These days, LGBTQ+ voices can proudly be heard throughout the Billboard charts. Check out our pride playlist for music from Big Freedia, Lil Nas X and Brothers Osborne.
Pride has its roots in a surprising place—a riot.
On June 28, 1969, police were called to the Stonewall Inn, a mafia-owned gay bar in New York City. Back then, raids on gay bars were commonplace, but this time something changed. The patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back. The next year, gay pride marches took place for the first time in cities across America to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Stonewall. As the movement grew, June came to represent Pride Month.
These days, LGBTQ+ voices are proudly heard throughout the Billboard charts. But it wasn’t always that way. While some genres like disco welcomed LGBTQ+ performers, others were slower to support out musicians. But in recent years, even genres like hip-hop and country—where being gay used to be a death knell for a musician’s career—are embracing LGBTQ+ superstars like Frank Ocean, Lil Nas X and Brothers Osborne.
This June, we’re highlighting the LGBTQ+ community with this playlist featuring a few of our favorite performers. From disco to country and a few surprises in between, there’s something to celebrate in each of these picks.
Brittany Howard — “Stay High”
LGBTQ+ artist Brittany Howard continues to reforge a space for soul music to flourish. “Still High” is a bright tune about getting through life's biggest hurdles to cherish the small moments.
Her story began with Alabama Shakes, the Grammy-winning roots revivalists who brought neo-soul to the southern Americana scene in 2009. Although the group is on an indefinite hiatus, Howard released her solo debut album, Jamie, and grazed the top of Billboard’s Americana/Folk charts in October 2019.
Tender, honest and beautiful, Jamie is the purest reflection of what Howard is capable of when she’s given her own canvas. Her song, “Still High,” proves how beautifully simple self-expression can be. In Howard’s interview with Song Exploder, she said, “This song feels good, and I think it’s an important time right now to make people feel good—it’s crazy out there.”
Frank Ocean — “Chanel”
Frank Ocean plays with duality in “Chanel,” a song that gives us a second look from the perspective of a hip-hop artist who doesn’t stamp a label on his sexuality.
“Moody” and “cryptic” are the best words that come to mind, but we’re just scratching the surface. Explore Frank Ocean’s entire discography, and you’ll discover a colorful range of emotions that are easy to feel but hard to put into words. Nevertheless, the opening verse of “Chanel” couldn’t be clearer.
“My guy pretty like a girl, and he got fight stories to tell.”
But this isn’t the first time he’s opened up about his sexuality. “Forrest Gump,” featured on Channel Orange, gave us an open invitation to Frank’s world—a refreshing combo of masculine and feminine energy.
Julien Baker — “Faith Healer”
There aren’t enough words to frame the beauty of Julien Baker’s music. From Forrister to Boygenius, she brings a beautiful, poetic style to every project she touches.
“Faith Healer” is featured on Julien Baker’s 2021 sophomore album, Little Oblivions. Short and sweet, the song captures what it feels like to crave a deeper experience. The album is full of other heart-wrenching stories that reveal personal traumas and triumphs.
In a Pitchfork interview, Baker shared her perspective as a queer musician and southern churchgoer. “I have this rainbow guitar strap, and I used to switch guitar straps when I played at church, and now I know I have a home there—they don’t care,” she said. “It was an internal fear of being perceived as too gay until I started wondering, ‘Why am I afraid of being too much the thing that I am?’”
“Faces” — Trevi Moran
Trevi Moran came to our attention after she made waves on The X Factor back in 2012 when she was just 13 years old. Ten years later she’s a certified YouTube star with over 1.3 million subscribers. But Trevi is more than a YouTube sensation. She’s a certified pop and EDM musician who has seen two records hit number one on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart.
Trevi came out as trans in 2020, the same year she released her aptly titled third album, Freedom.
Her single “Faces” was released in June 2021, her self-described “mental health anthem.” It’s easy to see how self-aware and autobiographical the up-tempo dance hit is, with lyrics like “Wake up in the morning and I put on different faces, promise to my momma this is not another phase.”
With bangers like this, we can’t wait to see what Trevi has coming next.
“Raising Hell” — Kesha feat. Big Freedia
“Take this as a holy validation, you don’t need to hide your celebrating.”
2016 recipient of the HRC Visibility Award, Kesha Rose Sebert is here to remind the LGBTQIA+ community (of which she’s a member) that they are beautiful and beloved. Her 2019 hit “Raising Hell” features the legend of NOLA’s bounce scene Big Freedia.
From Big Freedia’s distinct beats to Kesha’s uplifting lyrics and stellar vocal performance, “Raising Hell” is a gospel-inspired love letter to being yourself without shame—even if you don’t always make the “best” choices. Despite what others may say or think, “Only God can judge this holy mess.”
Kesha hit the music scene in 2009 with a string of hits including “Tik Tok” and “Your Love is My Drug.” She quickly rose to international fame, her quirky and fun music videos and glitter-drenched performances showcasing her unique sense of humor and style. But things took a turn for the worse when she lost a lawsuit that she’d hoped would free her from a record deal with Dr. Luke.
