It’s that time once again. To save you from your end-of-summer blues, we’re proud to present the second edition of Queer Necessities, a new monthly LGBTQ-driven playlist from Billboard Pride where we catch you up on the latest and greatest bops by queer musicians and fierce allies. Each month’s selections will be curated by NYC-based DJ and tastemaker Jon ALi, who is the founder of pop music entertainment destination Jon ALi’s Blog.
Enjoy this new serving of pop gems, and don’t forget to follow the Spotify playlist to keep up-to-date on each month’s offering. Have a most #blessed September!
1. Oliver, “Chemicals” (feat. MNDR)
Los Angeles-based production duo Oliver puts the funk in future-funk in this slick, dance team-up with New York-bred techno-pop duo MNDR, a clear standout off of its long-awaited debut album Full Circle, which also features not-to-be-missed appearances from Sam Sparro, Leon Else and Chromeo.
2. Le Youth, “Clap Your Hands” (feat. Ava Max)
Le Youth‘s latest, “Clap Your Hands,” features an irresistible topline from newbie Ava Max, as well as the L.A.-based producer’s signature ’90s-influenced sound. It’s a cool, summery burst of energy that marries groovy basslines with heartfelt melodies, sparkling synth accents and, yes, handclaps galore.
4. Gia, “What I Like”
Rising pop singer-songstress Gia, who came out through her “Only A Girl” music video in 2015, continues to impress with the almighty “What I Like.” True to its name, it’s a tropical-tinged explosion of self-embrace in song form. The voice. The chorus. Yeah, it’s a banger. I like, indeed!
4. Carlie Hanson, “Why Did You Lie?”
Carlie is a Wisconsin native who’s just recently launched her music career. The 17-year-old is currently unsigned, but judging by this debut (co-penned by buzzy songwriter Leland), she may not be for much longer. It’s an instantly catchy, power-pop production. Keep your eyes on Carlie!
5. Wingtip, “Cross Your Mind” (feat. morgxn)
Casablanca Records signee Wingtip highlights a miss connection with the help of morgxn on the Lauv co-penned “Cross Your Mind,” an essential crying-at-the-discotheque anthem that makes you feels like the perfect transitional fall tune.
6. Neon Trees, “Feel Good”
Three years after Pop Psychology, Neon Trees make their grand return with an infectious new dance throb called “Feel Good.” Despite the song’s upbeat tempo and feel-good lyrics, it was actually inspired by frontman Tyler Glenn’s heartbreak and depression. It’s therapeutic musical medicine in its purest form that picks up right where they left off.
7. Aly & AJ, “Take Me”
The Aly & AJ comeback is in full swing with “Take Me,” a blissful, ’80s-tinged rush of the “Potential Breakup Song” hitmakers’ signature swooning that is equal parts shimmer and sass, as the girls confidently demand our full undivided attention.
8. BAUM, “Hot Water”
“Hot Water,” the new single from L.A.-based indie-pop darling BAUM, is a liberating anthem that explores the excitement and uncertainty of beginning to discover your sexuality complimented by ’80s-like fuzz rock rhythms and earworm melodies, conjuring subtle traces of MUNA, Carly Rae Jepsen and Haim. Stellar forward-thinking production enhanced with even more impressive lyricism.
9. Astrid S, “Think Before I Talk”
“Think Before I Talk,” the latest single from Astrid S — written by Grammy-nominated songwriter Andrew Cedar (Lupe Fiasco, Jason Derulo, Charlie Puth) — feels just as fresh as everything we’ve heard from this rising Norwegian pop sensation. Astrid has a moment of vulnerability, reflecting on things said in the heat of an argument (and the ensuing regret) across an array of summery acoustics and high-octane pop beats. It’s a relatable gem that hits closer to home than I’d like to admit.
10. Bonnie McKee, “Thorns”
Bonnie McKee, Songwriting Queen to the Stars, kicks off a new chapter and strays far away from her giddy, glittery pop roots and delivers a slow-building, super chilly electro-pop banga. “That’s what you get when you pick a rose,” Bonnie repeats throughout. Don’t say she didn’t warn you!
