all I can say is they fascinate me.

Trixie Mattel

Trixie Mattel, drag queen musicians 08, drag queen albums 08

The winner of Drag Race All Stars 3 released his first studio album, Two Birds, in 2017 and One Stone the following year. Of all the drag queen musicians on our list, Mattel is the only to release country-folk music albums. With songs like “Mama Don’t Make Me Put On the Dress Again,” “Little Sister” and “Red Side of the Moon,” Mattel’s albums contain a mix of surprisingly deep ballads and country bops exploring the joy and melancholy of male femininity.

David McAlmont / McAlmont and Butler / Michael Nyman with David McAlmont

LGBTQ Musicians David McAlmont

Black gay Brit McAlmont has released music both solo and with former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, and I wish that he and Butler would record again, because 2002’s Bring It Back was a minor wow (“Falling” is a gay boy’s girl group nirvana). His neo-classical soul combo with Michael Nyman, The Glare, is also worth your time.

Joe McElderry

LGBTQ Musicians Joe McElderry

The sixth season X-Factor winner sounds exactly as you’d expect — high-gloss English pop — and his 2010 debut Wide Awake was a bit of alright (the title track and “Superman” were fetching). Since then, it’s been covers records and musical tours and the slow slide to oblivion (unless his forthcoming record reverses that trend).

Freddie Mercury / Queen

LGBTQ Musicians Freddie Mercury

He was a great showman and a front-rank vocalist — how many singers for rock and metal bands wish they had half the chops of the man born Farrokh Bulsara? So he didn’t come out until just before he died of AIDS in 1991. It’s not like we didn’t know. The prancing, the spandex, that mustache in the ’80s, please! “Who Wants to Live Forever?” from Innuendo was haunting when it was released in 1991, and even more so after Mercury’s death. And so many of their songs — from “Killer Queen” to the drag video for “I Want to Break Free” — were delicious in-jokes that kept tongues wagging for years.

Stephin Merritt / The Magnetic Fields / The 6ths / The Gothic Archies / Future Bible Heroes

LGBTQ Musicians stephin merritt

He’s a songwriting machine with a plethora of bands to channel his productivity, though most of us know him best for his work with The Magnetic Fields. Both 1999’s 69 Love Songs (with “The Book of Love”) and this year’s 50 Song Memoir (“’68 A Cat Called Dionysus”) are his masterpieces, but all of his projects cough up a great track or 12 when the mood strikes him. And because his voice is sometimes hard for folks to take, you might want to immerse in his oeuvre when other people take the vocal lead (check out The 6ths’ “San Diego Zoo ft. Barbara Manning”).

George Michael / Wham!

LGBTQ Musicians george michael

As talented as he was beautiful, this singer of Wham! and solo glory left us too soon. He set the standard for cheesy ’80s ballads with “Careless Whisper;” he turned a publicity scandal into music video fodder with “Outside”; and he made his ass as famous as his voice with “Faith.” Well played, sir. Well played.

Mika

LGBTQ Musicians Mika

We’ve never understood the divisiveness elicited by this pop star. Perhaps it was his coyness when confronted about his sexuality in the beginning — though it seemed screamingly obvious to most of us, and no doubt the community wanted him to state flat out that he was gay, not bi — but he was also born in Beirut and, culturally, that’s a difficult minefield to negotiate (he dealt with those expectations, wittily, on “All She Wants” from 2015’s No Place in Heaven). Over the course of four records he’s given us fun pop (“Lollipop”) and, in his best release thus far, The Origin of Love, real heartbreak (the title track, “Underwater”).

June Millington / Fanny

LGBTQ Musicians Fanny

One of the first all-female American rock ‘n’ roll bands were the overlooked and ripe for revival Fanny, fronted by Filipino sisters Jean and June Millington. June was out to her bandmates, but that wasn’t a promoted fact. Maybe it should have been, because the American press — with the notable exception of rock critic Robert Christgau — basically ignored or belittled them. But they were fierce, as this live clip from 1971 of “Blind Alley” will attest.

Ginger Minj

Ginger Minj, drag queen musicians 18

After releasing his first single, “Ooh Lala Lala,” in June 2015, and his second, ”Bad, Bad Boy,” in October 2016, Ginger Minj debuted a 16-track pop album titled Sweet T the same year. The album features bisexual comedian Margaret Cho and Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillips, plus a handful of heartbreaking covers like “Losing My Religion” and “Dream a Little Dream,” which capture the heartache of growing up gay in the conservative South.

Donna Missal

donna missal

Missal’s debut album, This Time, released September 2018, is a fiery, blues-rocking, soul-inflected platter that’s put the non-binary performer square in our sights. “Keep Lying” rages with old school grit while “Girl” doubles down on neo-soul. Good stuff.

MNEK

LGBTQ Musicians MNEK

Uzoechi “Uzo” Emenike has one EP to his name — 2015’s Small Talk — and some guest spots (Gorgon City’s “Ready for Your Love feat. MNEK”), not to mention writing and production credits with Madonna, Clean Bandit, Kylie Minogue and too many others to mention. He’s part of that new breed of gay pop stars whose sexuality is just part and parcel of the entire package. We think he’s ready for his close-up.

