In the current musical landscape we live in, it’s frankly impossible to hear every great song put out in a given year, especially if those artists don’t have the same mainstream reach as major acts. Even with endless playlisting, easy access through streaming services and social media promotion, there will always be great songs that get lost in the shuffle.
So, allow us to help you out. Below, Billboard Pride has put together a list of 25 songs put out by LGBTQ artists in 2019 that are fundamentally great but may not have been given the attention they deserve.
Alex Lahey, “I Don’t Get Invited to Parties Anymore”
Gather ’round children, for there may come a day in your life when you wake up and notice your social life isn’t what you thought it was: Your text threads with your high school friends dry up, you schedule hangouts with college friends weeks in advance only to cancel day of. The realization can move between low-grade anxiety and full-blown panic — not unlike this opening track from Alex Lahey’s The Best of Luck Club, in which guitars come crashing in and out like the Kool-Aid guy through a wall. Lahey wrote it about the real-life tolls of being a touring musician, but the fact that it can feel like she’s reading your friend circles to filth is a testament to her devastatingly precise songwriting. — NOLAN FEENEY
Ames, “Mama It’s Me”
If you’re looking a song to ugly cry to, look no further than Ames’ “Mama It’s Me.” The most emotionally-touching song off of her stunning debut EP My Name Is Ames, “Mama” sees the singer-songwriter participating in a one-sided conversation with her mother, letting her know that she has nothing to worry about, and that her daughter is safe and happy. The simple production, powerful lyrics and Ames’ haunting voice make this a must add to any and all happy-sad playlists. — STEPHEN DAW
Arthur Moon, “Homonormo”
“I think I want to settle down/ But weirder,” Lora-Faye Åshvud declares on Brooklyn avant-pop outfit Arthur Moon’s delightfully jagged single “Homonormo.” That’s the goal — both in life and in pop music, where the group’s queasy beats, woozy synths, Cheshire-cat-grinning vocals and lyrics about a simpler life outside the Big Apple explore a domesticity that remains challenging, without ever having to be externally challenged by society. “Come around our house/ We don’t lock the door.” Sounds nice. — ANDREW UNTERBERGER
Aurora, “The River”
Before she became the disembodied voice floating throughout all of Frozen 2, Aurora released one of her most definitive albums to date in 2019, A Different Kind of Human. But it’s the project’s opener, “The River,” that serves as one of the year’s best anthems that more people need to hear. Instead of singing in sweeping generalities about empowerment, Aurora narrows her focus and lets her audience know that being vulnerable is truly powerful, all while twinkling synths and a killer hook make the song an unrelenting bop. — S.D.
Cakes Da Killa, “Luv Me Nots”
The Jersey-born rapper hasn’t entirely put the chilly electro-rap of debut album Hedonism on ice, but with 2019 single “Luv Me Nots,” he’s warming up his sonic platter with some gently insistent old-school house and a soft, lilting croon as he plucks the proverbial flower and wonders “he luvs me / he luvs me not.” If the dude picks the latter, he needs to get his ears examined. — JOE LYNCH
Claud, “Wish You Were Gay”
“Wish You Were Gay” is maybe one of the most relatable songs of the year. Throughout the gorgeous, simple track, Claud (formerly Toast) pines for the attention of a straight girl, all the while constantly cutting their own hopes down with a reminder that the feelings can’t be reciprocated. It’s a feeling we can all relate to, and one that Claud puts effortlessly into song — S.D.
Cub Sport feat. Darren Hayes, “I Never Cried So Much in My Whole Life”
Don’t let the title of this track fool you — Cub Sport’s first single following their self-titled album is a song of pure bliss, as frontman Tim Nelson and Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes reflect on a love so pure that they can’t help but cry over it. The band’s signature low-key production only adds to the unbridled euphoria of this incredibly uplifting track. — S.D.
