1. St. Vincent
Born Annie Clark, St. Vincent grew up in Dallas, Texas. With an angular face, dark penetrating eyes, and a low, lilting voice, St. Vincent covers a great deal of ground; she sings about her father’s incarceration, her failed romantic relationships, the frantic hum of New York City and the glitter of Los Angeles. With five studio albums under her belt, and a plethora of awards well-earned, St. Vincent is not going anywhere anytime soon. Check out her subversive frenetic pop hit “Cheerleader”, the feverish rhythm of “Pieta”, or the low intensity of “Masseduction” if you’re looking for somewhere to start.
2. Grace Mitchell
Oregon native, Grace Mitchell has a voice that burns with androgenous intensity. Her lyrics, simultaneously introspective and grungy, darkly humorous and achingly vulnerable, encompass an easy, supernatural quality. One imagines this is exactly what a siren straight out of the Pacific Northwest might reasonably sound like. Her single “Cali God” is a sulfuric rumination on Los Angeles living, while shimmering numbers like “MANGO” vividly evoke the melancholy stagnancy of dysfunctional relationships.
3. Kodie Shane
Born Kodie Shantil Marr, Kodie Shane rose to prominence as the sole female member of the “Sailing Team” a collective of rappers led by Lil Yachty. Her youthful drawl and gift for smooth lyricisms has earned her critical acclaim and devoted fans. “Invitation”, “Sad” and “Love and Drugz II” are great pieces to start with.
4. Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae is a Renaissance woman-- an artist, a poet, and a musician wrapped in one, not confined by genre or lables. In her grammy-nominated work, R&B meets science fiction, identity melds with liberation, all with irrepressible beats and her low honey-like voice. “Make Me Feel”, “Pynk ft. Grimes” and “Tightrope” are all equally electrifying and expansive all at once.
5. Rosie Tucker
Self described “nonbinary and amphibious” Rosie Tucker is one musician you don’t want to miss.Of her first album “Sucker Supreme”, released through Epitaph records, Tucker writes, “No one involved [with the record] is boring enough to say that these are sad songs that sound happy. Some of them are just sad songs that sound sad. But as with all things Tucker, nothing is so simple as to exist in a binary. Male or female, married or divorced, destruction or salvation, these are not two opposite sides of the same coin, they are all related points on the same sphere. It’s 2021! Abolish the binary. Destroy genre! Get a therapist!”
Bay-Area native Kehlani is not pulling any punches with her mature, sophisticated, and irreverent grammy-nominated body of work. Her songs cover all manner of topics, from queer heartbreak to making it in an industry that has not always been kind to queer women of color. She speaks her mind on her records, and manages to get to something at the heart of identity itself. Take a listen to “Did I”, “Nights Like This” and “Distraction” to get the ball rolling.
Born Jordan Cantor, Somme taught herself to play guitar at the age of six, and has now moved on to offering you the gritty alternative pop that you had no idea you needed in your life. No matter what stage of queer love you’re currently exploring, Somme has you covered-- from the ecstatic, anxious wonder of new love in “Long Time”, to the caustic, infectious phase of disinterest in “Broken Hearted Lovers” and “Don’t Let Me”, Somme has somehow managed to straddle the tenuous line between yearning and injured, with intoxicating results.
8. Angel Haze
Poet first, rapper second, Angel Haze is particularly notable for her lyrical savvy. From catchy hits like “Deep Sea Diver”, to the meditative longing of “Moonrise Kingdom”, to the desire and wrath of “White Lilies, White Lies”, Haze has proved over and over again that they are not to be pigeonholed. Simultaneously introspective and vulnerable, and irreverently resilient , Haze transforms impossible topics and childhood traumas into something beautiful and cathartic.
Los Angeles based, Canadian born artist Lowell is a force to be reckoned with. Her 2014 debut album “We Loved Her Dearly” simmers with nuance and gritty pop beats that excite the ears, even as her lyrics encompass the complexities of her past as a sex worker and her dedication for femminist politics. More recently, she released her second studio album “Lone Wolf'' in 2018, and her single “God is a Fascist” in 2020, but has also served as a songwriter for big names like Hailee Steinfeld, Demi Lovato, Charlie Puth, and Madison Beer.
10. Rina Sawayama
With her breakout pansexual anthem “Cherry”, Sawayama cemented her place in queer musical history. The Japanese-British singer effortlessly blends genre and exalts in the destabilization of the music industry’s status-quo. Identity is at the heart of Rina Sawayma’s pieces, from the opulent rush of “XS” to the cool beat of “Comme des Garcons”.
11. Caitlyn Scarlett
Independent UK based artist, Caitlyn Scarlett pronounced her bisexuality in her single “Possession of a Weapon” where she raps, “Been in the studio so long I've lost track of day and night/ Wish I had time to settle down and maybe find a wife/ Bet you didn't think that I would swing both ways.” From the glitter of “Ornaments” to the grunge rock of “Mary Jane”, Scarlett does not know how to disappoint.
12. The Romanovs
The Romanovs released their first studio album “On the Altar”, an ecstatic low-fi project that centers on queer heartbreak and longing, in 2020. The group does not shy away from difficult topics; their accoustic meditation “Sexual Assault in Blue” has found its way onto various playlists, simultaneosuly cathartic and haunting. Check out their supernatural single “The Vampire” or AI inspired, “Ex Machina” if you’re looking for somewhere to start.
13. Shea Diamond
Diamond penned her stunning and deeply moving EP- Seen it All, while incarcerated. Arrested after attempting to rob a convenience store to pay for her transition, she had subsequently been placed in a Men’s correctional facility, where she began crafting and polishing melodies that were as sharp as they were beautiful. Songs like “American Pie” and “I Am Her” resonate with poignance, power, and social commentary, and it helps that her voice is the kind that inspires chills. She has moved effortlessly through the soul and R&B genres, picking up countless awards even whilst she works tirelessly as a human rights activist.