Jinkx Monsoon

Jinkx Monsoon, drag queen musicians 06, drag queen albums 06

After winning Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, this genderqueer cabaret and burlesque performer used that newfound fame to launch multiple albums, including The Inevitable Album (2014) and The Ginger Snapped (2018), the latter a reference to the performer’s tried-and-true hair color. Before releasing the albums Monsoon had also performed the titular role in the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch and played the villainous Velma Von Tussle in an adaptation of John Waters’ Hairspray.

Matt Morris

LGBTQ Musicians Matt Morris

This religious gay songwriter’s 2010 debut — and only studio release, When Everything Breaks Open — was produced by Charlie Sexton and Justin Timberlake (“Live Forever”). He’s kept himself busy as a religious blogger and songwriter with Timberlake, Kimbra and others.

Morrissey / The Smiths

LGBTQ Musicians Morrissey

Beloved as the frontman for The Smiths, polarizing as a solo artist to this day: Steven Patrick Morrissey has always been a man of contradictions. Sensitive and belligerent. Shy and flamboyant. Asexual and … who knows? But love him or hate him, or love them and hate him, he’s amassed an impressive songbook, with help from Johnny Marr and the other members of The Smiths (“Ask”), or with his solo collaborators (“Suedehead”).

Bob Mould / Hüsker Dü / Sugar

LGBTQ Musicians Bob Mould

This gay wrestling fan, along with the also gay Grant Hart and the mustachioed Greg Horton, fronted the seminal hardcore band Hüsker Dü (“Makes No Sense at All”), the seminal alt-rock band Sugar (“See a Little Light”) and his genre-hopping solo work (“Life and Times”).

MUNA

LGBTQ Musicians MUNA

This queer L.A. trio is rising up the ranks on the back of a fresh debut (About U), contemporary electro (“I Know a Place”) and a refusal to be pigeonholed. Keep an eye on them.

Nakhane

nakhane

This out and proud South African son has two releases to date, 2013’s Brave Confusion and 2018’s You Will Not Die. His take on indie pop is lush and baroque — vocally similar to David McAlmont and as theatrical as Benjamin Clementine. Check out “Interloper” and “Clairvoyant” to see if he’s your thing.

Meshell Ndegeocello

LGBTQ Musicians Meshell Ndegeocello

This formidable bassist is the type of artist, or old soul, who — though known well enough — will most likely be rediscovered by future generations. Ahead of her time? Perhaps. But she is fully of our time as well — a bisexual firebrand who has tackled homophobia head on (“Leviticus: Faggot”) and does not suffer fools gladly, even during the times when that fool just might be her.

Sharon Needles

Sharon Needles, drag queen musicians 11

After dominating Season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, this ghoulish “horrorqueen” continued to work his macabre schtick with a handful of dark-themed singles and albums. While 2013 debut album PG-13 combined dance-pop, punk, metal and electronica, 2015 follow-up Taxidermy had more of an EDM and pop sound, while 2017 album Battle Axe went back to combining dance and rock. Sharon Needles’ revealing lyrics explore a dark obsessions with drugs, sex, deadbeats and the horrors of the entertainment industry.

Alex Newell

lgbtq musicians alex newell

Singer-actor Newell has one EP to his name — the delightful Power — and is known to millions as the transgender student Unique Adams from Glee. And his instrument, that gospel-inflected high tenor, has the power to keep drag queens wet for years (“This Ain’t Over”).

Klaus Nomi

LGBTQ Musicians klaus nomi

Unless you were in New York in the late ’70s you might only know Klaus Nomi — if you know him at all — from his appearance with David Bowie on Saturday Night Live in 1979 (“The Man Who Sold the World”). But Nomi was adored by the downtown crowd for his countertenor (and his surprisingly lyrical soprano when he sang opera) long before La Dame came calling, and he had some success with his glammy New Wave-y solo work (“Total Eclipse”). AIDS unfortunately took him from us too soon, in 1983.

Laura Nyro

LGBTQ Musicians Laura Nyro

Her own work was adored by a ravenous cult, though she achieved peak commercial success when The Fifth Dimension covered two of her songs, “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Wedding Bell Blues.” If you’re looking for a great singer-songwriter that exudes New York cool, you could do no better that 1968’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession or 1969’s New York Tendaberry. And though she passed of cancer in 1997, her songcraft is resilient: every few years she’s rediscovered or reinterpreted by young artists, and there’s no reason to think this won’t go on for quite some time.

Ó

o

Brooklyn indie pop from Gabrielle Smith, formerly known as Eskimeaux. (“Breaking My Neck”)

Sinead O’Connor

LGBTQ Musicians Sinead O'Connor

Never a dull moment with this one! Still, her first two records are classic — the one with “Mandinka” and the one where she owns Prince (“Nothing Compares to You”). So she’s done a few crazy things along the way. Who hasn’t?

Frank Ocean / Odd Future

LGBTQ Musicians Frank Ocean

Not the first sexually fluid black artist to come down the pike, but in some respects Frank Ocean may be the most significant. We shall see. Other artists rallied around him — particularly Beyoncé and Jay-Z — and his otherworldly hip-hop has connected with millennials of every stripe. Channel Orange is significantly better than his latest, Blonde (not to mention Endless), and no doubt there are those who prefer his mixtape nostalgia, ULTRA. But whether it’s “Novacane” or “Bad Religion” or “Solo” you never doubt you’re listening to an artist who likes to push the boundaries of his music as much as he felt the need not to make a secret of his sexuality.

