You’ve listened to Elton John, you love Sia, and you know every word to Freddie Mercury’s discography.
But, in the last few years, the gay music scene has started to blow up around the world, changing perspectives and breaking the rules while getting everyone dancing.
Here are the eight ground-breaking, out and proud artists who are changing the face of music from San Francisco to Lebanon:
1. Double Duchess
DavO & Krylon Superstar are the ultra-creative artists behind Double Duchess, a San Francisco-based act pumping out ‘high-energy queer electro-hop’.
The duo started making music in 2010, ‘inspired by their love for boys, being sassy, and the queer community in their new city of San Francisco.’
They lit up the national queer music scene with the debut EP ‘Hey Girl!’ – vogueing, high fashion and higher heels play a big part, all interspersed with a gritty, lo-fi edge that feels very ’90s.
2. Nakhane Touré
Nakhane is an openly gay South African artist offering up stunning, melodic tunes alongside more poppy, sunny tracks.
A young, black Christian singing about sexuality, Touré is unquestionably brave, and his debut album was aptly named ‘Brave Confusion’.
Since then, he has won a host of awards for what has been described as a complex, disarming sound.
He told Queerty in 2014: ‘My work is an extension of who I am. No censorship allowed. So basically that means my entire being, whether it’s flattering or not — and most of the time it is not — is put into my work. My sexuality is a facet of who I am, so naturally it plays a part.’
3. Mykki Blanco
Michael Quattlebaum Jr. is the American rapper, performance artist and poet everyone should know – better known by his on-stage persona Mykki Blanco.
He identifies as gay and trans or multigendered, and recently revealed to fans he is HIV positive.
While part of a wave of gay rappers to gain mainstream traction in recent years, the controversial artist has expressed frustration with the label ‘gap rapper’.
‘It annoys me less that it’s confining’, he told Entertainment Weekly in 2014. ‘It annoys me because it’s stupid. With the music I’m making right now, if you don’t even want to call me a rapper, that’s okay.’
4. Troye Sivan
Troye Sivan is a South African-born, Australian actor and singer. He played a young Wolverine in the X-Men movie series but later gained fame with his regular YouTube video blogs, through which he has amassed over three million followers.
More recently, the multi-talented 20-year-old climbed the Australian charts with his dark, moody yet catchy pop tunes like ‘Happy Little Pill’. He came out as gay to his followers in a 2013 vlog.
Khalif Diouf, known by his stage name Le1f, is the New York-born rapper who broke through with his super-camp video ‘Wut’ (you might notice how similar it is to Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ – Le1f has argued about this on Twitter).
Since then, though, the talented wordsmith and ultra-fast rapper has released two EPs and three mixtapes, nodding to sexuality and identity issues with lines like ‘Ask a gay question, here’s a black answer’ or ‘I am whatever you say I am / Stop worrying about how gay I am / Or how gay I’m not / Does my shit not knock?’.
Cocorosie is the stage name of American-born, Paris-based sisters Bianca ‘Coco’ and Sierra ‘Rosie’ Casady. Since 2004 the ‘freak-folk’ duo have released five full-length albums, becoming known for their experimental, ethereal indie tracks which incorporate everything from opera to harp to beatbox.
Bianca frequently performs in elaborate, costume-esque drag, and has identified as queer.
‘My sexuality is explored in my work’, she told After Ellen in 2008. ‘[But it’s] more my gender than my sexual preference. It’s really not about being gay or ungay, it’s about being yourself in a patriarchal, heterocentric, heteronormative, monotheistic world. It’s always the changing question and answer, and it’s the forefront of my work.’
7. Angel Haze
Since Angel Haze burst onto the scene in 2012, she has been open about being pansexual and agender (although she is usually referred to with the female pronoun).
She is best known for her cover of Eminem’s ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’, drawing attention to rape culture, and for collaborating with Sia.
Headlines were made when she revealed she was dating model Ireland Baldwin, although her approach to sexuality has been characteristically outspoken: ‘I don’t have a coming out story because I don’t think anyone needs to come out. I don’t get the fascination with being gay, lesbian, bisexual. There’s no separation between gay rights and human rights, it’s just fucking stupid.’
8. Mashrou’ Leila
Mashrou’ Leila are probably the Middle East’s most controversial band. Since forming in Beirut, Lebanon in 2008, they have released three studio albums and caused a stir worldwide with their provocative, sexually-charged lyrics and their openly gay frontman Hamed Sinno.
The band sings about gay rights in a region where there are none, and openly addresses sex with a political, often angry attitude.
Take, for example, their song ‘Three Minutes’ in which Sinno sings: ‘Give me three minutes / humour me in three minutes / But tell me who do I want to be in order to please you / Leave the money on the table – pin your dream to my anklet / I could stand up if you want, or lay down if that’s what you want / Say / I could laugh if you want to, or cry if it suits you / Just say.’
A very listenable blend of indie rock and pop, their sound has won fans all over the world.
Do you know of an up-and-coming LGBTI artist that you love? List them below!