LGBTQ artists have been breaking new ground and creating beautiful music since long before Pride celebrations were common. When you’re celebrating Pride this June, these albums provide the perfect soundtrack, representing career highlights and some of the best Pride songs by LGBTQ musicians and allies who blazed the way.
1. In the Lonely Hour — Sam Smith
Genderqueer artist Smith’s 2014 debut remains a vibrant and affecting combination of dance beats and soulful vocals. Acoustic guitars mix with keyboard chords and orchestral flourishes while Smith sends their voice to falsetto heights and baritone lows, showing impressive range and evocative stylings. “Stay With Me” remains a standout that’s sure to get the room singing along.
2. Dirty Computer — Janelle Monáe
The third studio album from nonbinary rapper, singer, and actor Monáe, 2018’s Dirty Computer continues her fascination with technology, using an android as a metaphor for the modern person. The artist herself has said the album is an “homage to the spectrum of sexual identities,” and the message comes through loud and clear on such gems as the Prince-style funk fest “Make Me Feel,” with lyrics such as “Laying your body on a shag carpet / You know I love it, so please don’t stop it.” Guest appearances from superstars like Grimes, Pharrell Williams, and even original Beach Boy Brian Wilson add to the party-from-the-future atmosphere.
3. Channel Orange — Frank Ocean
Ocean’s 2012 instant classic shows off the singer-songwriter’s deftness with a range of sounds and styles, where a ten-minute sonic trip like “Pyramids” can lead right to the catchy, pop-inflected “Lost” and it feels just right. An early advocate for LGBTQ acceptance in the hip-hop scene, Ocean continues to lead artistically as well, recently exploring ventures in fashion and film while continuing to make headlines with his music (his 2023 Coachella headlining set sure inspired all kinds of feelings). But Channel Orange is where it all started.
4. Chris — Christine and the Queens
The second album from French sensation Christine and the Queens, the 2018 release Chris infuses electro-sounds and synth stylings with danceable beats and Chris’s vocals filled with longing and vulnerability. The genderqueer artist calls his genre of music “freakpop,” and with irresistible gems like leadoff tracks “Comme si” and “Girlfriend,” we’re here for it.
5. Bronco — Orville Peck
The gay South African country-western mystery man’s second album, released in 2022, showcases his rich, powerful voice on songs like the twangy “The Curse of the Blackened Eye” and the wailer “C’mon Baby, Cry.” The roadhouse waltz of “Iris Rose” sends his voice soaring with regret for a love that’s moved on, while mid-tempo closer “All I Can Say” sees another love breaking up. The songs mix alt-country with country rock and even psychedelic rock, but it’s Peck’s luscious vocals that are the focus — with good reason. While Peck’s true identity may remain a secret, his pure talent no longer is.
6. The Record — boygenius
Indie rock supergroup boygenius released their debut album in January, and the breathy vocals and confessional lyrics make a potent stew alternately backed by driving drum-bass-guitars and pretty piano-keyboard melodies. “In another life we were arsonists,” the three queer artists sing in the epic song “$20,” capturing in just a few words a sense of anger and dissatisfaction tempered by a feeling of present-day powerlessness. In a world increasingly on fire, if only metaphorically, it’s a relatable sentiment.
7. MONTERO — Lil Nas X
Led by Billboard #1 singles “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby,” Lil Nas X’s 2021 debut boldly put queer themes front and center. A potent stew of rap, R&B, and hard rock, all backed by trap-style beats, MONTERO reveals the star’s vulnerability while masking it behind a veneer of swagger and outlandish theatricality.
8. Transgender Dysphoria Blues — Against Me!
When Florida punk rockers Against Me!’s lead singer and guitarist Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012, she wrote the songs that make up this epic, guitar-heavy concept album as a way of dealing with the emotions surrounding identity. That gives these songs, with titles like “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “Unconditional Love,” and “Dead Friend,” added power. What started out as an album-long story of a transgender sex worker instead becomes a semi-autobiographical chronicle of Grace’s own turbulent emotional journey.
9. Like a Virgin — Madonna
Perhaps the Material Girl’s most iconic album, 1984’s Like a Virgin catches Madonna in her sensational prime. From the coy title song to the yearning of “Dress You Up,” this is shimmering synth-pop of the highest order, filled with driving bass lines, aching guitar solos, and crystal clear production. As one of the earliest voices supporting people with AIDS and gay rights, Madonna is ideal for any Pride festivities.
10. Ingénue — k.d. lang
The Canadian country-western singer-songwriter’s biggest commercial success, the 1992 release represents something of a departure from lang’s cowpunk roots. Its more mature, pop-inflected sound provided a perfect showcase for her rich vocals and aching melodies, though it probably plays better for after-celebration clean-up music than full-throttle party music. Closer “Constant Craving” got all the airplay, reaching the Billboard Top 40 for the only time in her career, but “Still Thrives This Love” and “Miss Chatelaine” also stand out. A trailblazer for LGBTQ visibility in the country-western genre, lang was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
Keep the Party Going
Remember, it’s Pride month, meaning a mere ten albums won’t be enough to keep your celebration going. So be sure to check out the best songs about LGBTQ themes for your playlist, the best playlists for Pride month, LGBTQ music across different genres, and Pride’s essential anthems.
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