Kele Okereke / Bloc Party

LGBTQ Musicians Kele

Five albums in and the indie band Bloc Party feel tired, though they came out the gate fast with Silent Alarm and sustained through the late aughts. His solo work this decade has been more dance-oriented and — it has to be said — gayer. Good for him. While he was still in the closet, the claustrophobic indie rock of “The Prayer” was perfect, so it’s only fitting that, post-coming out, his grooves are liberated and joyous (“Tenderoni”).

Openside

openside

Indie pop from New Zealand — think CHVRCHES and Ladyhawke and you’ll have an idea of their sound. (“Character Flaws”)

Continue to Page 4 of the LGBTQ Musicians Encyclopedia >>

Genesis P-Orridge / Throbbing Gristle / Psychic TV

LGBTQ Musicians Genesis P-Orrdige

A founding member of the iconic industrial band Throbbing Gristle, Genesis P-Orridge (born Neil Andrew Megson) doesn’t identify as transgender but as third gender. Which makes an odd kind of sense, as the music of both Throbbing Gristle (“What a Day”) and Psychic TV (“Have Mercy”) is in its own unclassifiable category.

Palehound

palehound

Bostonian Ellen Kempner’s lo-fi indie project. (“If You Met Her”)

Owen Pallett / Final Fantasy

LGBTQ Musicians Owen Pallett

Along with Nico Muhly, Pallett is the go-to composer/arranger for Arcade Fire and other cinematic acts. He’s also recorded as Final Fantasy and, more recently, under his own name. His own music is less orchestral than you might be led to believe, but it’s certainly arranged beautifully (check out the title track of 2014’s In Conflict). And read this inspirational quote from the artist: “As far as whether the music I make is gay or queer, yeah, it comes from the fact that I’m gay, but that doesn’t mean I’m making music about it.”

Amanda Palmer / Dresden Dolls

LGBTQ Musicians Amanda Palmer

An avowed bisexual now married to author Neil Gaiman, Palmer can be hard to take. But we love her and her loony flights of fancy. As one-half of The Dresden Dolls, with Brian Viglione, she turned cabaret into punk rock (“Backstabber”), and though she’s been releasing solo work since 2008, she loves to collaborate like nobody’s business, as she did this year with Edward Ka-Spel (“The Clock at the Back of the Cage”).

Chuck Panozzo / Styx

LGBTQ Musicians Styx

The bassist and co-founder of the Chicago progressive rock group Styx didn’t come out until 2001 (his autobiography followed six years later, The Grand Illusion: Love, Lies, and My Life with Styx), but it should have come as no surprise. Of all the ’70s rock groups on whom one could cast aspersions, Styx was up there (somewhere below Queen, of course), no doubt due to the insanely theatrical bent of their output. (“Come Sail Away” even inspired a South Park parody from the musical theatre-loving Trey Parker and Matt Stone.)

Pansy Division

LGBTQ Musicians Pansy Division

The first queercore band out of San Francisco (where else?), songwriters and musical partners Jon Ginoli and Chris Freeman have been creating three-minute nuggets from the gay experience very specific to themselves yet universally shared since 1993. Because we love music with humor, we still get a kick out of early tracks like “Groovy Underwear” and “Dick of Death” even though the novelty is long gone. But like the smart fellows they are, they deepened their songcraft and emotional range and last year, 20-something years into their career, they released Quite Contrary, which gave maturity a good name (“Love Came Along”).

Paper Bee

paper bee

More guitar indie from Massachusetts. Their latest Now I Know You and See How Wide You Are to the World is a split with the band Loone. (“The Choice to Be Heard and Not Seen”)

Passion Pit

LGBTQ Musicians Passion Pit

When the book of electropop is written (not electroclash; that’s a different story), history will look fondly on Passion Pit, which began life as a band from Massachusetts and is now the brain trust of Michael Angelakos. He came out not long after 2015’s Kindred, and like the records before it the music was both fey and aggressive. But Angelakos doesn’t skimp on the pop with his electro, so early songs like “Sleepyhead” and “Little Secrets” are unhinged and catchy; while Kindred, recorded after a breakdown that put Passion Pit on hiatus while Angelakos recovered, is more reserved and emotionally direct, especially on the opening track, “Lifted Up (1985),” about the support he received from his then-wife.

Peaches

LGBTQ Musicians Peaches

The Canadian-born Merrill Beth Nisker is ‘anti-’ everything, so we’ll be damned if we’re going to stick her in a category. Gender norms mean nothing to her. Animal cruelty? Not on her watch. And roundabout 2009’s I Feel Cream, she began to take on ageism (“Trick or Treat”). Her best known songs are about sex yet so much more (“Fuck the Pain Away”), and anybody who names a record Impeach My Bush during the George W. years is on the right side of history. We wonder what she thinks about the Donald.

Pentatonix / Superfruit

lgbtq musicians superfruit

The a cappella work of the Austin quintet Pentatonix is pleasant enough, but the side project of Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying is pop nirvana, featuring the big hooks of Years & Years (“Imaginary Parties”), the camp sensibility of hundreds of gay artists past and present (“Heartthrob”) and — you know — actual instruments. The EP Future Friends – Part One is out now; Part Two drops Sept. 15.

