10 New LGBTQ Artists We Fell In Love With in 2018
Hayley Kiyoko predicted the future with her hashtag-turned-mantra #20gayteen. Queer and trans musicians, of the superstar, chart-topping variety, the intimate, lo-fi sort and everyone in between, have come out in full force -- crafting art that is ambitious, critically-acclaimed, and most importantly, unabashed in showing and celebrating their LGBTQ identities.
It’s opened up the floodgates for new LGBTQ artists to emerge, to be bold, to be vulnerable, and to broaden the possibilities of a future in which their music is acclaimed and respected not in spite of their identity, but because of it.
At Billboard Pride, we’ve spent a lot of time with our ears close to the ground -- and this year has proven itself to be filled with a wealth with queer musical acts who are poised for brighter futures ahead. Some of these artists have been toiling and waiting in the wings for their moment to strike out into the spotlight; others hit the ground running immediately with a pitch-perfect single, a viral performance, or a beguiling narrative that preempted their musical career.
But no matter their origin stories, these ten LGBTQ artists are pushing the music industry forward, one song at a time.
King Princess’ coronation in 2018 was nothing short of a miracle. Her breakthrough single, the bluesy love ballad “1950,” earned her co-signs from Harry Styles and Halsey, and worked its way up to the top 20 of Billboard's Alternative Songs chart. She’s parlayed that acclaim into an EP, Make My Bed, that hones in on the promise of her early singles and struck a chord with critics and audiences alike. A full-length LP is in the works, too, led by the brazenly funky “Pussy is God.”
Check out: “1950,” “Pussy is God”
Rina Sawayama already earned a reputation as a savvy pop architect, making music that embraces the laboratory-made perfection of ‘90s pop sounds while making profound insights into the modern technological condition. Then, this year, the London-born artist became something of a queer hero in the making when she dropped “Cherry,” a warm, delightful pop song about crushing hard on another woman -- an anthem that doubled as a coming out and coming to terms with her own pansexuality.
Check out: “Cherry,” “Valentine”
The young Baltimore indie rocker Lindsey Jordan — who makes music under the delightfully quaint name Snail Mail — has a career that’s running on hyper speed. Her debut album, the aptly-titled Lush, debuted in June, less than a year after graduating from high school. And, since then, she’s showcased her virtuosic skills as both a guitarist and a singer-songwriter, touring extensively through North America and Europe through much of 2018.
Check out: “Heat Wave,” “Let’s Find an Out”
Shea Diamond’s stunning tale of rags to riches -- serving a decade in a men’s correctional facility as a trans woman, only for a live performance at a Trans Lives Matter rally to draw the attention of songwriter-to-the-stars Justin Tranter -- is paralleled by her voice, a booming, emotional instrument that can tower triumphantly over the blues (“American Pie”) and hold its own with Daptones-style funk (“Keisha Complexion”).
Check out: “American Pie,” “Keisha Complexion”
Vincint astounded a nationwide audience on the Fox reality competition The Four with his rousing rendition on Radiohead’s “Creep,” which magnified the intensity of the original with his searing vocal performance. But he's one hell of a pop showman, too, as evidenced by his first, post-The Four single, the buoyant, tropical pop number “Remember Me.”
Check out: “Remember Me,” “Mine"
The Detroit-based R&B crooner Siena Liggins only has three singles to her name so far, but she’s already made an indelible impression. She’s preternaturally confident, lucid and explicit in defining her sexual and emotional desires (“Everytime I see you naked, I want a collaboration,” she sings on “Naked,” for example), and can take her honeyed voice from coy to seductive at a moment’s notice.
Check out: “Flowerbomb,” “Naked”
Trans model and songwriter Jaimie Wilson went viral when a Facebook photo showing his post-transition body he shared last year reached the likes of Ruby Rose and Lil Wayne. This year, he spun that visibility into an emerging musical career, debuting his Kickstarter-funded EP Life is A Journey and his groundbreaking single “Everything is New” -- an astonishing duet between his pre- and post-transition voices that debuted on the catwalk at the Marco Marco show earlier this year.
Check out: “Everything is New,” “Life is a Journey”
Blair St. Clair
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 10 contestant Blair St. Clair emerged from her ninth-place elimination on the show with a victory that no other queen has achieved before her, a chart-topping debut album, Call My Life, on the Billboard Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Rightfully so: The young queen makes catchy, easy-to-love dance-pop. Leave it to her to put it best: it’s "Irresistible.”
Check out: “Irresistible,” “Call My Life”
Once a part of Lil Yachty’s hip-hop collective Sailing Team, the 19-year-old Atlanta rapper Kodie Shane jumped ship and has since then, forged a veritable path on her own. It’s especially impressive, given that she’s been signed to Epic since the age of 16. With an undeniable penchant for catchy, melodic hip-hop, the self-proclaimed “young heartthrob” is all grown up and ready to release a new album -- titled Young HeartThrob.
Check out: "Sing to Her," "High Speeds"
Carlie Hanson is on a roll. After a co-sign from Taylor Swift and an opening slot on Troye Sivan's tour, the pop singer continued her hot streak of forward-thinking, genre-melding pop music that captures what it’s like to be young, disaffected, and melancholy.
Check out: "Toxins," "Us"