More than ever, there is a wide array of LGBTQ+ artists capturing the complexity of queerness, sexuality and gender. These musicians are carving out a space for themselves and creating art that helps the queer community feel seen and heard in an industry that far too often leaves them behind. From futuristic, genre-bending sonics to a generation of singer-songwriters forging a new lane of love songs, they’re breaking down barriers in more ways than one. Here, in celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, HUNGER is showcasing these groundbreaking musicians – who tell us all about the queer artists who helped define their sound and identity today.
I’ve had a lot of favourite queer artists over the years, from Frank Ocean, Hayley Kiyoko, King Princess and (recently) Miley [Cyrus]! But one that has remained a consistent favourite artist of mine, let alone queer artist, is Kehlani. From her debut album, Cloud19, to her most recent releases, her music resonates with me on a meaningful level. I think this is partially because of the effortless R&B melodies and a lot to do with the authenticity and vulnerability of her lyrics. She spoke openly about the need to reflect the fluidity of her love life and self-identification in her music which is something that I feel is super important for her LGBTQIA+ fans to feel seen and represented.
Elton John is a force of nature and is one of my favourite musical icons in the LGBTQ+ community. He beautifully embraced his sexuality at a time when it was considered very taboo to be anything but heterosexual. He paved the way for so many young people to feel safe being themselves and contributed musical masterpieces along the way. My favourite Elton John record has to be ‘Rocket Man,’ something I have covered and listened to on a regular basis. I adore his authenticity and vivacious style, and I’m so grateful for him and all he has done to support the LGBTQ+ community!
brakence has been one of my favourite artists for the past three years. The passion and aggression expressed in the music feel visceral and overflowing with raw emotion. The fine blend between overconfidence and none at all is very relatable and comforting. The production and lyrics combined have allowed me to hype myself up and cry deeply. Whatever I’m feeling, there’s a song and a lyric I can cling to – thank you, brakence.
One of my biggest inspirations in music is Freddie Mercury. I always loved how he was unapologetically himself, no matter how complex society made it. He knew who he wanted to be and what he wanted to achieve, and he made it happen, which I really admire. I think it’s partially thanks to him that society started to be more open to the idea of queer people; also, because of what happened to him, more people were able to learn about HIV. Brian May, Roger Taylor and Jim Beach founded The Mercury Phoenix Trust in his memory too.
From Elton John’s early soulful singer-songwriter albums to Tumbleweed Connection, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, through all Caribou costuming while advocating for ‘Philadelphia Freedom,’ I’ve always been emotionally connected to and transported by the genius of Captain Fantastic!
One of my favourite queer acts probably has to be Dacelynn. I found her somehow through a day of scouring Spotify on a bad day. One Instagram DM later, we’re now great friends! She’s a great writer, vocalist, and energy to be around. My favourite song by her is ‘Love & Doubt,’ the song I found randomly lurking on Spotify. I think she does a great job of capturing and expressing her experience with queer love and wrapping it up in a sonically beautiful package. After the first listen to that song, I had to just listen to her entire discography. We actually have an awesome song we made together that might be coming soon.
I love Frank Ocean, not only because he is one of my favourite artists, but because his music is so honest and relatable. I feel like he gives us complete insight into his mind through his songs; it’s probably why I love them all so much. I understand it was hard for him to come out, so he really inspired me to do the same.
Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu
When I was a young teen in Los Angeles, then as now, I liked to be alone and explore the world. I grew up in the suburbs but would barely legally drive over the hill into Los Feliz and try and look cool at a now-defunct coffee house called Onyx. While there, I found a back issue of the magazine Ben Is Dead with a write-up about Vaginal Davis. In the photos, she stood on a punk rock stage, in a punk rock stance, in exploded drag, in an art milieu, with an unexplainably detailed expression on her gorgeous face singing about politics, sex, queerness, fabulousness, misery, wild humour and intimacy. I had never seen anything or anyone like this, and she changed my life forever. She presented to me what might be possible, that worlds and ideas could and should collide, divide, and multiply. She became my idol and private tutor, private because she didn’t know me, but oh, I watched and learned. When we did meet for the first time, she pushed a drumstick up my ass during a rock show.
The next time we met, some 15 years later, we collaborated on a reimagining of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ and continued working on performance pieces with the Berlin-based art group CHEAP. No drumsticks, though. She is the originator of homo-core, a writer, lecturer, university art professor, zine pioneer, radio DJ, singer, performance artist and a visual artist with the Isabella Bortolozzi gallery. Her work has touched more lives profoundly and with a more lasting transformative impact than anyone I know. It is a remarkable privilege to live on the same planet.
My current favourite queer artists are my Berlin homies: Roi Perez, Partok and David Elimelech. They often play b2b2b, and when they do that, there is such a magical vibe on the dancefloor. They also have a party called Laundrette, which is always fun.