Peppermint

Peppermint, drag queen musicians 16

Peppermint had an album out in 2009 (Hardcore Glamour) and three singles under her belt before she ever appeared on Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. She has also appeared in a handful of music videos for Cazwell and comedic fellow NYC-based drag queen Sherry Vine. After appearing on Drag Race, Peppermint released an EP entitled Black Pepper.

Perfume Genius

LGBTQ Musicians Perfume Genius

Mike Hadreas began as a sensitive troubadour of modern gay alienation. On his debut, Learning, his soft voice receded behind the plaintive melodies of a piano, as if he was imparting a terrifying secret to you alone and was frightened to be overheard by the adults in the next room who meant to do him harm (“Lookout, Lookout”). Yet over the course of his first four releases, he’s bloomed. That shrinking, tentative violet addressed every horrible slight in the canon of homophobia and, by the time of 2014’s Too Bright, owned himself. “Don’t you know your queen?” he asked in “Queen,” and there was no doubt in the slurred glam rock at its heart that our queen was Hadreas. His latest, the pop-centric and effervescent No Shape, is a love-letter to his domestic life (“Die 4 You”), and after the hell he went through to get here, he’s fucking earned it.

Linda Perry

LGBTQ Musicians Linda Perry

Full disclosure: We loathed 4 Non Blondes and “What’s Up” and am ever so grateful they never followed-up on Bigger, Better, Faster, More!. Because if they had, then Linda Perry would not have gifted the world with Pink’s “Get the Party Started” or Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” She’s a classy producer and songwriter (and sometimes song doctor) who’s smart enough to focus in on what makes her clients shine. She’s so smart, in fact, that she called her old band “fluffy polished bullshit” in a 2011 Rolling Stone interview.

Pet Shop Boys

LGBTQ Musicians Pet Shop Boys

For the longest time, this is what people thought about when they thought about “gay music.” (This, and disco.) And by people, I mean straight people who didn’t quite have a handle on their own homophobia, because for 31 years now Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe have created a deep songbook that can stand up to any singer-songwriter or rock or hip-hop oeuvre — you know, those genres less ephemeral (and less “feminine”) than silly old pop. Talk about classics: “It’s a Sin,” “What Have I Done to Deserve This?,” “Being Boring,” “I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kind of Thing,” “Into Thin Air” — to name merely five — tackle, respectively, infidelity, upward mobility, the decimation of a community from AIDS, the rush of first love and running away from the ugly world, only you have to pay attention, and that’s really hard to do when you bring your stereotypes to the listening station.

Phranc

LGBTQ Musicians Phranc

She was a lesbian folksinger, and if that gives you nightmare visions of overly serious, dour, depressing, womyn’s retreat kind of stuff, you are woefully wrong. Susan Gottlieb hasn’t recorded since 1998 — she’s more into visual arts these days — but one listen to “Bulldagger Swagger” or “M-A-R-T-I-N-A” or “I’m Not Romantic” and you’ll wonder why the world didn’t churn out more funny ladies with acoustic guitars.

Doug Pinnick / King’s X

LGBTQ Musicians Doug Pinnich King's X

Pinnick was the bassist/vocalist of the vaguely religious progressive metal band King’s X (“Dogman”) and has been recording solo since 1998 or in various combos. After spreading the good word since 1983, the good Christians who stocked King’s X records paid them back by boycotting the band after Pinnick came out in 1998. He identifies as agnostic now.

Placebo

LGBTQ Musicians Placebo

Stefan Olsdal, the bassist/guitarist for the glam alt-rock trio Placebo is the gay one; Brian Molko, vocalist, is the bisexual one; and they’ve done their bit for androgyny and flying your freak flag — whether rainbow-striped or not — since 1996. We’re crazy about 1998’s Without You I’m Nothing (“My Sweet Prince”) and 2006’s Meds (“Infra-Red”).

The Pooches

the pooches

Glaswegian indie pop — think The Vaselines — big on jingle-jangle-jingle and good vibes. (“The Light”)

pop:sch

pop-sch

Austrian queer electro pop with one full length to their name, 2011’s Top of the Pop:sch, and a bunch of fay, catchy tunes. (“Policeman,” “Shave”)

Billy Preston

LGBTQ Musicians Billy Preston

This session player extraordinaire has his fingerprints all over the history of rock ‘n’ roll, from his work with Little Richard, Ray Charles, The Beatles and more to a successful solo career that hit critical mass in the ’70s with the hits “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing from Nothing” (and his co-write of “You Are So Beautiful,” for his mother). There’s a great biopic to be made from his deeply closeted life and closely held religious beliefs, a cautionary tale no doubt. And, let’s be honest here, the man gives good ‘fro.

Priests

LGBTQ Musicians Priests

Political D.C. punks of every flavor serve up snotty three-chord tantrums (“Pink White House”) on their 2017 debut Nothing Feels Natural.

