Remember that time I wrote a list of the 10 most heartbreaking songs I could think of for Valentine’s Day? Forget that. It’s Pride Month. Now is for joy. And not just any joy – queer joy.
Just kidding. A lot of these artists still write incredibly sad songs. I’m sorry. I have a condition. BUT this time even some of the sad songs fuck. And not only do they fuck, but they gay fuck. So it’s worth it, I promise.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Some of these are solo artists, some are bands, and some of the solo artists on the list use multiple pronouns (for example: she/they). I encourage readers to check each artists’ pronouns if you have any confusion in my commentary, and DEFINITELY before discussing their work elsewhere, to ensure you are referring to them respectfully.
I often joke that while I definitely have a gay agenda and aim to turn all my friends queer & trans, my larger long-term agenda is just turning everyone into Donna Missal fans. It’s equally important to me.
Donna is just the kind of performer that has such otherworldly talent and powerful presence that it makes most people question everything they know about life, up to and including their genders and sexualities.
All that said, on a more serious note, Donna has also opened up publicly in 2022 about her struggles working with and against the music industry – including having been recently dropped by her label and going through a period where she was temporarily unhoused. For some fans, it has been a shocking revelation that an artist with such undeniable talent and multiple studio albums under their belt could be so unceremoniously left behind. For those more familiar with the music industry, it is painfully unsurprising.
This is your reminder to support artists you like. So, keep an eye out for what Donna comes up with next, and buy tickets to some shows when they’re scheduled.
What I really want to commend MUNA for is their live show. I’ve seen MUNA three times in the last year, and they never disappoint. When people describe their songs as sad bangers, they’re not kidding. Just watch this tiktok about their 2018 track “Crying on the Bathroom Floor,” which was lovingly reposted on Instagram by the band. If you think headbanging is only for metal fans, you obviously have never seen a bunch of twenty-something lesbians screaming along to a MUNA set.
Also, while I’m sure that they would consider it the bare minimum, I think MUNA gets some big points for their continuous engagement with the political realities of their work and their community. They speak up regularly on their social media platforms about the issues facing marginalized groups, they’ve donated proceeds from different events & merch to causes they care about, and, at their headlining shows over the winter, they even required masking and gender-neutral bathrooms at venues with more lax COVID requirements and binary gendered facilities.
They also collaborate regularly on music videos with Ally Pankiw, who directed hit shows like Shrill and Feel Good – my personal favorite show… ever. Try to watch that and not end up at least queer, if not also non-binary. Good luck.
Their third album, set to include their 2021 hit “Silk Chiffon feat. Phoebe Bridgers” that Ally Pankiw directed the But I’m A Cheerleader-inspired video for, comes out June 24 and tickets are on sale now for their fall headlining tour.
I’ll be honest, I discovered Bartees Strange when Spotify recommended his cover of “Mr. November” by the National – which is excellent – but I’ve grown to love even more of his original material since then. He opened for Lucy Dacus at a number of tour dates in 2021, and has been dropping amazing singles left and right since.
I could think of a dozen artists whose styles Bartees combines, which I think is actually a testament to how unique and original his sound is. The mix of chimey guitar tones, smooth rhythmic lyrics, and driving drum beats is truly special.
Also, I always love seeing communities of artists connecting and collaborating – which comes through in the above video for “Heavy Heart,” which was directed by Marisa Dabice, aka Missy, the lead singer and guitarist of the punk band Mannequin Pussy.
Bartees Strange’s new album Farm to Table comes out June 17.
Fans of Scary Pockets may recognize Rett Madison from many funk covers they’ve lent vocals to on YouTube, but in 2021 she released her solo EP Pin-Up Daddy, which she describes as being largely about “grief & queerness.” Rett moves seamlessly through the tracklist between country-inspired grooves about gender identity and queer love, while not shying away from the very real family trauma in their life.
For something upbeat and unabashedly queer, check out “Emily,” where she describes falling in love with a close friend. Then, if you’re up for it, strap in for “Don’t Know Better ‘Til You Do,” where she processes the grief over the loss of her mother.
Rett is on tour now – check out her Instagram for dates.
Ezra Furman is… everything to me. It would be difficult for me to articulate how much her presence as a trans artist has meant to me personally, and how much their music has encouraged and pushed me forward in my own artwork.
Now that I’ve gotten those mushy feelings out – they write great songs and you should listen to them. I’ve described some of their earlier tracks, like my “Suck the Blood From My Wound” from their 2018 concept album Transangelic Exodus, as Bruce Springsteen meets The Sex Pistols. But her catalog covers so many different tones and emotions, including 50s-rock nostalgia, semi-acoustic ballads about resilience, and even straight up punk.
