Words: Thomas Stichbury
Exciting. Inspiring. Kick-ass. Erm, rubbery. Just a few of the adjectives that can be used to describe the current wave of LGBTQ+ artists, homegrown and from around the world, revolutionising our soundscape and making sure their voices are being heard.
Of course, we couldn’t include everybody – apologies to those we’ve missed out – but queer we go…
Lava La Rue
Making us melt with their funky, psychedelic, soul-infused RnB, British non-binary artist Lava La Rue, aka Ava Laurel, has already performed alongside the likes of Tyler, the Creator, Christine and the Queens and pal Clairo. Lava is set to soar to new heights with upcoming EP Butter-Fly, out 19 February (via Marathon Records).
“Growing up, there wasn’t a lot of representation of POC and non-binary queer folk approaching more left-field RnB or alternative pop that got championed on the same level as many household cult musicians we know of today. That should exist by now.
When I look back into history – in terms of black lesbian musicians – many had to either hide who they truly were in order to be respected, or to be out in the open but seem limited as a “niche”, defined by that rather than respected across the field.
I wanted to see someone who looked like me – and who loved like me – thrive as a rock star, like all them old white dudes from the ‘70s. And I know there’s a lot of kids that feel the same. I wanna open windows for this to be able to happen.”
Standout song: ‘G.O.Y.D.’
girl in red
A queer icon in the making, girl in red – a nod to the first person who broke her heart – has graced all the buzzy “ones to watch” lists. The Norwegian singer-songwriter (and lowercase letter lover), aka Marie Ulven, specialises in cooking up low-fi tunes, simmering with anxiety, tenderness and truth. We’re, ahem, red-dy to hear more.
“I started identifying as queer when I was 16ish. My coming out experience was really smooth and simple – in some ways I didn’t really come out at a specific moment, I was just openly living as a queer person.”
Standout song: ‘Rue’
London-based Seeva holds a mirror to his experiences as a queer South Asian man, bringing them to life through shimmering electro-pop. He sparked plenty of conversation with his debut album We Need to Talk (out now) – highlights include ‘Hopscotch’, about his HIV diagnosis.
“I’m pretty open about my positive HIV status… [but] I’d never written a song that was so personal before, and that completely changed the direction of the rest of my album. There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding the condition despite the amazing advances in medicine, so it was scary to put it out, but also incredibly liberating.”
Standout song: ‘Princess’
Credit: Jessi Frick
Texas-raised Anjimile describes his sound as “50% indie folk, 50% autumn rain” – and we are happy to let it pour. The queer, trans singer and Sufjan Stevens super-fan recently released his debut album Giver Taker (via Father/Daughter) which, among other matters, poignantly plots his journey from alcoholism to sobriety.
“My goal as an artist is to build and participate in creative efforts that uplift queer and trans communities of colour – specifically trans black folks – and to offer my own queer, black, transmasculine perspective and experience to the landscape of popular music…
“I’ve slowly realised that all of these institutions (magazines, labels, etc) I used to look up to are actually just full of cis het white guys and cis het white bands, so that’s elucidating. I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, so that’s a bit uncomfortable.”
Standout song: ‘Baby No More’
Not everybody can pull off the gimp mask look, but Lynks does a fine job. Bristol-born performance artist and producer Elliot Brett – whose new EP Smash Hits Vol 2 (via Interscope) is out now – rubs us up the right way with his rip-up-the-rulebook industrial pop; he’s even been playlisted by Sir Elton John. Enough said.
“There’s huge power in saying, ‘Yeah, I’m scared and insecure and horny. And what?’ I think ‘Desperate and Lovely, in Desperate Need of Love’ is probably my most personal [song] so far – it’s about making a Tinder profile after a break-up and is basically three minutes and 26 seconds of why no-one should ever date me. Potential suitors please stay away.”
Standout song: ‘Str8 Acting’
Credit: Jeremy Reynoso
Formerly of the duo Toast, Claud’s bread and butter is crafting pop music with more than a smidge of melancholy. The Brooklyn-based star – the first artist signed to Phoebe Bridgers’ new label, Saddest Factory – namechecks author Mary Shelley as a major influence and will drop their debut album Super Monster on 12 February. Scarily talented.