Dizzy Fae, “Company”
Dizzy Fae has never been shy about experimenting with her sound, and on this superb cut off her mixtape NO GMO, the star takes club music head on with a sturdy baseline and a skittering melody. But, in true Dizzy fashion, the track also blends in her ethereal vocals and some entrancing production to blur the lines between genres, making “Company” truly one of a kind. — S.D.
Dorian Electra, “Flamboyant”
While the word “flamboyant” has a history of being used to speak down to queer people around the globe, rising pop star Dorian Electra decided to reexamine what it actually means to be “Flamboyant” on this wide-ranging track. The song’s slamming synths, hard-hitting bass and exuberant use of Auto-Tune all help paint a portrait of extravagance that Electra thrives in. — S.D.
Gia Woods, “New Girlfriend”
“I met your new girlfriend, she’s cool,” pop singer-songwriter Gia Woods declares on her post-breakup bop, before ultimately coming to the realization: “I like your new girlfriend more than you.” The single’s breezy electro-pop strut matches the gentle playfulness and inside-joke confidence of the lyrics, sounding like the kind of single Ariana Grande might release if she was feeling in the mood to “Thank U, Next” the entire male gender. — A.U.
Girli, “Deal With It”
If you find yourself yearning for the early-2010s sound of acts like Icona Pop or Charli XCX, take a look at English singer Girli’s “Deal With It.” Complete with a catchy hook, some fuzzy guitar riffs and a message of self-assurance that can’t be ignored, the star’s opener to her masterful Odd One Out album will have you up and dancing in no time. — S.D.
Kodie Shane, “2 Many”
There’s something inherently empowering hearing Kodie Shane brag about how many girls she’s able to take to the club when she’s driving a Porsche. Mustering up all of the bravado usually reserved for straight male rappers, the star takes the concept of a flex and reconfigures it through a queer lens on “2 Many,” as she spits bars about not being tied down by any one woman. — S.D.
Maddie Ross, “Liv Tyler”
Maddie Ross’ debut album, Never Have I Ever, nailed the sounds of early-2000s pop-punk bands and the tropes of the classic teen movies they soundtracked. But the LP and its standout single, “Liv Tyler,” also captured a particular kind of longing familiar to young queer people — that intense cocktail of desire, loneliness, fluctuating self-esteem and grand visions of adulthood that don’t quite line up with the realities of your present. “How could a girl like me/ become the beauty queen? I’m stuck inside this body,” Ross laments before ooh-oohing her way to one flawless coda: “My parents were right, MTV ruined my life.” Yet in 2019, “Liv Tyler” only made our lives better. — N.F.
Michael Medrano, “Fluids”
Society may be behind the times on embracing the importance of sexual fluidity, but that certainly didn’t stop rising pop singer Michael Medrano from penning this irresistible earworm about experimenting with your own sexuality. From its funk-driven sound to its message of embracing the mercurial, “Fluids” proves to be a lot like the lava lamp liquid emblazoned on its artwork — S.D.
Mila Jam, “Masquerade”
On first listen, “Masquerade” sounds like a particularly catchy kiss-off to an ex. But Mila Jam is singing about much more than a relationship gone wrong. Take another listen and you’ll hear a protest song for the transgender community, as Jam lets those who would stand in her way know that she’s not the one wearing the mask — they are. Add in the singer’s moving music video, in which she literally paints out the message “Stop Killing Us,” and you get a new anthem for trans people everywhere. — S.D.
Miya Folick, “Malibu Barbie”
Just before her adorable coming out alongside girlfriend K.Flay, Miya Folick took a moment to examine the concept of femininity itself. On “Malibu Barbie,” the singer establishes a standard set for women and then examines what happens when you finally achieve that standard — as she so eloquently states at the song’s close, “Oh no, I’m still a human being.” Knocking down gender constructs with a tongue-in-cheek anthem about plastic dolls? We stan. — S.D.
Orville Peck, “Turn to Hate”
For all of the ridiculousness and theatricality surrounding his public image, Orville Peck sure knows how to cut you to your core with a couple of meaningful lyrics. The most devastating of his Pony songs, “Turn to Hate,” sees the new country talent struggling with existing on the fringes (pun very much intended) of society, forcing himself to stay calm in the face of justified anger. The music adds a new flavor to Peck’s smooth-as-butter sonic landscape, as the chorus delves into a rock-country sound, almost as if The Cure met up with Roger Miller for a jam session. — S.D.
