LGBT music

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) music is music that focuses on the experiences of gender and sexual minorities[1][2] as a product of the broad gay liberation movement.

LGBT music spans the entire spectrum of popular music.[1][2] Lyricism and song content typically express the frustration, anxiety, and hope associated with non-normative sexual and gender identities, offering marginalized groups a vital platform for expression.[3][4] Recently, popular music has "provided an arena where marginalized voices can be heard and sexual identities shaped, challenged, and renegotiated."[2] Mainstream music has begun to reflect acceptance of LGBT and queer musicianship.[5][6] Some queer icons are openly queer identifying and have made impactful changes in the world for LGBT people. Others are straight allies that have expressed their support for the community.


In the 1890s, New Orleans began testing different prostitution policies which led to brothels and gay musicians like Tony Jackson or Bessie Smith. Jazz was born from many homosexual artists. As it flourished, blues performers like Lucille Bogan and Ma Rainey began singing about their sexual adventures with other women. Soon after jazz took off, Broadway shows and musical audiences began to take shape as well.

Despite progress in LGBT tolerance and acceptance, musicians still remain marginalized in popular music. American composer Leonard Bernstein had many homosexual relations, often with other musicians and composers, despite being in a heterosexual marriage.[7] Many artists like Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim,[8] Jerome Robbins, Dimitri Mitropoulos were subject to hiding their sexual identities from the public. American pianist Liberace was famously closeted and vehemently denied allegations of homosexuality until his death in 1987, suing a Daily Mirror columnist for insinuating his sexuality.[9] While the entertainment industry now more openly discusses the role of gender identity both in the press and within music compositions, there is still reticence for many in the business to advocate for LGBTQ+ acceptance. [10]

Notwithstanding currents of intolerance in the United States, Broadway continues to provide a platform for gender and sexual minorities, culminating to the production of lauded musicals like Kinky Boots, Hair and The Color Purple.

LGBT artists[edit]

While popular music has always included LGBT artists, the increasing social tolerance of the late 20th and early 21st centuries allowed such artists to come out publicly. Early examples of this arose with the sexual liberation movement, with artists such as Elton John, Village People, Sylvester,[11] Tom Robinson,[11] Jill Sobule, Indigo Girls, k.d. lang, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Little Richard, Esquerita, Melissa Etheridge, Janis Ian,[11] The B-52's, Cher, Kylie Minogue, Grace Jones, Lou Reed, and Marc Almond, among others.

Many openly LGBT musicians have become successful, such as Elton John, who has the best-selling single in Billboard of the 1990s ("Candle in the Wind 1997"), and Will Young, whose single "Anything is Possible"/"Evergreen" was the best-selling single of the decade in the 2000s.[12] Country singer Ty Herndon came out as gay in 2014, after three number one hits on Billboard Hot Country Songs.[13]


In the 1970s, the disco, glam rock and industrial music cultures offered a multitude of platforms for expression for gender and sexual non-conforming individuals.


The 1980s saw increased exposure to LGBT culture, namely genderbending and cross-dressing, in the music industry with artists such as Culture Club, George Michael, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Melissa Etheridge, Pet Shop Boys,[14] Dead or Alive,[15] and Erasure.[14]

Music videos began to allude to LGBT relationships, including Bronski Beat's video for "Smalltown Boy", The Pet Shop Boy's "Domino Dancing", and Madonna's "Vogue".[16]

Gay icons during this decade included Cyndi Lauper, Loleatta Holloway, Gloria Gaynor, Bob Mould, and Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford.[11]

Also popular with the LGBT community was post-disco dance music such as Italo disco, house music, Hi-NRG, and freestyle. During the 1980s this music became more prevalent in the United States and LGBT artists gained prominence.[17] DJ Larry Levan started his DJ career at the gay disco Paradise Garage.[18]


An increase in pro-LGBT laws and artists condemning homophobia in their music populated much of the 1990s. Groups such as Placebo, Alcazar, Right Said Fred, Mana and more joined the ranks of allies and LGBT musicians. Bands such as Pansy Division and Tribe 8 led the queercore offshoot of hardcore punk that helped solidify LGBT arts in the decade.[19] Robby Reverb, member of gay punk band mOral SeX recorded rock and country music as well, including "Accept It", written by gay poet Drew Blood.

2000s and onward[edit]

The 2000s saw LGBT music branch off into its own genre, and new artists like Lady Gaga, Christina Aguilera, Will Young, The Scissor Sisters, The Gossip, RuPaul, Mika, Dario, Adam Lambert, Harry Styles , Lauren Jauregui, Sakima, Dawnstar, Years & Years, Neon Trees, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish and Troye Sivan supported a growing industry, spreading the message of equality and positivity.