Pvris

pvris

The only thing continental about this Massachusetts band is their name. Over two releases — White Noise and last year’s All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell — they’ve overlaid their dark electropop with big rock choruses and anthemic singing by the big-lunged Lynn Gunn. (“What’s Wrong?,” “White Noise”)

PWR BTTM

LGBTQ Musicians PWR BTTM

With the sexual abuse allegations against Ben Hopkins, the music lover in us will mourn a wasted career. He and his bandmate Liv Bruce had the power to be real agents of change in the rock world. Beneath the camp posturing and outlandish costumes are two writers with a gift for observation and hooks that are obvious all over their 2015 debut Ugly Cherries (“Dairy Queen”). And this year’s Pageant, which was pulled in the wake of the allegations, kept their sense of fun while deepening their content (“Silly”).

Quay Dash

Queer Rappers Quay Dash

Trans rapper Quay Dash is a force to be reckoned with. The Bronx-born performer is signed under Cunt Mafia’s label, a home to many LGBTQ artists. Lively and ferocious, her EP Transphobic makes it clear that she’s wholeheartedly unafraid to be herself. But we think she sums herself up best: “I’m black, I’m trans and I can actually rap. Plus, I’m pretty…” Indeed.

Lou Reed / The Velvet Underground

LGBTQ Musicians Lou Reed

While not gay per se, the man who implored us all to “Walk on the Wild Side” was no stranger to the great underbelly of sexuality in all its permutations. With his work in The Velvet Underground and then solo until the end of his life in 2013, he gave voice to the seedier mass amongst us, often eloquently (“Street Hassle”) and with harrowing detail (“The Kids”). He wrote a few of the great riffs in the rock catalogue (his solo version of “Sweet Jane,” anyone?) and could do tender like nobody’s business (“Perfect Day”). So you never quite warmed to his voice, that affectless Sprechgesang that’s half-sung, half-spoken. Get over it. His accomplishments were massive.

Bebe Rexha

bebe rexha

A collaborative singer/writer/producer before this year’s solo release Expectations (she’s written for Selena Gomez and Nick Jonas), Rexha is as mainstream as you can get. As an ambassador for fluid sexuality (which, we guess, means that she’s bisexual), she knows how to reach across the aisle with acts as diverse as Florida Georgia Line (“Meant to Be”) and Quavo from Migos (“2 Souls on Fire”).

Right Said Fred

lgbtq musicians right said fred

In the throes of a current pop culture moment thanks to Taylor Swift’s interpolation of their only hit on her Kanye dis “Look What You Made Me Do,” the brothers Fairbrass sustained a career in the U.K. but will always be known in the U.S. for their number one “I’m Too Sexy.” Richard Fairbrass — the bisexual vocalist — also cohosted a U.K. LGBT program, Gaytime TV, from 1995 to 1999. And though the smooth, cut physique was everywhere back in their 1991 heyday, the bald pate was still a virile novelty and gave one more meaning to the phrase “good head.”

Rita Ora

rita ora

There was a lot of hate thrown at Ora when she released this summer’s “Girls (feat. Cardi B, Bebe Rexha and Charlie XCX),” the latest bisexual fantasy pop tune that occasioned cries of appropriation high and wide (even though Ora came out as bisexual in advance of the track). I thought it was a hoot, to be honest, and more memorable than much of her other work, including her latest single “Let Me Love You.”

José Rivera Jr.

LGBTQ Musicians Jose Rivera Jr

While reclaiming Queen’s “Somebody to Love” for the LGBTQ anthem it should have always been, this young model/choreographer/multi-talent announces his presence to the world with bright colors. An EP is on its way, and who knows where he will go after that?

Edna Jean Robinson

Edna Jean Robinson, drag queen musicians 01, drag queen albums 01

A self-described “trailer park goddess,” Robinson released a 2005 album entitled All the Lives of Me that featured a 14-track compilation of jazz standards, making Robinson one of the only jazz drag queen musicians (if not the only). Robinson has also released a handful of music videossince then, including a dance song about materialism called “Shopping” and the campy holiday tune “Boobs for Christmas.”

Tom Robinson

LGBTQ Musicians Tom Robinson

Everyone screamed ‘turncoat’ when the man who wrote “(Sing If You’re) Glad to Be Gay” in 1978 met, fell in love and married a woman in the ’80s. But he still identifies as gay, and has been a tireless advocate since he began performing with the Tom Robinson Band and solo. If he’s fighting for our right to love, we should be protective of his own.

Romanovsky and Phillips

romanovsky

It’s surprising how few gay couples make music together, and though Ron Romanovsky and Paul Phillips split up their romance in the early 1990s, they left behind a handful of what could be considered musical comedy releases. (“If There Is a God, He’s a Queen,” “I Met a Man”)

RuPaul

LGBTQ Musicians RuPaul

Though we find the recorded output of this Amazonian drag queen more homogeneous than we’d like, we can’t help but adore RuPaul and everything he’s come to represent for our community. He’s been out canvassing for our rights — in giant pumps, no less — for more than two decades. He’s an Emmy-winning reality show host who will always be more famous and beautiful than the drag superstars that are crowned each season, and he gave us “Supermodel (Of the World),” the first volley in what has since turned out to be his multi-media supremacy.

Arthur Russell

LGBTQ Musicians Arthur Russell

Many have a deaf spot to this American composer, cellist, producer, etc., that hasn’t changed much since the reevaluation of his recorded output since his death in 1992. Though a minimalist as an electronic composer in the early days, he was inspired by disco and then, it seems, touched upon every genre that tickled his fancy. World of Echo is his most known release of experimental music (“Being It”), but I find him easiest to take on the lovingly procured compilations that were put together long after he was gone. Love Is Overtaking Me, from 2008, is the best.

