When it comes to queer artists making incredible music that challenges, provokes and celebrates life as we know it, 2020 has seen no shortage of stunning tunes that we love. There has been a whole smorgasbord of albums, singles and EPs from queer artists this year, which through their incredible sonic landscapes, have challenged the norms of music as we know it.
We take a look at some of the most beautiful, danceable and heart-shattering projects released this year from some of our favourite queer artists, and look at what these immersive pieces of music can tell us about the future of queer expression and sound. Throughout this article, the word queer will be used as a celebratory term to define the empowering nature of LGBTQ+ folk, who are powerful in their existence and expressions of unique experiences through music.
Disco- and funk-influenced pop tracks have been on the rise since late 2019 and continue to mark a rising trend in popular music. There have been many fun interpretations of the sound recently, but none as addictive and unique as those from queer voices.
This year, Tayla Parx released her bouncing and addictive track Dance Alone, a track that utilises groovy guitar licks and shimmering electronics to excellent results. The song was made for the dancefloor and adopts a familiar style to create something modern and exciting.
Similar to this track is Brendan Maclean’s Easy Love, which is hands down one of the most enthralling singles released this year. With passionate vocals and an instrumental straight from the height of the disco era, this track also blends pop stylings with the funky nuances of the past.
Both queer artists mentioned above, with their unique interpretations on the trend of disco-tinged pop, mark the beginnings of more experimentation in the field to come. We can expect to see much more of this fun, effervescent and most of all freeing style of music to infiltrate our dancefloors in the near future, and queer artists will undoubtedly be the flagbearers of this glitzy movement.
It is almost impossible to look at the incredible music queer artists are making in 2020 without mentioning the powerful and personal pieces of introspective work that have been released this year. It is through these artists who choose to bear it all that the world is able to learn about and embrace the uniqueness, pain and elegance of the queer experience.
Australian singer/songwriter Jack Colwell released his deeply personal and piano-lead album SWANDREAM this year, a project that speaks quite intimately to how volatile yet graceful it can be to grow up and live as a queer individual. Songs like Conversion Therapy and PTSD tackle intensely painful experiences that many individuals within the LGBTQ+ can relate to and put them so remarkably to music.
The album faces shadows with a certain glimmer of light, and grants access to the private pains of Colwell that mark similar pains in other queer individuals. Albums like this are incredibly important for all kinds of listeners and make it clear to other queer artists that sharing your voice and your story is more important than one could ever know.
Undoubtedly with the rise of albums like this, we will start to see more and more intimate and personal projects coming out in the future from queer artists and otherwise. We’ve already seen some pretty incredible outputs from the likes of Cavetown, Perfume Genius and Kehlani, who also bared themselves completely on their most recent projects.
Sleepyhead by Cavetown approached the sharp edges of the mind with a slow and gentle indie rock grace, whereas Set My Heart On Fire Immediately by Perfume Genius explored the intense gravity that exploring a queer love can have on the soul. Then comes Kehlani’s latest It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, an exploration of love, loss and sexuality that swerves from heartbreaking to downright danceable.
It’s difficult to put to words how necessary these varying experiences are in the world of music for queer individuals, but God is it good to see them exist. By seeing ourselves reflected in the works of others, we no longer feel excluded from the world - the more people making music, the more chance there is for our unique experiences to be shared by someone else much like us.
Finally, it is necessary to mention the queer artists who are pushing music forward with experimentation and futuristic soundscapes.
Yves Tumor’s Heaven To A Tortured Mind, an abrasive punk project that challenges sound with a merciless confidence, saw the artist play the part of the seducer with a yet unmatched ferocity. Tumor’s latest output surfs atop of guitar riffs, which range from abrasive and harsh to gentle and sombre, all the while singing to the ideas of passion and queer relationships.
Rina Sawayama on the other hand took the abrasive experimentations with guitar and put them into the world of pop, crafting some utterly next-level content on her new album SAWAYAMA. By pushing sound forward in such a creative way, both artists have created brand new spaces for others to fill, all while showing off their queer excellence in the process.
Other equally as experimental albums include Arca’s KiCk i, and the recently released 100 Gecs remix album 1000 Gecs And The Tree Of Clues, which are both insanely forward-thinking releases from incredible queer artists. It goes without saying that even more experimentation will come as a result from the jilted and jarring soundscapes that both these artists have created.
Ultimately, this year has been pretty impressive thanks to queer artists and their music. By looking at the personal, experimental and nuanced approaches to sound that these artists have presented, we can get a pretty good idea of what the next few years are going to sound like.
Buckle up folks, music is going to just get better and better from here, and we have a whole heap of queer artists to thank. Now let's all go stream Easy Love for clear skin.