"We are creating a safe space in the music industry and pop culture as a whole for people to identify and find comfort,” says genre-chameleonic artist Phem.
As we ease into rainier days and, leaves slowly change hues for fall and we swap Songs for the Summer mixes with autumnal jams, it's essential to remember that queer artists exist year-round.
After all, LGBT artists don’t just make, perform and release music during Pride Month. LGBTQ artists are constantly pushing boundaries, not only in their music but in forging a space for queer audiences to find representation and community in the mainstream.
“Supporting queer artists is extremely important because we are creating a safe space in the music industry and pop culture as a whole for people to identify and find comfort,” says genre-chameleonic artist Phem.
“We naturally don’t fit in any one box, and the industry has defined categories that you must fall under in order to be accepted in the mainstream," notes Atlanta rapper Kodie Shane. "Just like with genres, it seems like it’s taboo to be considered undefined or queer. Support is always needed to change the status quo.”
The British R&B futurist Leo Kalyan adds that there’s an untapped potential to be explored in music made by LGBTQ people. “We’re as talented as our straight counterparts, and, in many cases, we’re creatively ahead of the game,” Kalyan says. “Our stories tend to be complex, and I think that makes our art more compelling.”
To celebrate our queer family going into autumn, here are 10 of our favorite emerging queer artists to spice up your playlist, plus the songs they have on rotation this autumn.
Bang Bang Romeo
The raconteurs behind the Sheffield-based Bang Bang Romeo make grand, scintillating bar-rock that could open up the heavens based off the magnitude of Anastasia “Stars” Walker’s powerful voice alone. Expect an sci-fi rock opus with their debut album, A Heartbreaker’s Guide to the Galaxy, due next year. It's distinctly grounded in the universal, though, like a song that they describe as a queer, “Romeo and Romeo” love story written following the devastating losses of the Pulse nightclub shootings.
Check out: "Chemical," "Shame On Me"
What they're listening to: Post Malone’s ‘Stay,” which, they add, is “helping to lay the festival blues to rest.”
With opening slots for Clean Bandit and Sevdaliza, Malaysian indie popper Alextbh lovingly crafts bedroom R&B-pop with just the slightest edge of gentle melancholy. More than making dizzying, sometimes danceable jams, Alextbh’s endgame, he tells Billboard, is to provide “a gateway that highlights what’s happening in Malaysia,” where, still, acts of “gross indecency” — gay sex — between two men is illegal.
Check out: "Still Mine," "Like That"
What they're listening to: Charli XCX's "Girls Night Out" (“Makes me wanna pop a Möet knowing I can only afford Jacob’s Creek,” he says.)
From busking around Leeds to gaining YouTube fame with gently-spun covers of Paramore, Cyndi Lauper, No Doubt, and countless other acts across the radio dial, Hannah Trigwell has the uncanny ability to strum heartstrings with her gentle acoustic pop. Trigwell’s debut album of original compositions, titled RED, should feel right at home for autumnal strolls right as the leaves turn, well, red.
Check out: “Nobody,” “Everything Will Be Okay”
What they're listening to: Easy Life's “Frank"
With a Cinderella story that begins somewhere at a McDonald’s in Wisconsin and ends with ringing endorsements from Taylor Swift and future tour mate Troye Sivan, Carlie Hanson has amassed over 40 million streams on Spotify off the strength of her debut single “Only One.” The young, unsigned talent, already, is making moves toward eventual pop domination, moving to L.A. and embarking on tours with Sivan and Jeremy Zucker.
Check out: “Only One,” “Mood”
What they're listening to: Khalid's "Better"
The queer, black origins of house music have been sanded off in the hourglass of time. Let Kiddy Smile — with his celebratory, and sometimes crass (“Dickmatized,” “One Trick Pony,” as in, “I’m more than just a…”) take on house — bring you back to the genre's roots as a safe haven for black queer kids.
Check out: “Be Honest,” “Dickmatized”
What they're listening to: Years & Years' "If You’re Over Me"
Leland’s made a name for himself as an in-demand songwriter, counting Troye Sivan, Selena Gomez, and, most recently, Carrie Underwood, among his clientele. Stepping out of the shadows this year, his bombastic, nostalgia-laced take on pop is tailor-made for Top 40 success. “It’s important to support queer artists because the only way for us to turn on the radio and hear music that we identify with is to support the artists that are telling our stories,” he tells Billboard.
Check out: “Mattress,” “Run Into You”
What they're listening to: Broods' "Peach"
Jaimie Wilson rendered New York Fashion Week in awe earlier this year with “Everything Is New,” a hopeful duet to renewal and a brighter future that seamlessly weaves his voice pre- and post-transition. But, even before that groundbreaking self-duet, the Michigan-based country singer’s down-home songcraft gained recognition from Lil Wayne and Ruby Rose — the latter of whom served as an early inspiration. “Every one of my songs begins by being written on paper and strummed on my guitar, and I’d like to keep it that way,” he tells Billboard.
Check out: “Life is a Journey,” “Everything is New”
What they're listening to: DJ Khaled's "No Brainer"
The London-raised, Lahore-born musician Leo Kalyan makes delicate, vulnerable dream pop grounded in the realities of being an out, gay Muslim man in the U.K. His musical stylings, as he tells it, fuses artful R&B and forward-thinking pop into something “cinematic, ambient and dream-like.”
Check out: “Fucked Up,” “Silhouette”
What they're listening to: Mariah Carey's "GTFO"
There’s an unfiltered, amorphous charm to L.A. indie artist Phem, who describes her post-genre sound aptly as “no fux given.” Her stream-of-consciousness compositions have garnered her a legion of endorsements from left-of-center musicians. She’s mentored by L.A. jazztronic wizard Flying Lotus, written for Hayley Kiyoko and G-Eazy and, this fall, she’s set to open for rising rapper Lil Xan.
Check out: “Blinders,” “Dont Giv Up On Me Yet”
What they're listening to: Deb Never's "Mr. Nobody"
Kodie Shane doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a rapper; she knows her way around a poppy hook, and as she tells Billboard, “Most of my music is actually way closer to R&B.” That versatility is key to the 19-year-old Atlanta rapper’s draw. With the release of her debut album later this year, she may finally emerge as the next breakout star of Lil Yachty’s Sailing Team crew.
Check out: "Sing to Her," "Sad (feat. Lil Yachty)"
What they're listening to: Young Thug's "On the Run"