Sad13/Speedy Ortiz

sad13

The smart, brutally honest Sadie Dupuis fronts both the Massachusetts indie band Speedy Ortiz and her own indie pop side project Sad13 (prior to this, she was in a band called Quilty and played with an all-female Pavement cover band, Babement). Though she writes a lot of sexuality, she herself is demisexual or asexual, yet her attractions and thwarted desires motivate some of the best alt-leaning songs since the birth of The Breeders. I spark more to her band than to the synth-based side project, but those are just my preferences. In either form, she’s worth seeking out. (With Speedy Ortiz: “Villain,” “Raising the Skate;” as Sad13:  “Get a Yes,” “Fixina/The Sting”)

Scissor Sisters

LGBTQ Musicians Scissor Sisters

The four records these fun-loving and talented New Yorkers released between 2004 and 2012 are all sorts of superlatives yet they are just shy of a masterwork. And, oh, how we’ve missed them since they went on indefinite hiatus. The single just released on June 9 — in support of the Contigo Fund established after the 2016 Pulse Nightclub tragedy in Orlando — they could have done in their sleep (“SWERLK” by MNDR and Scissor Sisters), but here’s hoping the song portends more to come. Because we could all do with more of the likes of “Take Your Mama” and “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” and “Fire With Fire” and “Only the Horses.”

Screaming Females

screaming females

This New Jersey punk/pop trio is fronted by the openly gay Marissa Paternoster. They’ve been active since 2006 debut Baby Teeth; their latest, All At Once, came out earlier this year. (“I’ll Make You Sorry,” “Deeply”)

serpentwithfeet

LGBTQ Musicians Serpent With Feet

The semi-religious overtones of his performance name might give you some idea of what Josiah Wise is up to on record. “Pagan gospel,” he’s called it, but who knows what it will become once he releases a full-length CD. For now we have one fascinating five-track EP, blisters, and a visual aesthetic — as witnessed on “four ethers” and “penance” — that’s as stylish as it is colorful. Oh, and a voice as piercing, though quite different, as Anohni’s herself.

Shamir

LGBTQ Musicians shamir

His 2015 debut Ratchet was a blast of upbeat pop that hinted at darker undertones — “Call It Off” is probably the happiest breakup song I’ve heard in ages. His voice, an androgynous countertenor, recalls Prince and a history of disco divas often in the span of the same note. He self-released a weird little lo-fi alt-rock collection called Hope on SoundCloud earlier this year, though it doesn’t feel like an official follow-up, more like the toss-offs Beck used to issue between major label releases. And one day soon — you can count on it — he’s going to be huge.

Pete Shelley / Buzzcocks

LGBTQ Musicians Pete Shelley

Co-leader of the seminal Buzzcocks (“Orgasm Addict”), he went solo in the ’80s with the teasing “Homosapien,” came out as bisexual, released one of the great undiscovered records of the decade (Heaven and the Sea — “On Your Own”), and then reformed his seminal band.

Shura

LGBTQ Musicians Shura

Dreamy electropop from a Manchester lesbian (“Touch”) with a fine debut, Nothing’s Real.

Sia

LGBTQ Musicians Sia

Though we’re tired of her hiding behind her hair and the histrionic vocalizing that’s paralyzed a few otherwise fine songs (most specifically “Chandelier”), she’s a strong pop songwriter/performer who’s as elastic with genre as she’s been with her sexuality. We discovered her, like so many, when her beautiful track “Breathe Me” guided the equally beautiful ending of Six Feet Under to its bittersweet conclusion. And though we don’t wish for her the real life antecedent that inspired it, we wish she’d write more songs as snappy and pointed as “The Girl You Lost to Cocaine.”

Sigur Rós / Jónsi

LGBTQ Musicians Sigur Ros

We’d understand why you might feel these Icelandic musicians are pretentious dolts — the droning tunes, the lyrics in a made-up language, the falsetto pitched so high it calls all the whales for miles to the nearest port (which is Icelandic for a milkshake bringing all the boys to the yard) — but we’d never understand why you don’t just admit it’s goddamned stunningly beautiful. The use of ‘cinematic’ to describe music was created for 1999’s Ágætis byrjun (“Svefn-g-englar”); they’ve gotten heavier musically as they’ve gotten older (“Brennisteinn”); and when Jónsi finally got around to doing his solo thing in 2010, it was exactly the pop move you’d expect, only on such an experimentalist (or pretentious dolt) it looked fetching (“Go Do”).

Siouxsie and the Banshees

siouxsie

Everyone’s favorite Gothmother divorced drummer Budgie in 2007 and came out as … well, I’m not sure. All she’s admitted is to being neither hetero nor lesbian. Regardless, her recorded output is all over the place, though the influence of Siouxsie and the Banshees cannot be understated. And her lone solo release to date, Mantaray, was a solid indie rock work from a semi-retired icon trying not to coast on her laurels. (With Siouxsie and the Banshees: “Spellbound,” “Christine;” solo: “About to Happen”)

Troye Sivan

LGBTQ Musicians Troye Sivan

With one album to his name, this young Australian is the gay Lorde (not a gaylord, you fools), though he doesn’t have her sales numbers or cultural cache … yet. He’s also the reason, along with Years and Years, that we started using the term ‘post-gay’ to describe Generation Z artists for whom sexuality — while still an issue for some — exists beyond reproach. If there is a problem, it’s your problem, not theirs. No doubt Sivan struggled as we all have at one point or another, but his easy approach (especially in his videos) downplays drama. “Bite,” wherein a first kiss is an act of liberation, and the Blue Neighborhood trilogy of videos (featuring “Wild,” “Fools” and “Talk Me Down”), are succinct snapshots of the universal messiness of desire.

