There's no doubt that we're living through a golden era of queer artists, both inside and outside the mainstream.
Queer punks scenes in cities across the globe are brimming with young talent tearing down heteronormative ideas of gender and sexuality, queer rappers are making huge strides in the traditionally hyper-masculine world of hip-hop, and there's a new breed of queer pop stars who are being played on mainstream radio and tv shows, selling a shit ton of records and playing sold-out shows around the world.
That doesn't mean we should be complacent. As the recent election results attest, things can slip. Progress that has been hard earned can very easily regress. With this in mind, we compiled an essential playlist of queer bangers to console, encourage and inspire everyone to keep up the good fight. #MakeAmericaGayAgain
1. Troye Sivan - 'Heaven'
About the struggles he had coming to terms with his sexuality, Troye Sivan talks candidly about what it's like for a teenager to come out as gay. When introducing the song at his shows, Troye regularly calls this song his favourite. It's certainly his most beautiful.
Key lyric: "The voice in my head has been eating at me / Trying to replace the love that I fake / With what we both need"
2. Hayley Kiyoko - 'Pretty Girl'
Hayley Kiyoko has stacks of queer bangers but this one, in which Kiyoko pines over a crush, is one of her best. Make sure you check out Kiyoko's latest EP, Citrine.
Key lyric: "I just know you got to taste like candy girl / I just wanna tell you that you're really pretty girl"
3. Years & Years - 'Take Shelter'
Olly Alexander has spoken about his desire to be as open as possible about his sexuality, and this song takes a particularly intimate snap shot of the experiences of being a gay man. 'Take Shelter' describes a destructive relationship which is about sex rather than real intimacy, and the emotional fall out that ensues.
Key lyric: "Do what you want tonight / It's alright if you want to get used"
4. Frank Ocean - 'Forrest Gump'
Frank rocked the music world when he came out as bisexual in a Tumblr post. Written from the perspective of Forrest Gump’s love interest, Jenny, in the film Forrest Gump, the song serves as a metaphor for the feelings Frank still harbours for the man he wrote about in his coming out letter.
Key lyric: "I know you Forrest / I know you wouldn't hurt a beetle / But you're so buff, and so strong / I'm nervous Forrest"
5. Christine and The Queens - 'iT'
We didn't think pop's biggest breakout star of 2016 would be a gender-fluid artist from France but we're totally here for it. 'iT' finds Héloïse Letissier exploring the performative nature of gender by creating a male alter-ego in order to be successful.
Key lyric: "She wants to be a man / But she lies / She wants to be born again / But she'll lose / She draws her own crotch by herself / But she'll lose because it's a fake"
6. Kevin Abstract - 'Empty'
On 'Empty', 22-year-old LA artist Kevin Abstract struggles with his mother's rejection of his sexuality, which is accentuated by a general malaise towards society. The shining light in all this mess is his boyfriend. WARNING: slightly NSFW video.
Key lyric: "And I'll be Right outside your front door / On my 12 speed / I got your emotions tattooed on my sleeve / I think about you all the time"
7. The Internet - 'Girl'
You might remember that Frank Ocean, along with Tyler, The Creator, were a part of Californian hip-hop collective Odd Future before pursuing their solo careers. Another project born out of Odd Future was neo-soul group, The Internet, lead by gay singer/producer Syd tha Kyd. Also produced by openly-gay hip-hop producer Kaytranada, 'Girl' is basically a queer sex jam. 100% will make you sweat.
Key lyric: "Baby if I told you that you rock my world / I want you around me / Would you let me call you my girl, my girlfriend, my girlfriend?"
8. Panic! At The Disco - 'Girls/Girls/Boys'
One for the bi-curious out there. This song describes a love triangle between Urie and two girls, and it sees Brendon being played off against a girl for the other girl's attention. Apparently, the subject matter was inspired by a threesome Brendon Urie had with two girls when he was 16. The video is a homage to D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)".
Key lyric: "And never did I think that I / Would be caught in the way you got me / But girls love girls and boys"
9. Halsey - 'New Americana'
Halsey's rallying cry for a new generation ("raised on Biggie and Nirvana") for whom homophobia and other forms of bigotry are no longer acceptable. Often called 'the millennials national anthem', although we're not entirely sure whether that's meant as compliment. Not that that matters to the thousands of kids that scream the lyrics back to Halsey every night.
Key lyric: "Young James Dean, some say he looks just like his father / But he could never love somebody's daughter"
10. Against Me! - 'True Trans Soul Rebel'
Fronted by trans singer Laura Jane Grace, this anthemic track off 2014’s Transgender Dysphoria Blues concerns fears about coming out as trans. Laura said of her transition, "You become more brave about presenting femme, but you’re still closeted, so you have nowhere to go… You end up in a weird motel in the middle of nowhere, wandering down halls, hoping nobody sees you."
Key lyrics: "Who's gonna take you home tonight? / Who's gonna take you home? / Does god bless your transsexual heart? / True Trans Soul Rebel"
11. PWR BTTM - 'Ugly Cherries'
Queer punk band PWR BTTM are having a storming 2016 thanks to their latest album Ugly Cherries. Ben Hopkins, one half of PWR BTTM, described the title track as, "a confrontation, an attempt to unpack my own queerness with humour and self care. I just got so fucking tired of wishing I was different so I decided to scream, ‘She’s all right’ until I actually was.”
Key lyrics: "My girl's so sad / Everything I do makes her mad / Cries and cries till his eyes are red / Two ugly cherries up in his head"
12. Perfume Genius - 'Queen'
Mike Hadreas' turned nasty on his third album, 2014's Too Bright. 'Queen', it's swaggering lead single, was a righteously defiant reaction against what Hadreas coined "gay panic", where ones (gay) existence causes others to be threatened or scared. In deconstructing this homophobic behaviour, he wrote a triumphant gay anthem for our times.
Key lyric: "No family is safe / When I sashay"
13. Sia - 'The Greatest'
Sia's is one of the most successful pop artists of the decade, and she also happens to be a queer woman. The video for this song was largely interpreted to be a tribute to the 49 LGBT people, predominantly from the LatinX community, who died in the Pulse shootings earlier in the year at the Pulse gay club in Florida.
Key lyric: "Hey, I am the truth / Hey, I am the wisdom of the fallen - I'm the youth / Hey, I am the greatest"
14. Mary Lambert - 'Secrets'
On 'Secrets', Mary just lets it all hang out. "I've got bi-polar disorder / My shit's not in order / I'm overweight / I'm always late / I've got too many things to say". Tell it like it is, sister.
Key lyric: "I can't think straight, I'm so gay / Sometimes I cry a whole day"
15. Shamir - 'Call You Out'
Shamir response to being asked about his gender was one of the most sassy and empowering things to happen on Twitter in 2015. "I have no gender, no sexuality, and no fucks to give." For that alone he gets a mention on this list. That, and the song is a total banger.
Key lyric: "Yeah I'd been blamin' myself, question my mental health / Like I'm the one who needed questioning / It's time to call it off / And this time, it's not my fault"