As we continue our round-up of 2023, we turn to the LGBTQ musical outings we got in 2023. Once again we’ve been blessed with a plethora of queer music from some of the best artists around.
From exciting debut albums to pop icons returning as well as compilations, the Attitude team has scrolled back through their most-played music to create a round-up of favourite albums from LGBTQ artists and allies.
From the honesty of Josesef’s Permanent Damage to the poppers-fuelled party of Troye Sivan’s Rush, there’s been no shortage of music to enjoy this year. Albums like The Record and Problematique were also among the considerations but we had to have a cut-off!
Keep reading for a countdown of Attitude’s favourite albums 2023 had to offer.
12 – Permanent Damage, Joesef
A queer Glaswegian soul-pop star is exactly what you’d expect to craft a debut studio album that is unabusively honest, thrillingly tender, and unapologetically stark as an album that is part break-up, part recovery through introspection. As Joesef’s vocals dance between husky low tones through to floaty melodies, they infuse every track with empathy and emotion like a voice that has already lived many lives. It’s a solid debut for a queer British talent that is going to change the world, one song at a time.
11 – Feed the Beast, Kim Petras
Having slayed the world repeatedly with Sam Smith on ‘Unholy’, Petras was finally ready to drop her long-awaited debut studio album in time for Pride season. After slick EPs like the insatiable Slut Pop and the ultimate soundtrack to Halloween in Turn Off The Light, Petras held nothing back on Feed The Beast. From the catchy ‘Brr’ to ‘Coconuts’ via the Nicki Minaj featured ‘Alone’, this is Petras’ opening gambit as she gets ready to rock the world.
10 – Black Mona Lisa, Billy Porter
The long-awaited new studio record from our high priest Billy Porter dives into nu-disco befitting the wildest vogue balls with a sound that’s destined for touring. From the empowering message of ‘Not Ashamed’ to the shimmering ‘Fashion’, Billy makes disco sound so effortless. Needless to say, its beats will leave Pose fans eager to hear more. As Billy defiantly states in the opening track: “Haven’t even started yet, I haven’t even broke a sweat…”
9 – Jesus at the Gay Bar, Cub Sport
If you haven’t discovered Cub Sport yet, what have you been doing? The band’s fifth (!) album – which embraces the LGBTQ love journey, romance, and relationship of two of its members – arrived in April and garnered top reviews as well as hitting number 1 on the Australian album charts. Attitude’s review said it best: “They manage a no-skips pop record full of reflection and an exciting hint towards the more anthemic sound they’re clearly eyeing up for the future.”
8 – My Soft Machine, Arlo Parks
Work on the follow-up to Parks’ Mercury Music Prize-winning 2021 debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams began before that first record was even released. Diving into the challenges of “mid-20s anxiety, the substance abuse of friends around [her], the viscera of being in love for the first time, navigating P.T.S.D. and grief and self-sabotage and joy” the album is an absorbing reflection on what it means to be a young adult today. Lead single ‘Weightless’ is Parks at her unfiltered finest.
7 – Last Man Dancing, Jake Shears
A record in two parts! Last Man Dancing opens with familiar territory for fans of Shears’ glorious Scissor Sisters disco era, with one of the many high points including a feature with Kylie on the catchy ‘Voices’ that builds the record into a peak before freefalling into deeper electronic, dancefloor-ready stompers that resonate with desire and danger when played loud at 4am… as intended It’s a giddy ride into the nightlife and through the other side of gay abandon as only Shears could take us on.
6 – Gloria, Sam Smith
On Sam Smith’s fourth album, the LGBTQ artist has found themselves more assured than ever before by slipping into their most comfortable ensemble yet. Having fully embraced an ever-evolving identity, this time stepping into a shiny stiletto, Gloria elevated the artist to newer, queerer, clubbier levels. Smith is ready to play having stormed the global charts with ‘Unholy’, before getting dutty and slutty with ‘Gimme’ and finally letting loose and being hook-up ready on the catchy ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends’. While the bops take centre stage, the ballads that allow Sam’s voice to soar are still present. Gloria is so unapologetically Smith in every way that the album leaves us wondering where the artist will venture next.
