Taking up space as a queer artist in a cis-heteronormative music industry and society is no simple task. The complexities and challenges that come with being LGBTQ+ are no secret and the right song can make someone’s day or in some cases, save their life. Queer artists have a way of expressing themselves through music in a way that helps LGBTQ+ folks everywhere, find joy in being who they are, in world that too often makes them feel the opposite.
Here are today’s top 15 music artists for today’s queer generation. Check out Spotify and YouTube for their music and videos.
“Don’t be scared to do something that stands out. Don’t lose what makes you special.”
Kim Petras is a transgender German singer and songwriter who specializes in English-language EDM and dance-pop. Petras has identified herself as female from a young age, and she made headlines for having completed a full gender transition at the age of 16, believed to be the youngest on record at the time.
“For me there’s still a lack of representation. I just think the reason I wasn’t so comfortable with my sexuality was because there was no one on TV or anywhere that I could point to and go, ‘Look mom! This person is what I was talking about!’”
Rina Sawayama is a Japanese-British London-based singer, songwriter, producer and model. At Cambridge University, she decided to pursue both modeling and her love for singing. She would go on to experiment in a hip hop group before deciding to pursue her interest in r&b and pop music. Sawayama, who previously identified as bisexual, stated that she’s ready to embrace pansexuality because she wants to be honest in her songwriting.
“When stuff gets hard, and you’re feeling real down about everything or in a cark space, a song can bring you out of it.”
Brittany Howard is an American musician, singer, and songwriter known for being the lead vocalist, guitarist, and main songwriter of rock bands Alabama Shakes and Thunderbitch. Now 33, Howard came out as a lesbian at age 25. In 2018, she married Jesse Lafser, her bandmate in the Bermuda Triangle Band.
“My biggest goal in life is to help other people (especially women of color) heal and feel more empowered, artistically and spiritually in tune. I want to connect with them through my music, but also in a broader way as an artist, lover and healer.”
Raveena is an Indian American singer-songwriter from New York City. She is known for her dreamlike and sensual 70’s and 90’s R&B / soul-influenced style. Raveena is openly pansexual.
“Chasing the impossible takes some courage.”
Chika is an American rapper, songwriter, poet, and actress. She rose to fame when her video “A Letter to Kanye Omari West” went viral in 2018, criticizing West for his public support of Donald Trump and endorsement of political commentator Candace Owens. She often speaks on her experiences as a Black, queer, plus size woman.
“Let yourself be the person you’ve secretly always wanted to be.”
Troye Sivan is an Australian actor, YouTuber and singer-songwriter. After gaining popularity as a singer on YouTube and in Australian talent competitions, Sivan signed with EMI Australia in 2013. Sivan had revealed to the world that he was gay on his YouTube channel that same year.
“Queerness is the lens that I live my life through.”
King Princess, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer from Brooklyn, New York. She is currently signed onto Mark Ronson’s Zelig Records label and was the first artist to sign onto that label. King Princess identifies as genderqueer and uses she/her pronouns.
“I want everyone who’s listening to know who I am and not just see me as this singer. I want them to feel connected to my story.”
Clairo is an American lo-fi singer/songwriter and recording artist. She went viral with her song “Pretty Girl,” which received over 34 million views on ‘YouTube.’ Associated with soft and intimate vocals, she started sharing her music online as a teenager in 2013. Clairo came out as bisexual to her fans via Twitter in May 2018. In an interview, she explained that making friends in college is what helped her to come out as they were openly gay and she was inspired by “their confidence and their willingness to be exposed.”
“Deep down, you know what you want, and you should go for it.”
Kaytranada is a Haitian-Canadian record producer and DJ. He rose to fame after releasing a series of mixtapes, remixes, and original music projects beginning in 2010. Kaytranada disclosed he is gay in 2016 during an interview with The Fader.
“Feeling invisible definitely makes you want to become visible sometimes.”
Syd is an American singer and songwriter. She is a founding member of the band The Internet, and was a member of the alternative hip hop collective Odd Future. Syd has often talked about how she doesn’t like the label “lesbian” and identifies as gay. Her music caters to gay women.
“I know a lot of people say I’m a lesbian, but that’s literally my least favorite word in the entire world.”
Girl in red is a Norwegian singer-songwriter. She started uploading music to SoundCloud under the username lyfsuxx, before changing it to girl in red around September 2017. She is openly queer.
“I didn’t become successful until I became myself.”
Sam Smith is an English singer and songwriter. Their singing style encompasses several genres such as pop, soul, and R&B. While they had already identified as gay, Smith came out as nonbinary in 2019 and chose to use they/them pronouns.
“Embrace what makes you unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable.”
Janelle Monáe is an American singer, rapper, and actress. She is signed to Atlantic Records, as well as to her own imprint, the Wondaland Arts Society. Throughout her entire career, Monáe has done much to push R&B forward, expanding the definition of the genre by incorporating elements of classical music, futuristic synths, disco-y grooves, and much more into her own sound. She is openly queer.
“Sometimes I make songs about girls, and I say ‘he,’ or I’ll make songs about guys, and I say ‘she,’ or sometimes they’re exactly what they’re about. I feel like it just allows me to get a lot more perspective.”
Kehlani is an American singer, songwriter, and dancer. She became known during the mid-2010s for a modern twist on the pop-R&B and neo-soul figures – from TLC and Brandy to Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott. Kehlani has long identified as queer and bisexual but proclaimed herself a lesbian via TikTok in 2021.
“Live your life to its fullest potential and don’t really care too much about what other people think about you.”
Lil Nas X is an American rapper and singer. He rose to prominence with the release of his country rap single “Old Town Road”, which first achieved viral popularity in early 2019 before climbing music charts internationally. He shocked the world by coming out as gay during Pride Month of 2019. In his music, he is open about his experiences as a Black gay man and that representation is lacking in the music industry.
Campus Pride represents the leading national nonprofit organization for student leaders and campus groups working to create a safer college environment for LGBTQ students. Be sure to follow Campus Pride on Spotify and check out our playlists. To learn more about Campus Pride visit, https://www.campuspride.org.