Ezra’s new album All of Us Flames comes out August 26, and tickets are available now for their fall headlining tour.
I literally just got into D’LOURDES during this Pride month after a TikTok sound from the above track went viral. What made me fall in love, however, is that the clip in the TikTok audio – the “Fuzzy Duck? Ducky Fuzz. Does he fuck? Fuck, he does!” bridge verse – is totally different from the chill jazz and R&B vibes leading up to it. Any artist that can change gears that quickly in a single song and make it work can slide into my playlists any time.
PLUS, they’ve got my heart as someone who works in multiple mediums – they are currently appearing on stage as an actor in a production of the hit play Cambodian Rock Band at Theater Mu, the second largest Asian American theater company in the US.
D’LOURDES’ self-titled record is out now.
If you think you don’t know Brittany Howard, yes you do. Originally the lead vocalist in Alabama Shakes, Brittany has been dropping universally acclaimed rock n roll music for a decade. However, if you missed her 2019 solo debut Jaime, you need to get on that. Whether it’s sweet love songs like “Stay High” or grungy fuzzed-out guitar leads like in “He Loves Me” above, Brittany Howard can do it all.
Brittany Howard’s new single with Tia P., “Running With The Angels,” is out now.
Angel Olsen has also been putting out critically acclaimed indie music for a decade now, ranging from lo-fi acoustic heartbreakers to driving rock hits to orchestral concept albums. She only came out publicly in 2021, but many fans had already been reading their own yearning and wistful queer subtexts into her music for ages. I personally recommend her masterpiece “Sister” if you’re looking for something to project a lot of feelings onto. But that’s the beauty of great artwork – it can help people feel what they need to feel but might not let themselves otherwise.
Angel is also a tremendously well-rounded and collaborative artist, having both directed some of her own past music videos as well as having just released a 28-minute short film with director Kimberly Stuckwisch to accompany her new album.
Angel Olsen’s new album Big Time is out now, and you can see her on the massive triple-headliner Wild Hearts tour with Sharon Van Etten and Julien Baker this summer.
I once described The Aces to a friend as “MUNA for people who aren’t depressed enough yet.” Is that incredibly reductive and unfair? Yes. Do I stand by it? A little, yeah – because I mean it as a compliment.
The Aces absolutely have their own sound and write great songs that stand on their own without comparisons. The connection I’m making is that, while The Aces are usually less explicitly dark in their lyrics and chord progressions than MUNA, they, like MUNA, also deserve to be applauded for the infectious energy and impressively tight technical elements of their music and especially their live performances. And as such, if you like either MUNA or The Aces, you should probably check out the other.
When it comes to near-perfect queer pop-rock, I always say the more the merrier.
The Aces’ new single “Girls Make Me Wanna Die” is out now.
This one is… kind of a shameless plug. I shot this music video for Dizzy in May. But 1) I am also a queer & trans artist you should know & love, and 2) I genuinely think anyone who is into more classic hip hop vibes coming from voices that weren’t heard as often in the early days should check out Dizzy’s stuff. She’s killer.
Plus, since I was holding the camera on this one, I have a couple extra fun facts I can throw in. We shot this video for the Bodega Bars series sponsored by NY-based smoke companies Curved Papers and Cool Suppliers, which is meant to promote local rappers and small businesses. The whole series is inspired by this famous old video of Biggie rapping in front of his local bodega when he was 17. It’s a cool idea as a whole, but in a fun web of coincidences, this specific video was actually shot right in Biggie’s old Bed Stuy neighborhood where Dizzy is also from, this specific bodega is across the street from where my own little cousins go to school, AND without realizing it, we shot it the weekend of Biggie’s 50th birthday.
Anyways, check out Dizzy’s new record Flāvors, streaming now.
Honorable mentions/bonus artists to check out:
Tomberlin – Maybe my current favorite artist, just completed headlining tours in Europe and the US, and opening for Angel Olsen on tour this fall. Their new album is a masterpiece.
Hand Habits – Amazing solo material, and also unbelievable guitar work on their collabs with Sylvan Esso.
Lil Nas X – I know you already know Lil Nas X, but it would be a crime not to mention him on a Pride music list. He’s so good and so important right now. I remember when Montero came out and even the die-hard old-school punks I know were bowing down – because frankly, his shameless, courageous, clever, and tongue-in-cheek, but truthful persona is punk as fuck.