Perfume Genius, “Pop Song”
Mike Hadreas’ on-stage persona has become synonymous with pushing boundaries as a queer artist. With his latest live dance performance art piece, The Sun Still Burns Here, the star known as Perfume Genius has once again reinvented himself for an audience eager to hear what he has to say. “Pop Song,” one of the two tracks to be released from the still-touring project, is a shining example of that experimentation. Despite its name suggesting a mold it may fit into, the glitchy track lives in its own indefinite space, not limited to the sphere of pop, only further establishing Hadreas’ musical evolution. — S.D.
Sakima, “God Fearing Men”
While Sakima has become known as a purveyor of queer sexual expression through his songs, “God Fearing Men” off of his EP Project Peach takes a slightly different approach — while still featuring some of his signature sex-focused lyrics, the track delves more heavily into the star’s emotional affection toward someone who doesn’t appear to have anything but carnal attraction for him. The R&B-tinged track sees Sakima broadening his sound and subject matter with stellar results. — S.D.
Siena Liggins, “Laws of Attraction”
Warning: do not try it with Siena Liggins, because she will write a song about you. On her highly danceable single, the up-and-coming pop star lays it all out for her lover; you get what you give, and if you’re not willing to give, then you’re getting nothing. The darker lyrics come with a darker sound, too, as Liggins’ backing production adds in a layer of sinister sexuality, giving the star a whole new playground to mess around in. — S.D.
Sir Babygirl, “Flirting with Her”
Cooing and quavering over a garage-flavored Britpop riff as “Flirting With Her” builds momentum, Sir Babygirl is all explosive exuberance on the second half of the song, where she sing-stammers “she left her name on my lips” with all the obsessive, pent-up energy of a person trying to convince their friends they’ve just met The One (or at least The One for Now). But it’s not all wildly careening toward love/lust: while Babygirl’s delivery is committed to selling the emotion, there’s a knowing wink in at the end when she mimics the noise of a cell phone alerting her she’s received that oh-so-romantic text message: “hey.” — J.L.
Solomon Ray & Mancandy, “Llama a Tu Novio”
While it may only be their second time officially teaming up on a song, Solomon Ray and Mancandy sound like they’re a match made in heaven with “Llama a Tu Novio.” Working in their smooth-as-silk reggaeton production, the pair make one fact clear to their respective lovers — if you don’t call your boyfriend and end things right now, then they will. — S.D.
Tegan and Sara, “I Know I’m Not the Only One”
Don’t worry about the borrowed title refrain, Sam Smith — like the rest of their Hey, I’m Just Like You album, veteran indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara wrote this song as teen twins growing up in late-’90s Canada. Their “Not the Only One” is more about insecurity than betrayal anyway, with a pop-rock guitar rush that feels like a surge of teenage emotions that never totally went away. “I wonder if someday, we’ll just be a memory,” the song asks, answering its own question in the process. — A.U.
The Japanese House, “We Talk All the Time”
Training her sharp-yet-tired eye on that period in a waning relationship where you are past physical attraction but still codependent, there’s a beautiful, sad candor in Amber Bain’s voice as she muses, “We don’t f–k anymore / But we talk all the time so it’s fine / Can somebody tell me what I want?” The production mirrors the lyrics, with those lonely, empty spaces between the notes resonating as much as the quietly pulsating synths. — J.L.
Vardaan Arora, “Thirty Under Thirty”
Being insecure in your late twenties may not sound like a fascinating concept for a song, at least until you hear the anxiety in Vardaan Arora’s voice on “Thirty Under Thirty.” The brooding track perfectly portrays what it means to see everyone around you succeeding while you feel stuck in place, all as Arora perfectly nails his signature bedroom synth-pop sound. — S.D.