“It’s funny, in almost every interview I’ve ever done, I’ve been asked this same question [about how to help more LGBTQ+ artists break through]. To be honest, I don’t know. I’m still trying to ‘break through’ in a way.
I would just say the most important thing is normalising it; focusing on what makes an artist stand out because of their artistic choices, not because of their gender or sexuality. And also, a general understanding that even though the songwriter is queer, everyone has the potential to relate to the story.”
Standout song: ‘Wish You Were Gay’
Cutting through the noise, ZAND describes themselves as the “Ugly Popstar” and is intent on tearing down the cis-system with their fittingly-titled EP Ugly Pop (out now). The non-binary trans artist, from Blackpool, turns up the volume about “pro queer, pro trans, pro ho shit” – we’re here for it.
“Anything that starts with: ‘If you’re trans then why do you…?’ Just shut up man, I know you’re obsessed with the gender binary and pink/blue smoke bombs and gendered toothbrushes or whatever the cis do, but it’s deathly annoying and harmful at this point. Give it a rest.
“The only thing a trans person needs to qualify as trans is to feel that they themselves are trans, that’s it. I’m bored of cis people who have absolutely no room to talk about us doing so and attempting to ‘debate’ our identities: TRANS IDENTITIES ARE NOT AND NEVER HAVE BEEN UP FOR DEBATE.”
Standout song: ‘Slut Money’
Looking up to the holy triumvirate of Beyoncé, Robyn and Celine Dion (amen, to that), Vincint is hitting all the right notes. You should already be familiar with the American singer’s work – his empowering anthem ‘Be Me’ was used in the trailer for season five of Netflix’s Queer Eye. Further proof that the Fab Five have great taste.
“People are so interested in sexuality and knowing the status of another’s, it’s kind of nuts. It’s never been my thing to address my sexuality first when talking about my music, but the positive effect it’s had on my career is inspiring younger kids to go after their dreams in music, and honestly their dreams in every field.
“Seeing someone who looks like you and relates to your experience succeed can be life changing.”
Standout song: ‘Be Me’
Credit: Nate Clarke
Bow down to self-proclaimed “local princess” Tia Carys. The bisexual rapper, from West London, holds court as a fierce freestyler and she can spit a wicked turn of phrase – her debut EP EnRoot is out now, and we’re looking forward to watching this badass boss grow and grow.
“My first physical LGBTQ+ experience was when I was 16 at a Halloween party. I was talking to [someone] whom I thought was a boy for a while, but only after getting to know [them], warming up to and bantering each other, did I find out she was a girl. I didn’t care at that point and the more we hung out, the more I fell for her.”
Standout song: ‘Reflect in Mirrors’
Non-binary wunderkid carpetgarden introduces themselves as somebody who sings “songs for losers like me.” Losing never sounded so winning and the Gen-Z singer’s future is looking very bright, indeed, with their new EP, The Way He Looks, due to be released on 10 February (via House Anxiety).
“I’ve always seen my gender identity and sexual orientation as really unimportant. I always knew I’m gonna wear what I want and I’m gonna f*** who I want; it’s nothing really more than that. I also don’t think I’ve ever had a true ‘coming out’ experience, since I have to ‘come out’ to people every day.”
Standout song: ‘Can Ghosts Be Gay?’
Keep Dancing Inc
Credit: Ella Herme
Crossing over the Channel, Parisian trio Joseph, Gabrielle – who both identify as gay – and bandmate Louis don’t miss a beat with their catchy, electro-flavoured bops. Does their debut album Embrace (out now, via Un Plan Simple) make you want to hit the dancefloor? Oui, oui, oui!
“Keep Dancing Inc is about facing difficulties you encounter in your life without letting them crush you. We lived that not too long ago when our lead singer decided to leave the band right after the album was recorded”, Louis tells Attitude.
“We had to record new vocals on top of his and to completely reinvent the band. But in hindsight we can say that it was probably for the best: we kept dancing and the band has never sounded or looked so great.” (Louis)
Standout song: ‘Could U Stop’