5 – The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, Chappell Roan
Three years in the making, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess became a journey of discovery for the celebrated LGBTQ singer from Missouri, USA after it opened Roan up to her queerness. Comparisons to Lana Del Rey and Lorde are both valid and unfair – Roan is feistier and funkier (no diss to Del Rey or Lorde intended, obvs) but it’s clear this is an artist that is embracing a brash alt-pop sound with unrelenting bold hooks and an unrelentingly bolder production.
4 – The Age of Pleasure, Janelle Monáe
During the five years since their third studio album Dirty Computer, the gender non-conforming Monáe came out as queer: “I’m non-binary, so I just don’t see myself as a woman, solely… I feel like god [sic] is so much bigger than the ‘he’ or the ‘she.’ And if I am from God, I am everything,” they stated, later adding: “My pronouns are free-ass motherfucker—and they/them, her/she.” That meant there was only one direction for their long-awaited fourth record to go… and that’s being authentically free! Embracing Afro-beats and disco, The Age of Pleasure saw Monáe celebrating life and love, earning itself an Album of the Year nomination for the Grammy Awards 2024.
3 – Javelin, Sufjan Stevens
On Javelin’s arrival in October, the record immediately caught the queer world’s attention after the musician opened up about being LGBTQ for the first time when he dedicated the album to Evans Richardson, his “beloved partner and best friend,” who died in April. With nods to an already impressive discography, the album – written as well as produced almost entirely by Stevens alone – places human connection under a lens, weaving gracefully and elegantly tales of searching, love, joy, and shared humanity. Through its exploration, Javelin is ultimately a record that magnificently elevates and lifts the spirit.
2 – Something to Give Each Other, Troye Sivan
The wonder boy of pop has a knack for producing faultless pop records. From the teen romance-slash-angst of debut album Blue Neighbourhood to the sexual awakening of Bloom, Sivan dives head-dizzingly-first into gay adulthood with Something to Give Each Other. The record perhaps peaked too early with the addictive Rush (NB: in case you haven’t yet, do check out the sick as fuck remix featuring PinkPantheress and Hyunjin of Stray Kids) but there are plenty more delectable tunes to be enjoyed across this ten-track dalliance into unbuckled LGBTQ joy.
1 – Mid Air, Romy
The final member of indie band The xx to release a solo album, Romy opened her heart on debut long player Mid Air. Produced largely with dance music’s man of the moment Fred Again.. and the unassailable Stuart Price, while the dancefloor bangers may come thick and fast, the lyrics remain candid and raw. The end result delivers goosebump-inducing moments that come wrapped in enthralling beats. From the unabashed LGBTQ love fest of ‘Loveher’ to the freefalling ‘Weightless’, via the uplifting life lessons in ‘Strong’ as well as ‘Enjoy Your Life’, Mid Air is a seminal record with a track suited to every mood.
Honorary LGBTQ album – Barbie the Album, Various artists
Now, we know what you’re thinking. Barbie as a movie wasn’t explicitly queer, and to be honest, neither is the album. But between Sam Smith and Billie Eilish, as well as LGBTQ allies such as Dua Lipa, CharliXCX, and Nicki Minaj, we feel it qualifies as an honorable mention. And don’t pretend that several of these songs haven’t also appeared in your Spotify Wrapped or Apple Music Replay! Also, the campness that is ‘I’m Just Ken’ performed by Ryan Gosling and fellow Kens. And just in time for the holidays, we’ve been blessed with a special Ken album. That’s camp!
Honorary LGBTQ album – Tension, Kylie
Again, not an LGBTQ album (we know!) but it’s Kylie so it’s as good as. And it was also a return to pure form for the Aussie songstress who’s been a longstanding ally of the community. After the undoubted success of ‘Padam Padam’ and ‘Tension’ the album was released earlier this year to great anticipation. And Kylie delivered! From ’10 Out of 10,’ ‘One More Time,’ as well as ‘Love Train,’ there’s rarely a still moment on the album. And we love that.
Honorary LGBTQ album – That! Feels Good!, Jessie Ware
Disco is being revived. As well as Kylie, we also have Jessie Ware to thank in part for that. Since its release That! Feels Good! has been much celebrated and deservedly so, with the disco-tinged ‘Free Yourself’ singer winning Artist of the Year at the Rolling Stone UK Awards in November. The soul-infused album channels artists such as Kylie as well as Madonna, Diana Ross, and Prince. It sees Ware, also an LGBTQ ally, at her most confident as she recalls us all to the dancefloor in a glorious musical outing.