Sleater-Kinney

LGBTQ Musicians Sleater Kinney

Bi, gay, straight — and, let’s be honest, nobody is really paying attention to sexuality when three women are rocking and communicating with as much focus and passion as they have for over 20 years. (“Entertainer,” “One More Hour”)

Slothrust

slothrust

Yet another alt-rock band from Massachusetts; the soil there must be rich with Pixies-dust. This trio has been releasing records since 2012’s Feels Your Pain. Their latest, The Pact, is a solid entry in the legacy of the MA underground.  (“Double Down,” “Peach”)

Slouch

slouch

Lightyears from Bratmobile and Bikini Kill, here’s yet more hardcore from Olympia, WA. (“Filth”)

Sam Smith

LGBTQ Musicians sam smith

Now that he’s become the male Adele, let the backlash begin. Only let’s remember what we loved about him in the first place: his emotional voice, whether in the service of dance club bangers (Disclosure’s “Latch”) or sad love songs (“Stay With Me”), his humble demeanor in the face of his meteoric success (though that may have changed along with his weight), and how well he handled the media hounding for him to come out (which he did, gracefully, right before In the Lonely Hour sent him into the stratosphere).

SOAK

soak

Irish songwriter Bridie Monds-Watson created her stage name SOAK by combining the words “soul” and “folk,” though her output to date is less of either of those genres and more inside-gazing indie rock. After a well-received 2015 debut, Before We Forget How to Dream, a sophomore release is nearly upon us. The first track, “Everybody Loves You,” is a lush, mid-tempo indie ballad ripe for festival worship.

Soko

soko

Bisexual – or pansexual – soft-voiced French singer-songwriter. My limited understanding of the romance language keeps me from saying more about the content of her songs, but they certainly do sound sexual – bi-, pan-, or otherwise. (“Diabolo Menthe”)

Jay Som

LGBTQ Musicians jay som

The Oakland songwriter born Melina Duterte certainly has a strict work ethic: two releases in two years — 2016’s Turn Into and this year’s Everybody Works. Sounds like bedroom indie, tuneful enough, low key and thought through (“Baybee”). And as one of the two Filipinas on this list, let’s hope her shoulders are broad enough for all she has to represent.

Jimmy Somerville / Bronski Beat / The Communards

LGBTQ Musicians Jimmy Somerville

In 1984 the first sounds we heard from Jimmy Somerville, in Bronski Beat, were three words that comprised the gay scream heard around the world: tell me why (“Why?”). His falsetto was untethered and ratty around the edges — his emotion could barely be contained by technique. With that and “Smalltown Boy” from The Age of Consent, a new gay forthrightness was born. (All three members, including Steve Bronski and Larry Steinbachek, were out.) Then there was The Communards with Richard Coles, a New Wave pop combo (“There’s More to Love Than Boy Meets Girl”) that were over in a flash. And from 1989 onward Somerville has been a solo act with one eye on history — his covers have included “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” and “I Feel Love” (with Bronski Beat and Marc Almond) — and the other on recreating the disco and soul he quite obviously loves (“Travesty”). And though things are significantly better for our community now than in 1984, he still has plenty reason to scream.

SOPHIE

sophie

The trans Scottish musician/producer creates soundscapes I would call industrial if that wasn’t also a genre of dance music that this artist sounds nothing like. But her music – for herself and others – incorporates tons of digital and inorganic noises that dovetail into rhythms, counterrhythms, melody, dissonance, etc. Sounds – most likely all of them created by computers and synthesizers – fold in upon themselves, merge and mesh as if in a whirlpool, and transform. It’s hard to describe, but some wise soul called it PC music, which I guess is the modern industrialism. It’s a sound, or a template, taken up by many other gender fluid and/or non-binary musicians (Lotic and Yves Tumor come to mind), and it’s the perfect exemplar of the plasticity and flexibility of self. Her two releases – the songs collection Product and her official 2018 debut proper, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides, are stunning. (“Hard,” “Immaterial,” “Faceshopping”)

Sam Sparro

LGBTQ Musicians Sam Sparro

It’s been a long time since this handsome Australian made his acquaintance with the world on “Black and Gold.” His solid eponymous 2009 debut was followed four years later by Return to Paradise (“Happiness” — though that new mustache begs to differ). And then relative silence. Not inactivity, no. A few mixtapes and EPs have seen the light of day, but no long form. Is something in the offing? We hope so.

Casey Spooner / Fischerspooner

LGBTQ Musicians Casey Spooner

They were supposed to be the band that put electroclash on the map, but hype killed Fischerspooner before they could even get a foothold. Still, they had their moments — “Emerge” from 2001 and 2009’s “We Are Electric” — and they are currently working on new material with Michael Stipe producing. Spooner’s 2010 solo release, Adult Contemporary, was a highpoint — especially “Perfecto” and “Spanish Teenager feat. Jake Shears” — so there is life in him, and the band, yet.

