June marks the start of Pride Month, and while you should definitely spin staples by Queen, George Michael, and Lady Gaga (selections that the internet has poked fun at with the release of Now That’s What I Call Pride!) here are 15 LGBTQIA+ artists who you should listen to not only now, but year-round.
Identifying as a blind, Black, and nonbinary musician, this year Brittney Davis released their 2022 EP I Choose to Live on Loosegroove Records, a label co-founded by Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard. With a sound that encapsulates R&B, soul, jazz, and rock, Davis has always been inspired by the music of their surroundings, as well as musicians such as Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, The Clark Sisters, John Legend, and H.E.R.
Davis performed on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, with Berklee Online alum Divinity Roxx on bass, opening with the title track of their new album. The performance is possibly even more powerful and electrifying than the recorded version. In South Seattle Emerald, Davis said about the song:
“When I started to write it, I was like, ‘It can’t be an anthem,’” says Davis. “It can’t be an anthem, because when we do anthems, we put ourselves at the forefront of the song, in a way. We make it more about our perseverance and not the perseverance of the people, which is why I wrote the song the way I wrote it.”
Stay tuned for Brittany Davis on Berklee Online’s new 4/4 series on YouTube!
Listen to: Brittany Davis performing the title track of their new album “I Choose to Live” on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series.
Alea and Renée Goust
Berklee alum, Alea, is a Colombian born/Bronx-based singer/songwriter who had a breakout year in 2021 after releasing her debut album Alborotá, earning spots on Rolling Stone’s “Best Albums in Spanish” and NPR Alt.Latino’s “Best Albums of 2021.” This year, Aleia collaborated with Renée Goust, a Mexican-American neo-folklore artist who writes bilingual songs about gender equality, the LGBTQIA+ experience, immigration, and other social justice issues. Together they created a stunning music video for their duet, “Arrullo,” a song inspired by ranchera and ballad genres.
“I’ve been wanting to write a song with Renée for some time now,” says Alea. “She has been a great inspiration to me as a writer and as an artist, because of her bravery as an LGTBQ+ activist and her feminist message.”
Listen to: Alea and Renée Goust’s 2022 single “Arrullo”
In 2015, Hayley Kiyoko released the song “Girls Like Girls” from her EP This Side of Paradise, which has become synonymous with Pride Month, winning a Spotify award for “Most-Added to LGBTQ+ Playlists.” Kiyoko went on to release more successful music with her 2018 album Expectations. Rolling Stone placed her at “the forefront of an unapologetically queer pop movement” and NPR included her in a list of “The 21st Century’s Most Influential Women Musicians.”
With this in mind, there’s little room for doubt that her 2022 release “for the girls” will also be among Pride Month anthems for years to come. Yes, because it’s a total bop, and also because of her Bachelorette, reality show-themed music video, introducing her relationship with a former contestant of the Bachelor, Becca Tilley. The two have been together for four years and have received an outpouring of support from both Kiyoko and Tilly’s fans. Tilly even revealed that Taylor Swift was one of the first to learn about their relationship.
“Being surrounded by queer people of many different gender identities and making art that feels relevant to us was the greatest gift,” says Kiyoko. “It was a reminder of how resilient this community is and how strong and confident we feel being our authentic selves together. No matter how you identify or who you love, I hope this summer bop makes you feel sexy and empowered.”
Listen to: Kiyoko’s 2022 single “for the girls”
Josiah Wise, known professionally as serpentwithfeet, was raised in Baltimore, Maryland with gospel and classical music. As a teenager, he started taking classical voice lessons with the intention of becoming a professional opera singer. Instead, he explored the neo-soul music scenes of Philly, Paris, and eventually New York, where he was signed and released his first EP in 2016. Even though he left gospel and classical music behind, it is still very much the musical foundation of his work. Wise’s 2021 studio album is DEACON, “… exploring a world wherein Black love is paramount.” Later in 2021, he released an extension EP, DEACON’S Grove, which features songs that did not make it to the studio album, as well as new arrangements on old songs.
Listen to: “Fellowship” from the 2021 album Deacon
A Sydney-based singer/songwriter, Hollie Col’s music is as sunny and warm as where she lives. Influenced by artists such as HAIM, Maggie Rogers, and Taylor Swift, Col’s first full-length album Julia Stevens, beautifully captures the ups and downs of young love. In her songwriting, she draws upon her lived experience to share same-sex storylines, which also appear in her self-directed music vidoes.
“When I was growing up I don’t think there was anyone that was in a same-sex relationship that made same-sex art or music that I could resonate with at all,” said Col in an interview with The Au Review. “I know that if I had that when I was growing up, how different an experience it would have been.”
Listen to: “Julia” from Hollie Col’s 2022 album Julia Stevens
A five-time Grammy-nominated musician, Tiffany Gouché has been a huge player in the soul and R&B scene for the past decade—and she happens to be a Berklee Online student! Gouché is in a relationship with R&B singer King Sis, who also has a fabulous catalog of music.
Known for her soulful lower register and passionate songwriting, Gouché garnered international acclaim after releasing her 2014 album Pillow Talk, and continues to release music consistently, including collaborations with Masego, Robert Glasper, D Smoke, and Kenyon Dixon.
“Both men and women, young or old and across all intersections of identity vibe with my music,” said Gouché in an interview with FADER. “It’s a blessing. But it is very cool when listeners express finally being able to sing along with a woman singing to another woman.”
