Openly queer artists are releasing tons of great music, now more than ever. To help you with this extremely good problem to have, them. is selecting the best songs released by rising queer artists. This month, we’ve highlighted tracks by Perfume Genius, Chris, Kehlani, Big Freedia and Kesha, Arca, Chika, Phoebe Bridgers, Kidd Kenn and CupcakKe, Yves Tumor, Princess Nokia, and Moses Sumney. Check them out below and listen along on our Spotify and Apple Music playlists.
Perfume Genius – “Describe”
Perfume Genius wrote “Describe,” the first single off his forthcoming album Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, out of a need to portray numbness. “I started writing about when you are in such a dark place that you don’t even remember what goodness is or what anything feels like,” he told DIY. “The idea was having someone describe that to you, because you forgot or can’t get to it.” The song kicks off with a wall of dense guitars — some shoegaze-y, others playing country-tinged licks. By the track’s midpoint, everything falls silent except for ambient droning, as if to let go of the heaviness that came before. If the first half of “Describe” represents a clouded mind, the second signals a switch into one that’s unburdened and calm.
Christine and the Queens – “People, I’ve been sad”
Christine and the Queens’ best songs are about defying others’ expectations. Take her bridge on “Tilted,” where she embraces the kookiness of “doing my face with magic marker,” or when she emphatically sings “I’m a man now!” over and over again on “iT.” “People, I’ve been sad,” her latest single off La vita nuova, a surprise EP released yesterday, is no exception. As she sings of her doubts, fears, and sadness, she strips away the macho hyper-confidence we saw on her last full length, 2019’s Chris. Instead, she reveals a more naked version of herself, bearing her weaknesses like a gleaming badge.
Big Freedia – “Chasing Rainbows” [ft. Kesha]
Earlier this year, Kesha enlisted Big Freedia for her single “Raising Hell.” Now, Big Freedia is returning the favor by inviting the pop singer to another bombastic party anthem. On “Chasing Rainbows,” Freedia raps about persevering through years of harassment: “Used to fight ’cause they always called me sissy,” she grows. But when the track explodes into its celebratory chorus (“I am who I am, happily”), it’s clear that the bounce legend has found full self-acceptance.
Kehlani – “Valentine’s Day (Shameful)”
On Valentine’s Day, Kehlani and her then-boyfriend (the rapper YG) released a lovey-dovey joint track called “Konclusions.” But only three days later, the two broke up and Kehlani took to the recording studio to air out her feelings. The result was “Valentine’s Day (Shameful),” a scathing track about her ex that was immediately uploaded it to Soundcloud as soon it was finished. Throughout, she alleges that her ex cheated on her, although she helped him with “addiction” issues, and used her for “status, and the fame, and recognition.” Despite the pain she carries in her voice, he frames herself as taking the high road, proving that she’s resolute in herself, her strength, and resilience.
Arca – “@@@@@”
To release her first new music since her 2017 self-titled album, Arca decided to hop on the airwaves. She premiered her 62-minute track “@@@@@” on NTS Radio, an online radio station with outposts in London and Los Angeles, under a one-off show called “Experimental Diva FM.” She says those words in a warbled, digital voice, before starting to rattle off more abstract terms, like “Diva/Constructed/Garden/Construction,” as a piece of odd spoken word poetry perhaps to indicate her desire to deconstruct these ideas. The music follows suit, as different drums and vocal textures fling into each other with no clear demarcation between when one section begins and the next ends. Not quite a radio mix, not quite a mixtape, not quite a song, and not quite an album, “@@@@@” continues Arca’s dedication to dismantling and defying form.
Chika – “Industry Games”
In her recent Teen Vogue cover story in conversation with Pyer Moss’ Kerby Jean Raymond, the Alabama rapper said that she didn’t want to be judged because of her identity. “I don’t want to even be a female rapper. I’m a rapper,” she told Raymond. With her new track “Industry Games,” she sets her sights on any rapper who might be trying to climb the industry ladder with anything other than pure talent. “Can do this shit while I’m asleep ’cause I write it/Watch out these n****s be so quick to bite it,” she raps effortlessly with lightning speed and a biting bravado, proving that it’s impossible to diminish Chika or her rap prowess.
Phoebe Bridgers – “Garden Song”
Phoebe Bridgers starts off “Garden Song,” her first solo track in three years, with a totem of the suburban American dream: “Someday I’m gonna live/In your house up on the hill.” But since she’s long established her penchant for all things spooky, it’s no surprise that this image quickly distorts into something a little darker. Over light guitar fingerpicking, Bridgers then begins singing about skinhead neighbors, a sex nightmare, and the image of something growing in their “haunted” garden. It’s this light, surreal subversion of the most enduring images of Americana that makes Bridgers’ songs so curiously alluring.
Kidd Kenn – “Shake Sum” [ft. CupcakKe]
Even though he’s only 17, Chicago rapper Kidd Kenn has already been making waves for his brazen party rap tracks. After releasing his last mixtape in 2018, he dropped another this month called Child’s Play, which contains one very excellent hidden gem. Produced by SOPHIE and Jimmy Edgar, “Shake Sum” has the potential to be the next greatest club banger, with squishy synths and hard, metallic drums providing the backbone for Kenn’s ruthless bars. To make it even better, CupcakKe joins for a guest verse, matching Kenn’s energy with her own cutthroat delivery.
Yves Tumor – “Gospel For a New Century”
Yves Tumor has a fixation on the grotesque. In his Isamaya Ffrench-directed video for “Gospel For A New Century,” the first single off his upcoming record Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves appears in full demon makeup, sinisterly holding his microphone with gnarly long nails as if he’s brandishing a knife. Looking at only the lyrics, “Gospel For A New Century” is a break-up song about a missed connection. But as you see him singing the words with a smile on his face, flanked by raucous horn lines and crashing cymbals, it almost seems like Yves is relishing it all and reveling in the misery.
Princess Nokia – “Soul Food y Adobo”
This month, Princess Nokia released not one album, but two: the more happy, soulful Everything is Beautiful and the more aggressive, rap-forward Everything Sucks. “Soul Food y Adobo” appears on the former, serving as a colorful celebration of Nuyorican food and culture. Over a jazzy keyboard line, she deploys an endless list of her favorite delicacies, from tres leches and mofongo to snowcones and Cafe Bustelo. “I adore my culture,” Princess Nokia recently told them. “I’m a Caribbean person from New York City, and the cultural aspects of growing up there as a Puerto Rican person are the coolest things in the world to me. I have to poeticize them.”
Moses Sumney – “Cut Me”
Moses Sumney’s “Cut Me,” a standout track from the first part of his double album græ, starts out with a simple bassline and a soaring blues melody. But as more and more elements join the party — a lurching piano, a pompous trumpet, a mystical synth — they start to dance around Sumney’s musings about being attracted to self-destructive behavior. “Might not be healthy for me but seemingly I need/What cuts me, cuts me, cuts me, cut me, cut me, cut me,” he coos in his heavenly falsetto. Equal parts thorny and exploratory, Sumney constructs a gorgeous ode to masochism.
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