A (somewhat) posi playlist of queer artists to check out in celebration of pride!
Author’s Note: This piece was written in response to what I was feeling being stuck at home in lockdown, in an environment I couldn’t fully embrace and express my identity. It was what I felt was apt in celebrating pride during lockdown and still do now, weeks after I originally wrote this (because pride shouldn’t just be celebrated/acknowledged/addressed only in June - it’s August and im still a wlw so… ) Happy listening, pride month is forever
It’s pride month again but this time, it feels different -is different.
We can’t get together and celebrate as freely as we had in the past- (not that we were really ever free to be out and proud to begin with) - with friends and with others in the community who embrace and love us in all our queer glory. It’s lonely and bleak and adds to the (already) very long list of things to have happened this year to make you feel even more bummed out and weary.
But don’t despair!
There are still ways we can be together in celebration of ourselves and of the people who’ve fought for our visibility. Queer folks everywhere are coming together virtually, to carve out a space for other queer folks who may feel especially lonely, anxious or distressed at this time. You’ve got the DJs of Queer House Party streaming virtual parties - spinning mixes of queer anthems and bops for queer folks to jam and vibe to right in their living rooms.
And right here at home, folks at Queerzinefestsg throw weekly PJ Parties on Instagram to connect with our local queer community who may not have the safest or most supportive home environments - offering another safe virtual space for us to be together at this time.
Of course there are so many more folks I can shoutout who are doing similar things and offering even more virtual queer spaces for you to tune into for comfort and company. But maybe you’re like me and don’t exactly have the privilege or privacy to tune into these parties and online ‘get- togethers’ so openly in a home that isn’t readily accepting and supportive of your identity.
So I turn to music - as I usually do when I feel especially bummed - for a little respite from everything. If you’re not in the most ideal place to be celebrating pride, perhaps this playlist can be your aural safe space for you to embrace yourself while also supporting queer artists. For me at least, these acts and allies make me feel less alone, less invisible and insanely proud of myself and my identity. Maybe it can help you feel a little better even just for a little while.
But of course, it’s important for me to disclaim that someone’s identity doesn’t determine the kind of music they make and that queer artists shouldn’t only be celebrated during Pride Month. Having said this, it’s also equally important to recognise and celebrate queer musicians - even if their music has nothing to do with their sexuality. But for those who do, I, as a queer person, personally feel that being able to relate to their songs and stories creates visibility and solidarity that can act as antidote to heteronormativity in music. This I think, is something important to spotlight this pride month, and beyond.
“Black, queer, radical. Nothing short of Magical.”(Lovely Fiction, overgrown)
Central to Ivy Sole’s music is her poetic lyricism and raw spoken-word inflections that reflect on her spirituality and identity. She doesn’t shy away in using her platform and voice to speak unapologetically about social justice - spitting heavy and emotional truths over sultry tunes that resonates and raises awareness.
Her music is comforting - which is something I attribute to her silvery vocals, seemingly radiating a pleasant warmth, and the smooth and meditative boom-bap beats of her music. Whether she sings of motherhood or queerness or self-love, her music is one I find myself grooving along to in my seat.
Songs I love: Dream Girl, Lovely Fiction, Les Fleurs.
Rina blends R&B with our favourite 2000s teen-pop anthems - (the likes of 90s Destiny’s Child and 2000s Britney) - in a nostalgic throwback to Y2K that simultaneously confronts and laments issues with identity and conflict.
If I absolutely had to define the genre of music she makes, I’d classify hers as “genre-defying”. Nothing else can reflect this more clearly than her own discography. Refreshingly fun and dancey, Rina switches up her R&B/bubblegum pop tracks - like Cherry and Cyber Stockholm Syndrome - for an angry and unapologetic reinvention of nu-metal - lamenting and redirecting casual racism - in STFU! (with a bubblegum pop chorus?? And it works??!!!)
Songs I love: Cherry, STFU!, Cyber Stockholm Syndrome.
I found Choker when I fell down the rabbit hole of Spotify’s ‘Discover’ feature. Blending R&B with hiphop and psychedelic rock melodies, Choker’s sounds are ethereal, vulnerable and introspective musings that are reminiscent of both Frank Ocean and Kevin Abstract.
They’re sounds that could paint a dreamy picture, complete with vignette edges that would fit right into a scene in an indie romance film - until the record scratches and frame freezes and he takes a swerve into a different direction mid-song (see Starfruit NYC for e.g.) His experimental tunes are unique to his artistry and his songs don’t always go quite the way you expect them to. But for me, that’s the charm.
Songs I love: Lucky, Starfruit LA, Dualshock.
Shura’s music is what I wish I had growing up as a questioning teen in the 2000s - a fresh take and revival of the 80s pop persuasion, reminiscent of Kylie Minogue, Madonna and Janet Jackson - with honest and relatable lyrics reflecting WLW yearning. (Maybe I wouldn’t have had such a prolonged emo, teen-angst phase....)
In Nothing’s Real, (my favourite album of hers), Shura delivers a versatile performance that laments the growing pains of life and set to a dreamy synth soundscape that floats between Electro-pop and lo-fi psychedelic electronica.
Songs I love: Touch, religion (u can lay your hands on me), White Light
** White Light has a beautiful instrumental bridge that makes me feel cosmic!
Deb Never was a voice that stuck out to me during a binge-listening party of Brockhampton’s Ginger album. Apart from her obvious newness amidst the all-too-familiar dudebro collective - her soft and ethereal voice contrasted so strikingly against the group’s stronger, brassy vocals. (ngl I was disappointed that she wasn’t a new member of BH...)
Cue my following new-found obsession of her alt-hiphop, emo-rap grunge music where I had my favourite “sad girl bop”, Ugly, on repeat for days on end. Though her music comes offas woeful and moody, what’s central to her music is pure honesty. Breaking down her music, it feels like the use of instruments and beats in her songs serve to echo this vulnerability - ultimately creating a hazy and quietly understated score to misplaced identities and fostering community.
Songs I love: Ugly, Stone Cold, mr nobody
These artists are only the tip of the very huge and very much underground iceberg of queer acts. I’m also on my own journey to discover so much more, in support of our queer community. Perhaps these can be our stepping stones to appreciating and embracing music that transgresses heternormativity and dispels queerphobia.
For me at least, they help me carve out a little aural space for myself to tune out and mellow down in celebration of myself and my community.
Happy Pride! <3