Right now, it feels like pop music is fresher and more forward-thinking than ever, and we have today’s crop of limelight-stealing queer musicians to thank for that.
After decades of being presented with artists who fit the cookie-cutter mould when it came to singing about sex and relationships, the idea of mainstream pop being a genre that spoke solely to the masses has changed. Now, as we celebrate Pride Month around the world, is the perfect time to recognise that.
So from the shimmering queer pop of Years & Years to the funk-fuelled work of Janelle Monáe, here are 10 songs from some of our favourite LGBTQ+ artists that will make you want to keep celebrating Pride month once it’s over.
Troye Sivan – ‘Bloom’
Where better to start than with queer music’s man of the moment? ‘Bloom’, the latest track from Troye Sivan, a polymathic star who went from filming YouTube videos in his bedroom to tearing up Saturday Night Live, is a synth-heavy slice of lovestruck pop. But what might sound like a sweet song about falling for someone new is actually a coded ode to, well, shagging. Enjoy!
SOPHIE – ‘Immaterial’
Commerciality has never really been Charli XCX collaborator SOPHIE‘s forte; her esoteric and brilliant new record proves that. But for anybody intrigued by her hyper-pop sound, this track from ‘Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-insides‘ is the perfect introduction to her more dance-led material. Cut from the same cloth as the best K-Pop records you’ve heard recently, it explores the idea of self-identification (“I can be anything I want!”) and is the most Pride parade-ready track she’s made yet. Sugary, boundary-pushing stuff.
Years & Years – ‘Sanctify’
When it comes to Top 40-dominating pop stars, few are willing to delve into seedy subject matters quite like Olly Alexander and the Years & Years boys do. ‘Sanctify’, the first single lifted from their sophomore record ‘Palo Santo’ introduced us to their seductive new sound, influenced by pop icons like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Just like Troye though, this song has a deeper message: it’s inspired by Olly’s sexual encounters with straight-identifying men.
Kim Petras – ‘I Don’t Want It At All’
Silly and vacuous pop music is the lifeblood of queer entertainment, and Kim Petras definitely knows that. Ever since she transitioned as a teenager in the public eye, the German singer has shaped herself into a glossy, no-fucks-given pop entity, linking up with Charli XCX and, controversially, problematic producer Dr. Luke. Her video for the cash-splash summer anthem, ‘I Don’t Want It At All’, sees Kim creating a shrine for her doppelganger and idol Paris Hilton, only for the iconic heiress to make a brilliant cameo too.
Snail Mail – ‘Heat Wave’
Anyone looking to spend their Pride month lazing around listening to breezy guitar pop instead of floor-filling, glitter-doused stuff should definitely check out Snail Mail. The queer indie rock star, who hails from Maryland, is signed to Matador Records in the States and has already dropped her debut record ‘Lush’ at the tender age of 19. Think of her as a pint-sized Angel Olsen, with just as great a flair for woozy and warm lyricism.
MNEK and Hailee Steinfeld – ‘Colour’
MNEK is a ‘once in a blue moon’ songwriting talent. Perhaps our country’s finest purveyor of pop melodies – writing songs for the likes Beyoncé and Dua Lipa, his latest track is an exemplary addition to his neverending list of bangers, and we should be treating it as such. Colour, his collab with actress-turned-singer Hailee Steinfeld, is a perfectly formed, painfully catchy pop track that doubles up as a handy reminder of the colours of the Pride Flag!
Hayley Kiyoko – ‘Curious’
The world seems to be going wild for Hayley Kiyoko, one of the rare female pop stars who’s rejected the industry’s tendency to fetishise women in music for a male audience and create her own sexual narrative instead. Her song ‘Curious’ has racked up over 12 million views on YouTube this year already, and approaches bisexuality in a way that reclaims it from the performative queerness created by ‘I Kissed A Girl’-era Katy Perry. Not only that, but she’s won a loyal fan in Lorde too, who tweeted a link to the video when it first dropped.
Nakhane – ‘Clairvoyant’
A contemporary R&B star with more soul than most modern pop stars would know what to do with, Nakhane‘s queerness plays a pivotal role in his music. His latest album, ‘You Will Not Die’ sees the South Africa-born, now London-based singer reflect on his upbringing as a queer boy in a Christian household, and how he escaped his religion to become free again. It’s one of the most moving records you’ll hear all year, and the catchy ‘Clairvoyant’ is a stand-out track.
King Princess – ‘1950’
“I hate it when dudes try to chase me,” Mikaela ‘King Princess‘ Straus sings on the first line of her breakout hit ‘1950’: her languid song about being queer and in love. Full of allusions to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and how far we’ve come since the decade the song’s named after, it propelled the 19-year-old Brooklynite into the spotlight earlier this year when Harry Styles tweeted the lyrics to it. Keep an eye out for a bunch of other great songs she’s got under her belt, all set to be released through Mark Ronson‘s new label.
Janelle Monáe – ‘Make Me Feel’
After years of avoiding questions regarding her own sexuality while still aligning herself as an ally to the LGBTQ+ community, the arrival of Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer era also became her ‘coming out’ moment. No song could mark it better than the groove-fuelled banger ‘Make Me Feel’. Designed to fill dancefloors at nightclubs and send funk fans into hysteria, it’s one of the best tracks of the year so far, and proves the Kansas City native is one of the best performers of our age.