Country singer Chely Wright faced death threats and declining record sales after coming out in 2010.[20] She made Wish Me Away, a documentary about her experience and it won several major awards in 2012 including trophies from the Los Angeles Film Festival, the Seattle LGBT Festival and the Tallgrass Film Festival.[21] In 2012, Against Me! singer and guitarist came out as a trans woman and changed her name to Laura Jane Grace.[21] Openly gay artists such as Tegan and Sara gained popularity; the duo produced a pro-tolerance advert jingle for Oreo in 2014.[22]

Some popular LGBT artists and bands today are 2020k, thraeyce,[23] Girl in Red, Dodie, Cavetown, Otep,[24] Kehlani,[25] Hayley Kiyoko, Panic! At The Disco,[26] King Princess, Pabllo Vittar, Mary Lambert, Halsey,[27] MUNA,[28] Kevin Abstract (Brockhampton), Sam Smith, Le1f, Azealia Banks, Baby Tap, Lauren Jauregui, Sia, Miley Cyrus, Lil Nas X, Electrosexual, Perfume Genius, Courtney Barnett, Troye Sivan, Clairo, Calum Scott, Greyson Chance, Kim Petras, Angel Haze, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Against Me!, SOPHIE, Rostam, Tom Goss, Shura, Superfruit, Years and Years, Gravity Noir, PVRIS, Jess Young, Seeva, Ddendyl Hoyt, Harry Styles, Frank Ocean, ILoveMakonnen, Janelle Monáe, Jojo Siwa, Billy Gilman,[29] Syd, Ladyhawke, Melanie Martinez, Ben Platt, and Mykki Blanco.[30][31][32] Prominent electronic music artist and synthesist for the band LCD Soundsystem, Rayna Russom came out publicly as a transgender woman in July 2017.[33]

LGBT oriented music[edit]

One of the earliest US top 40 singles to feature a positive depiction of the LGBT community was bisexual rocker Lou Reed's 1972 song "Walk on the Wild Side", which detailed the lives of gay, bi, and trans members of Andy Warhol's social circle. [34]

Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean at Coachella in 2012

In the past, music videos had been used as a way to depict LGBT relationships, even when the lyrics of the music didn't explicitly discuss them, as in Madonna's music video for her song "Vogue".[16] They have since been used to express artists' sexuality. In 2016, FLETCHER's music video for her song "Wasted Youth" presents herself with a female love interest.[35] In April 2018, Janelle Monáe[36] came out as pansexual with her album Dirty Computer,[37] and released the song "Make Me Feel"; the music video detailing a woman's attraction to two club goers. LGBT relationships have also been depicted in the music videos of straight musicians, further solidifying their positions as queer allies. Carly Rae Jepsen's music video for "Call Me Maybe" features gay male characters.[16]

The lyrics of songs have also been used by LGBT artists as a tool to express their identification. Frank Ocean's 2012 album Channel Orange has romantic songs that use male pronouns when describing his love interest.[37] Hayley Kiyoko, nicknamed "Lesbian Jesus" by her fans, made her sexual orientation clear to the public with the release of her 2015 song "Girls Like Girls".[38] In 2017, YouTuber and singer-songwriter Dodie Clark released her song "I'm Bisexual - A Coming Out Song" to announce to her fan base that she was bi.[39]

Straight and cisgender allies have also produced LGBT-oriented music. Country artist Phil Vassar released the song "Bobbi with an I" in 2009, which uses a humorous narrative to encourage acceptance of transgender individuals. Singer-songwriter Hozier released the song "Take Me to Church", whose music video partially focused on religion-based homophobia.[40] "1-800-273-8255", a song performed by Logic and Alessia Cara, dealt with homophobia and the pain that it results in. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis teamed up with Mary Lambert to make "Same Love", a song about same sex marriage that focused on the message that love conquers all. The music video for Avicii's single "Silhouettes" depicts a person undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

Some straight artists have been criticized by LGBT artists for their depiction of LGBT relationships. Katy Perry's 2008 song "I Kissed a Girl" and Rita Ora's 2018 song "Girls" both explore female same-sex relationships, but have been accused of being "tone-deaf" to the needs of the LGBT community.[37]

Lady Gaga's 2011 song "Born This Way" has been called a gay anthem for its message of self-love.[41] Singer and actor Christian Chavez used his song "Libertad" to make a stance for gay rights and sexual freedom.[21] Troye Sivan's music has been highly acclaimed for its authentic feel of gay millennial music experimenting with chill pop and activism such as "HEAVEN", "Bloom", and "My My My!".[42]

Jess Young brings her pansexuality into her music. Her debut single Champagne & Caviar is all about that. The second verse was originally written "the only fire's in her darkness, the way it flickers when she goes down on me", and now it's "he" because her girlfriend at the time liked to be referred to in the male-pronoun, and had been dating a guy when she re-recorded.[43]

OUTMusic Awards[edit]

Since 2001, the American OUTMusic Awards program has functioned as an annual LGBT awards ceremony that mirrors the Grammys. OUTMusic Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization, was re-founded as the LGBT Academy of Recording Arts by Diedra Meredith in 2007.[44] The awards are to recognize some of the LGBT artists who have made significant contributions to the music industry.[45][46]

See also[edit]


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  46. ^ "About". Retrieved 7 May 2015.

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