If you know and love Elton and Freddie, how about branching out your musical taste by listening to some more iconic LGBTQ music artists from around the world?
From artists to drag queens to authors, queer voices are beginning to come into the spotlight – and we’re totally backing them! So when you’re singing your heart out in karaoke bars, wouldn’t it be cool to know that there might be a queer experience behind a song? As music is one of the best forms of creative expression, have a listen to these LGBTQ music artists who are adding their voices to the world and get inspired.
LGBTQ music artists that we have on repeat – loud and proud
1. Hayley Kiyoko
Dubbed “Lesbian Jesus” by her fans, Hayley Kiyoko has been a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights and is one of the most outspoken queer music artists in the industry. While you may have spotted her in movies like Lemonade Mouth and Scooby Doo!, Kiyoko really made a splash in 2015 with her track “Girls Like Girls.” Since then, she’s continued to make pop songs inspired by her feelings and life as a queer woman. Kiyoko also directs the majority of her music videos – all of which feature queer themes. She’s even written a YA novel, Girls Like Girls, based on the song’s music video.
As the first openly gay K-pop idol, Holland chose his stage name as a tribute to the first country that legalised same-sex marriage. He released his debut single “Neverland” in 2018 using his own funds, as no entertainment company was willing to sign him due to the queer themes in his music. Although the music video of “Neverland” earned a 19+ rating in South Korea because of a gay kiss scene, the song took off and he was able to later crowdfund his first mini-album. Holland has spoken out about discrimination he faced in South Korea as a gay man, and continues to advocate for the LGBTQ community.
3. Janelle Monáe
Singer and actor Janelle Monáe has become one of the most critically acclaimed LGBTQ music artists with their concept albums. Their debut album Metropolis garnered a Grammy Award nomination for the song “Many Moons.” They were also featured in Fun.’s well-known song, “We Are Young”, which brought them wider attention. Their third pop/funk/R&B album Dirty Computer was heavily lauded and considered one of the best albums of 2018. On the big screen, Monáe has taken part in several famous films such as Moonlight, Hidden Figures, and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. They have been open about their queerness and exploration of gender identity, coming out as nonbinary in 2022.
4. Kim Petras
German electronic dance-pop singer Kim Petras has been breaking down barriers for the transgender community since she was young. She first appeared on German TV, advocating for early gender confirmation surgery, before moving to Los Angeles to kick-off her music career. Her debut single “I Don’t Want It All” climbed the charts and signified her arrival into the pop scene. After releasing several albums, mixtapes, and EPs, Petras had her mainstream breakthrough with “Unholy,” a song with fellow LGBTQ artist Sam Smith. With that track, Petras became the first openly trans woman to top the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as the first to win a major-category Grammy Award.
5. Chris of Christine and the Queens
French singer-songwriter Chris was inspired to start Christine and the Queens after travelling to London and seeing local drag queen musicians. After some success in France, the English-language single “Tilted” brought him wider recognition. His subsequent album, Chris, which featured French and English-version songs, was highly praised – and he was only known as Chris during this era, before he adopted the moniker Redcar for his next album. Chris has openly discussed his journey with gender throughout the years, and goes by he/him pronouns as of 2022.
6. Leslie Cheung
No list of LGBTQ music artists can leave out Hong Kong legend Leslie Cheung. A pioneer of Cantopop since the 80s and an award-winning actor, Cheung was openly bisexual throughout most of his career. After initial music success, Cheung’s big breakthrough into the Cantopop scene came in 1984 with the single “Monica.” During the late 80s, he released several platinum-certified albums before going on hiatus and pursuing film. He starred in several classic Hong Kong movies including A Better Tomorrow, Happy Together, and Rouge. After returning to music, his final tour was celebrated for its exploration of cross-cultural drag and androgyny. Cheung’s dance hits, as well as his sentimental ballads, continue to be appreciated to this day.