Graphic from Janelle Monáe’s album cover, Dirty Computer
#20GayTeen was a milestone for queer artists in the music industry. From pop to folk to alternative, these artists discussed numerous topics previously dubbed “taboo” by mainstream media. Here is the list of 2018’s top 10 queer albums (in my opinion):
10) Palo Santo – Years and Years
Olly Alexander is the lead of the trio Years and Years and hopes that Palo Santo will “make [anyone who listens] feel inspired to get a little freaky, be a little weirder and be a little sensual.” It definitely does. With pop synthesizers and an upbeat sound, Palo Santo is not a disappointing album. The key message is to help those who listen accept themselves for who they are.
9) One Stone – Trixie Mattel
It seems like the expectation of queer artists in the music industry is to produce pop music that is stereotypically gay. In addition, there is a stereotype of what defines drag queen music. However, Trixie Mattel, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 Winner, breaks these expectations by creating an alternative folk album that touches on her personal experiences and still resonates with queer culture. She is not going away anytime soon as she is talented both lyrically and musically. This just comes to prove that the queer community is more diverse than social stereotypes convey.
8) Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides – SOPHIE
Experimental, unconventional, are just a few words to describe the culmination of the influential DJ and producer SOPHIE. “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping” are what some would call avant-garde. “It’s Okay to Cry,” is the most unpredictable song to come from SOPHIE because it is unlike her unorthodox, DJ-esque, music. However, the song’s conventionality gives change to the very frequent one-dimensional pop world we live in.
7) Iridescence – BROCKHAMPTON
BROCKHAMPTON creates a story with Iridescence. The album sounds like a continuation of one song after another rather than several different songs. With ingenious lyrics, solid flow, and creative uses of rap conventions this album is the reason BROCKHAMPTON reached the success they did in 2018. “WEIGHT” is the emotional climax of the album with band member Abstract scrutinizing the pressures that develop in high school to have sex, and the pressures he felt while developing sexual identity as a teenager. Iridescence is truly a hip-hop/rap album while still battling the strongly homophobic genre.
6) Turn off the Light, Vol. 1 – Kim Petras
Criticized for transitioning at a young age, Kim Petras has been in the spotlight for some time. Petras stirred some controversy in 2018 when she said she would not work with someone who she believed was an “abuser of women,” referring to Dr. Luke who was accused of abuse. She later apologized and stated that she could not assume other women’s experiences with Dr. Luke. However, the controversy does not distract away from her talent. Turn off the Light, Vol. 1 is a Halloween themed pop-anthem EP that is naturally catchy, and will get songs stuck in your head for hours. Petras is outspoken in her identity and brings it to attention in her song “TRANSylvania.” The song moves from a typical pop anthem sound to a more electronic and experimental sound with pitch distortions and chord mashups, despite the lack of lyrics.
5) Expectations – Hayley Kiyoko
Opening up with the titular song “Expectations/Overture,” Hayley Kiyoko uses no lyrics to create dream-like instrumentals that does not prepare you for the musicality she presents throughout the album. This year’s queer slogan started with Kiyoko’s “#20GayTeen” on twitter when the release of her upbeat, pop single “Curious” created waves of anticipation for her album to drop. Kiyoko is open about her bisexuality: she suggests a “Sleepover” and deliberates her “Feelings” on her debut album Expectations.
4) By the Way, I Forgive You – Brandi Carlile
This folk-pop masterpiece earned 6 Grammy nominations for 2019. Brandi Carlile, although being in the music industry for quite some time, puts her more vulnerable side in the spotlight with By the Way, I Forgive You. Carlile is a queer artist deviating away from stereotypical “queer” music. The well crafted lyrics and beautiful melodies enhance the musicality of Carlile’s voice and deserves the praise it is receiving.
3) Language – MNEK
MNEK blends pop and global influence throughout Language. MNEK told Apple Music that his first album was just like “the same way you learn a language,” hence the title. He does an exceptional job working on his goal to “help the fight in normalizing black homosexuality in pop music.” MNEK is another artist that continues to show the queer community is extremely diverse. MNEK discusses intimacy in the electronic-pop song “Body,” and his anthem “Girlfriend” is the typical song about falling in love with a taken man, but there’s a twist. This is a great accomplishment for a debut album.
2) Bloom – Troye Sivan
Troye Sivan’s sexuality is not hidden by any means in his sophomore album Bloom. The YouTube-turned-pop star has been open for several years about his sexuality, and every lyric in Bloom seems to tell a story that embraces sexuality, what it means to be queer, and having queer experiences. Sivan develops as a young seventeen-year-old searching for love in “Seventeen” into a more matured individual singing an ode to the boy he loves in “Animal.” From the titular song “Bloom” to “Dance to This (feat. Ariana Grande)” the LGBTQ+ party never stops.
1) Dirty Computer – Janelle Monáe
Immediately, Janelle Monáe does not disappoint with the titular song “Dirty Computer.” Showing pop influence from Prince, who helped her on the album before he passed, she executes her sound with enormous talent. The groove of the album only adds to the message Monáe delivers in Dirty Computer, as she takes her identity as a pansexual woman of color and stunts pride in songs “Django Jane” and “Pynk (feat. Grimes).” Her provocative yet empowering lyrics in “Screwed (feat. Zoë Kravitz)” promote a carefree life of being true to yourself. Simply put, this album may be the best queer album of 2018.