Dusty Springfield

LGBTQ Musicians Dusty Springfield

It’s all about Dusty in Memphis, the 1969 masterpiece by one Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien that gave the world “Son of a Preacher Man,” though it’s by no means the entire story. Plagued by insecurities, drug addictions and her own carnal desires, the only place she seemed to be herself was in her creation of “Dusty Springfield,” where she exuded cool and control. Her forthcoming biopic should be fascinating. As is “Closet Man” from 1979’s Living Without Your Love, wherein Springfield lays irony upon irony as the beard to a conflicted boyfriend. “Your secret’s safe with me,” she sings, and I hope the filmmakers use that one to its full advantage.

Blair St. Clair

Blair St. Clair, drag queen musicians 20

Unlike most of the other musical queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race, St. Clair’s 2018 album Call My Life wasn’t self-released but thrown out into the world under the Producer Entertainment Group label. Blair St. Clair released the first single from the album, “Now or Never,” the day following his Drag Race sashay.

St. Vincent

LGBTQ Musicians st. vincent

She’s gone from hired player to spotlight performer, perfecting her craft in record time, without a hitch. Yet what Annie Clark learned in The Polyphonic Spree and as a member of Sufjan Stevens’ touring band is how to hold true to her own vision, which is still being decided. Yet each step she takes is a forward one, with amazing development from 2007’s Marry Me (“Paris Is Burning”) to 2014’s St. Vincent (“Birth in Reverse”), with time out for a first-rate side-project with David Byrne, Love This Giant (“Who”). And she can shred with the best of them.

Michael Stipe / R.E.M.

LGBTQ Musicians Michael Stipe

Of all the great alternative bands from the ’80s (when they were still calling it “college rock”), we miss R.E.M. the most. We truly do. Yes, they petered out in a way you never thought they’d let themselves, having lost their way when original drummer Bill Berry departed the band. But from 1983’s classic debut Murmur (“Talk About the Passion”) through 1996’s New Adventures in Hi-Fi (“Electrolite”) they were pretty much unstoppable. The band was a great one, in synch and inspired by each other, with Mike Mills’ bass and backing vocals adding sweetness to Peter Buck’s modern jangle and riffage. Yet it was Michael Stipe that made them memorable — his keening burr mysterious and timeless, even after he started enunciating words that you could understand. He’s been a fantastic collaborator with a wide array of artists, though the highlight is a gem of a song from 1 Giant Leap with Indian singer Asha Bhosle, “The Way You Dream.” And though he’s kept himself busy with activism and various projects, Stipe has still not released a solo album.

Eliot Sumner / I Blame Coco

LGBTQ Musicians Eliot Sumner I Blame Coco

One album as I Blame Coco, a second under her own name, and Sting’s daughter is just getting started. She can’t escape her father, not that she’d want to, because her vocal ID is too similar, but she rocks in a way he hasn’t since ending The Police (“I Followed You Home”).

Syd / The Internet / Odd Future

LGBTQ Musicians Syd

Her voice is such a calming instrument that we nearly missed the lesbian content on The Internet’s 2015 album Ego Death (“Just Sayin / I Tried”) yet that’s what’s also most interesting about Sydney Bennett. She’s not trying to out-scream anyone or one-up the competition. She’s a cool customer who knows her worth and is going to make you work a little to come to her on her own terms. And you will. Fin, her solo debut, is one of the best of 2017 (“All About Me”).

Sylvester

LGBTQ Musicians Sylvester

Beloved in his adopted hometown of San Francisco, Sylvester was once part of the famed The Cockettes, fronted a rock band for a brief period and then went all the way with his love of drama and disco in his solo career. “Do You Wanna Funk?” is one of the greatest dance floor fillers ever. His loving cover of “Band of Gold (Remix)” could have inspired an ’80s LGBTQ kid to dream of marriage equality. And “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” was the song that drag queens the world over didn’t know they needed until they heard it. When he died in 1988, he donated all his future royalties to HIV/AIDS charities.

Continue to Page 5 of the LGBTQ Musicians Encyclopedia >>

 

Tacocat

LGBTQ Musicians 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.

Tatianna

Tatianna, drag queen musicians 15

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

LGBTQ Musicians 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 stars 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

Alaska Thunderfuck, , drag queen musicians 12

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

LGBTQ Musicians Pete Townshend

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

LGBTQ Musicians Justin Trantor

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 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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).

Two Nice Girls

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

LGBTQ Musicians 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 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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

Pablo Vittar, drag queen musicians 05, drag queen albums 05

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

LGBTQ Musicians rufus wainright

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

LGBTQ Musicians 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.

Wendy & Lisa

LGBTQ Musicians 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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.

Wrabel

LGBTQ Musicians 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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

Queer Rappers 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

LGBTQ Musicians 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 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

Queer Rappers young ma

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, none have challenged gender as aggressively as Young M.A. She’ll boastfully get head from any cheap ho rich bitch.

Will Young

LGBTQ Musicians Will Young

Though you’re not going to hear his name cross the lips of too many other 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

Queer Rappers 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.

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