Thankfully, the music community rallied in support of Kesha, and she returned to release her albums Rainbows in August 2017 and High Road, featuring “Raising Hell,” in January 2020.
“THAT’S WHAT I WANT” — Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X is changing hip-hop with bold strokes, and the LGBTQIA+ community is with him every step of the way.
This energizing pop anthem is from MONTERO, his debut studio album that features Elton John, Megan Thee Stallion, Jack Harlow and Doja Cat. According to Billboard, “THAT’S WHAT I WANT” was the third Lil Nas X song to top the Pop Airplay chart in the beginning of 2022.
Lil Nas X continues to express his creativity on his own terms. At this rate, we expect that his next move will be another daring shift away from the status quo.
“Hey Girl” — Lady Gaga feat. Florence Welch
Lady Gaga is one of the strongest, most high-profile voices of the LGBTQIA+ community. On “Hey Girl” Florence Welch, lead singer of Florence and the Machine, joins her to deliver a groovy duet that brings “Benny and the Jets” to mind.
“Hey Girl” is featured on her fourth studio album Joanne, which is quite different from the style that made her a sensation. The album combines folk and pop together while offering a completely different glimpse of the pop queen.
If there’s one lesson we can learn from Lady Gaga, it’s that individuality and self-acceptance can’t be ignored, especially in a world that tends to tell us otherwise.
“Hot & Heavy” — Lucy Dacus
In a 2016 interview with NPR, Lucy Dacus “accidentally” came out as queer. One of the greatest lyricists in modern rock, she wrote about that moment in an essay for Oprah Daily's Coming Out series in July 2021. There, she talks about how she doesn’t feel like she ever really “came out” as queer—at least not with some big declaration.
“Many people assumed I was gay years before I agreed with them … friends of mine just told me I was queer,” she wrote.
That line from her Oprah Daily essay harkens to a lyric from her 2021 song “Hot & Heavy.” Originally, Dacus thought she was writing about an old friend, only to realize she was writing about herself. “You were a secret to yourself, you couldn't keep from anyone else,” she sings toward the end of the nostalgic track.
Whether or not that lyric and her statement in Oprah Daily are related is up to interpretation. What we do know is that “Hot & Heavy” is a beautiful love letter about growing into yourself, from a “sweet” kid to “a firecracker on a crowded street.”
“All My Favorite People” — Maren Morris feat. Brothers Osborne
While the LGBTQIA+ community has made waves in hip-hop, rock and pop, country music has traditionally seen less representation. And that’s not for lack of LGBTQIA+ fans of the genre—nor allies within it. Garth Brooks won a GLAAD award in 1993, The Chicks publicly took a stand against North Carolina’s HB2 and Dolly Parton said, “I think everybody should be allowed to be who they are, and to love who they love,” in a 2014 interview with Billboard.
That quote in particular brings us to Maren Morris’ “All My Favorite People,” featuring Brothers Osborne.
Country singer TJ Osborne hadn’t yet publicly come out as gay when “All My Favorite People” was released (this song was released in 2019 and he came out in 2021) but in retrospect, it’s hard to listen to the lyrics without looking for hidden meaning.
“It is what it is and we love who we love, not everybody gets what we’re going through, but all my favorite people do”
Maren Morris herself is an enormous ally for the LGBTQIA+ community, penning a love letter to her LGBTQ fans in Billboard back in 2018 and advocating at length for more diversity in country music. And when TJ came out in 2021, she was one of the first to publicly show her enthusiastic support. So while “All My Favorite People” may not explicitly be a gay country anthem, TJ and Maren have well-earned their place on this playlist.
Plus, 2022 has already been a big year for both Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne. Maren released her record Humble Quest to great reviews and chart success and Brothers Osborne closed out the GRAMMY Awards.
“You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” - Sylvester
You can’t talk about disco without talking about Sylvester. Known as the original “Queen of Disco,” Sylvester is one of the first openly gay musicians to find commercial success with a string of disco hits in the ’70s and ’80s.
Born in Watts, Los Angeles, Sylvester moved to San Francisco in 1970 when he was just 22. There, he found a home in the counterculture community and formed a few bands before finding solo success.
“You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” is from Sylvester’s second album, Step II, which was released in 1978. The album hit 8 on the Billboard R&B charts and 28 on the Billboard 200. Though it was originally meant to be a mid-tempo gospel song, “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” was reworked with a faster tempo and electronic instruments and effects. Add in Sylvester’s pristine falsetto and you have one of the pioneering disco hits.
Unfortunately, Sylvester’s life was cut short in 1988 due to complications from AIDS. Despite this tragedy, Sylvester made sure his death wasn’t in vain, willing posthumous proceeds from his songs to the HIV/AIDS charities Project Open Hand and the AIDS Emergency Fund. He was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005, the same year a biography called The Fabulous Sylvester was published about his life.