11. Kelela, “LMK”
After dropping her 2013 debut mixtape Cut 4 Me and her breakout EP Hallucinogen, Kelela is finally ready to begin anew, with “LMK,” our very first taste of what’s to come from her long-awaited full-length album Take Me Apart. The smooth slow-burner is pure turn-of-the-century R&B nostalgia at its very best.
12. Vardaan Arora, “Like a Polaroid”
Openly queer, New Delhi-born singer-songwriter-actor Vardaan Arora’s brand new dance-pop tune, “Like a Polaroid,” is dark and glitchy and probably the sexiest thing that he’s ever done. It carries shades of early Kesha with some Kelly Osbourne “One Word” thrown into the mix, and also evokes a kind of moody, industrial, fuck-the-pain-away melancholy, before exploding into a pulsating house track in the post-chorus drop, a shift which injects the song with a very different kind of steamy energy. Get familiar!
13. Guard, “Cables”
Melbourne-bred newcomer Guard supplies slinky-pop greatness wrapped in airy hi-hats and infectious Kiiara-like stuttering production on his newest output, “Cables.” An essential millennial dating anthem, perfectly suited for users of Tinder, Grindr, Scruff — whatever app you’re using these days — everywhere.
14. QUIÑ, “Sticky Situation”
QUIÑ links up with The Internet’s Syd for a warm, inviting fusion of R&B and experimental soul on the Kry$shun-produced “Sticky Situation,” a sensual late-night banger and the perfect soundtrack to your end-of-summer romance.
15. Kwaye, “Sweetest Life”
“Sweetest Life,” the latest cut from the immensely talented musician and dancer Kwaye, is a fantastic fusion of pop and R&B tailor-made for global takeover. With its joyous handclaps, organic production and bombastic earworm of a chorus, “Sweetest Life” shows that not only does Kwaye have a stellar soulful voice, but that he’s able to deliver a more accessible production while still staying true to his future-soul aesthetic. ‘One-to-watch’ would be an understatement.
16. Frank Ocean, “Provider”
Premiered during the seventh episode of his Beats 1 Radio show BlondedRADIO, Frank Ocean makes a welcome return to form with the soulful “Provider,” a mellow and airy ballad aided by sparse drum rolls as he delivers slick rhymes about his evenings on the loose.
17. SATICA, “Honey Whiskey”
SATICA, a rising talent on the West Coast, unveils another slice of velvety smooth R&B perfectly suited for your September evenings with the fittingly titled “Honey Whiskey,” produced by label mate AOBeats. It’s a chilled-out number about living vicariously through a friend who’s had an unexpected affair while on vacation, or as she puts it: “the electricity of undeniable attraction and reckless euphoria.” Sold? Me too.
18. Fifth Harmony, “He Like That”
“He Like That,” a clear standout and the official second single from the group’s self-titled album, is an irresistible expression of girl-gang sexual empowerment that picks up right where 7/27 left off with its dancehall-tinged, urban-pop production. And if that wasn’t enough, its accompanying music video is easily the hottest and sweatiest we’ve seen Fifth Harmony yet.
19. Loreen, “Jungle” (feat. Elliphant)
Since her Eurovision smash “Euphoria,” Loreen has reliably served us with powerhouse vocals, heartfelt emotion and high-drama anthems. On her just-released Body EP highlight “Jungle” with Elliphant, the Scandinavian queen ditches her euphoric, soaring builds and dramatic electro-pop roots for a super infectious, island-tinged midtempo banga, which feels like an ode to Rihanna — a compliment, not shade! It’s easily the most mainstream sound we’ve heard from her yet.
Jon ALi is a NYC-based DJ and founder of pop music entertainment destination Jon ALi’s Blog, which celebrates its 11-year anniversary this year. He spends his weekends spinning tunes at gay spots in Manhattan.