Listen to: Tiffany Gouché’s collaboration with Robert Glasper and D Smoke “Shine”
Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Deb Never combines hip-hop and grunge to create an ethereal, guitar-laden sound with a heavy synth-pad beat. After being pressured by her friends to post her songs to SoundCloud, she quickly picked up steam and those songs turned into her 2019 EP House on Wheels. In 2021, she released her first full-length album, Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
“I’m not gonna do a certain thing because it’s a formula that worked before,” Never said in an interview with Them. “Everyone is realizing that everything is genreless—there are no boundaries, only fluidity, in gender and sexuality.”
Listen to: “Someone Else” from Never’s 2021 album Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
In the past year, MUNA has gone from a cult favorite to a mainstream success. Members Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson, who each identify as queer, met in college at the University of Southern California and formed the electro-pop trio. After signing with Phoebe Bridgers’ Saddest Factory label in 2021, they released their monster collaborative hit “Silk Chiffon,” and went on to tour with Bridgers, as well as Kacey Musgraves and King Princess. MUNA will release their highly-anticipated self-titled album on June 24.
Listen to: MUNA’s latest single “Home By Now” from their upcoming self-titled album
Shea Diamond is a soul and R&B artist and trans activist. You may know her song, “I Am America” as the theme song for the HBO series We’re Here, which was also included on Billboard’s 2020 list of the best LGBTQ songs. To this day, the song remains a Pride Month staple. The music video was produced in the midst of the pandemic and features activists and artists such as Alok Vaid-Menon, Jacob Tobia, and Justin Tranter. Tranter, who is a Berklee alum, signed Diamond to a record deal after hearing her acapella performance of “I Am Her” at a Trans Lives Matter rally. Diamond’s story involves the foster care system and a decade of incarceration, which informs the depth of her art.
Listen to: Diamond’s 2020 single “I Am America”
A trajectory that began as a teen star, Geiger put all of that aside to become the singer, songwriter, and producer she is today. She has produced and written hundreds of songs for artists such as Shawn Mendes, One Direction, Lizzo, and many others. Her third album LillyAnna, produced under the name Teddy <3 or teddy, was praised by the New York Times, Billboard, and Rolling Stone. She has since released two Spotify singles, including an incredible cover of “Brass in Pocket,” and also collaborated with Sylvan Esso on variations of their song “Numb.”
Listen to: Geiger’s version of Sylvan Esso’s “Numb”
A graduate of Berklee, VINCINT’s music career has taken off (even more so) in the past year with the release of his 2021 album There Will Be Tears. VINCINT grew up in Philadelphia surrounded by gospel music, his father a member of the Christ United Gospel Singers choir. As a former contestant on the FOX music competition The Four, VINCINT felt strongly that his place was in pop music. His song “Be Me” was featured on season five of Queer Eye and has had several successful collaborations with artists such as Tegan and Sara, and Alex Newell leading up to his full-length album.
“My queer joy is my mindset and how much I love being who I am and how that is the constant daily work in progress,” VINCINT said in an interview with Refinery 29.
Listen to: VINCINT’s 2021 hit “Higher” featuring Alex Newell
Peck’s identity is a mystery: he’s known for wearing a fringed mask to cover his face. However, his music is no longer mysterious, as he’s made a name for himself in country music, with a voice reminiscent of crooners like Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Elvis. Peck is back to touring and performing at major festivals like Coachella and Boston Calling, after the pandemic prevented him from touring in 2021 and 2022. This is after Peck spent 2019 touring 300 days out of the year for his album Pony. He said openly that he fell into a depression and almost stopped making music.
Fortunately, Peck did not stop and his 2022 album Bronco is out now. It’s the darkest of his collection of works, depicting this time in his life, but is still triumphant. He said in an interview with Them, “I used it [the album] as healing for myself that was overdue for many years—maybe my whole life, to be honest.” He went on to say: “We all have a responsibility to show up in a culture that shouldn’t be defined by something like someone’s gender or sexuality or choices about what to do with their body or not to do with their body.”
Listen to: “Daytona Sand” from Peck’s 2022 album Bronco
Vardaan Arora is an Indian-born recording artist, songwriter, and actor based in New York. Growing up with little representation in India, Arora uses his platform to advocate for more queer people of Asian descent in entertainment. In an interview with Pride, he said, “I just want people of color to see that being queer in addition to being a racial minority is what makes their identity stronger and more unique. Hopefully, I can set an example.”
Listen to: Arora’s 2022 collaboration with Kit Major “SOLO DISCO”
Twenty-three-year-old Cat Burns from South London is a part of a growing list of musicians who took off on TikTok. Her song “go” went viral on the app in late 2021, since reaching third place in the UK Official Charts and more than 50 million streams on Spotify. This success was coupled by another 2021 single, “Free,” about coming out to mother, which has become a joyous track among her community who share a similar experience. Her fans have been anticipating a new album for a while now, and this year Burns came through with her EP emotionally unavailable. To top it all off, this summer Burns will be touring with Ed Sheeran on his European tour.
Listen to: Cat Burns’ 2021 single “Free”
Kim Villagant, who goes by Kimmortal professionally, is a Filipino-Canadian hip-hop artist who identifies as queer and nonbianry. Their lyrics are unapologetic and unwavering in support of civil rights, especially for queer Asian and Indinenous people. In March 2022, Villagant received an Instagram shout-out from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for their song “Sad Femme Club” during the confirmation hearings of now Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. Ocasio-Cortez said the song was her “anthem this week for watching one of the most qualified SCOTUS nominees in US history be treated with extra disrespect as a Black woman.” The song appeared on Kimmortal’s 2019 album, X Marks the Swirl.
Stay tuned for Kimmortal’s 2022 album coming fall 2022.
Listen to: Kimmortal’s 2022 single “K I’m Mortal”
Special thanks to Berklee Online staff members Fred Saberi and Freesia Towle for their recommendations.