“Queer folks are engaging in radical acts every day when we love, when we demand rights, when we present ourselves the way we want to, when we speak out against hate, and when we make art that tells our stories,” says R&B singer Michael Blume.
It’s important to celebrate talent from LGBTQ community year-round (which, shameless plug, we do on our @BillboardPride socials), but June is a special time to let your rainbow flags fly high. And while Pride Month gives us a chance to reflect on the queer heroes of our past, it’s also a time to discover new trailblazers.
“As a trans, bisexual person of colour, Pride hasn't always felt like an inclusive space for me, so I have complicated feelings about the month,” explains Vivek Shraya, one half of sibling duo Too Attached. “That said, I believe it can be an important time to reflect on our incredible histories of resistance, to remember the true origins of Pride.”
Reggaeton artist Solomon Ray says that Pride Month is a time to focus on the things we need to fight for: “Inclusion isn’t overnight. With the administration we have now in control of our country, it’s more important now than ever.”
“Queer folks are engaging in radical acts every day when we love, when we demand rights, when we present ourselves the way we want to, when we speak out against hate, and when we make art that tells our stories,” adds progressive R&B singer Michael Blume.
Check out 12 of our favorite up-and-coming LGBTQ acts, along with an accompanying playlist, below.
Dizzy Fae’s debut project Free Form is a wonderland of experimental R&B with bonkers production and pop sensibility. “What I loved about labeling my first project as a ‘mixtape’ is that it created room for me to grow any direction,” she explains. “Whichever way that is, you know it’s ya girl, Diz.”
Sounds like: If you put Lily Allen, Azealia Banks and Frank Ocean in a blender, you might get something close to Dizzy Fae.
Check out: “Booty 3000,” “Baby Pillz”
India-born Vardaan Arora has a knack for taking heavy subject matters (anxiety, depression) and juxtaposing them with sunny, tropical beats. “To me, music is an opportunity to take the power away from your fears and struggles,” the singer tells Billboard. “Taking what hurts the most and turning it into something that can uplift you -- there's beauty in that.”
Sounds like: The male counterpart of Dua Lipa and Alma.
Check out: “What If,” “Feel Good Song”
Songwriting juggernaut Justin Tranter serendipitously discovered Shea Diamond when he saw a YouTube clip of her singing an original song at a #TransLivesMatter event. The soul singer is an open book -- and given her ten year stint in men’s prison, she’s got a story to tell.
Sounds like: “If Tina Turner had a meeting with Nina Simone and James Brown, I’d be somewhere in the kitchen,” Diamond explains.
Check out: “I Am Her,” “Keisha Complexion”
With over 20 million views to date on her self-directed music videos, it’s safe to label Zolita a viral sensation. Between her unabashedly queer visuals and her empowering brand of feminism, it’s easy to see why this queer starlet is catching buzz.
Sounds like: Witchy, R&B-inspired pop a la Banks, Kelala and Tove Lo.
Check Out: “New You,” “Like Heaven”
Indie-pop sister duo REYNA grew up in a religious Mexican-American household. Comprised of sisters Victoriah and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos, the former -- who is openly gay -- describes her first Pride as an awakening: “I found people that were going through the same struggles I was and I became more comfortable with myself.”
Sounds like: This duo wouldn’t sound out of place on a playlist with Tegan and Sara, Carly Rae Jepsen and CHVRCHES.
Check out: “Spill Your Colors,” “Baby Forget It”
Orlando-based pop singer Bronze Avery realized how important Pride celebrations were when his hometown felt the devastation of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre: “It's surreal to see an entire community rally together. It's important to instill this culture of love and acceptance down to future generations so that Pride can continue to be a safe haven for us.”
Sounds like: Avery says he pulls inspiration from genre-benders like Charli XCX and Gwen Stefani
Check Out: “Leave Together,” “Secrets”
As a songwriter, Jesse Saint John has collaborated with the likes of Britney Spears, Camila Cabella, Sia and Charli XCX -- but he’s ready to step into the spotlight with his hooky, weird -- yet totally relatable -- brand of pop.
Sounds like: Saint John describes his sound as “if Passion Pit and Britney had a gay baby.”
Check Out: “Fake It,” “Move”
Lauren Sanderson is the definition of DIY. Last year, she saw her self-released EP Spaces top the iTunes R&B albums chart without traditional promotion and she independently routed and booked an 18-city tour. The Indiana-native is known for penning handwritten letters to her 200K+ social media followers.
Sounds like: “I don’t know about what genre or comparable mainstream artists,” Sanderson says. “But my biggest musical inspiration right now is Snoop Dogg.”
Check out: “Alotta Me,” “Written In The Stars”
NYC-based indie artist Michael Blume blends gospel, hip-hop and electronica, but it’s the message behind his music that truly sets him apart. Through his tracks, Blume explores themes like identity, self-expression, queerness and social justice.
Sounds like: “Some of my songs sound like hard hitting trap hip-hop where I try to get my Nicki Minaj on; others are full-on four-chord pop songs where I'm doing more of an Elton John thing,” Blume explains. “And others are soft falsetto ballads a la James Blake.”
Check out: "R U Mad,” “Lifting You”
Solomon Ray’s sexy single “Así Así” explores a more passionate side, but he swears he’s a romantic: “I’ve always written songs about love and heartbreak,” says the reggaeton singer.
Sounds like: Ray sounds similar to Sebastian Yatra and CNCO -- and he’s just as suave.
Check Out: “El Otro,” “Así Así”
Comprised of trans multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya and her brother, producer Shamik Bilgi, Too Attached count fellow sibling-band Tegan & Sara as pals. Shraya lists Beyoncé, M.I.A. and Timbaland among the artists that inspires the pair.
Sounds like: “Our sound is a mix of pop and politics,” Shraya says.
Check Out: “Veins,” “I’m Afraid of Men (Remix)”
“I’m a folk singer that adores pop music,” explains Lucy LaForge, who performs under her stage moniker Lucy & La Mer. “I prefer to write songs on acoustic instruments before adding in all the fun pop sounds.” The L.A.-based indie artist has a talent for creating charming, sunny jams that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Apple commercial.
Sounds like: Influences for their upcoming record include Fitz and The Tantrums, Kesha and Grouplove.
Check out: “Rebel Babe,” “Just Friends”