Graphic by Kelly (She/Her)
This article was originally published in our Spring 2022 print issue “Reflections of Radiance.“
Queer yearning and trauma are common themes through many of pop’s greatest hits from “Sofia” by Clairo to “TALK ME DOWN” by Troye Sivan. But, queerness is not just struggle, sacrifice, and heartbreak. Queerness is bold, vibrant, and exciting. And, while it may be cathartic to sob along to songs alone in bed, sometimes we need music to remind us that queer joy exists. Here are ten songs by queer artists about the queer experience that radiate sunshine and serotonin.
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“Silk Chiffon” by MUNA (ft. Phoebe Bridgers)
“Silk Chiffon” is the perfect song to listen to during the sweet Los Angeles summer as you sip iced coffee and soak up the sunshine. This dreamy track was released by pop-rock band MUNA, whose three members all identify as queer, in 2021 and features bisexual singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers, whose music has been heavily influenced by queer authors and writers like Carmen Maria Machado. In the song, MUNA’s lead vocalist Katie Gavin and Bridgers sing about the beauty and euphoria that come from queer love.
“Bloom” by Troye Sivan
With its catchy production and sultry vocals, “Bloom” pulls you into a garden ripe with exhilaration and anticipation. Troye Sivan, known for his heart-breaking ballads and deep-cutting synth tracks, shows another side of queer love (the good side) with his masterful lyricism. His innuendos and lines like, “Hold my hand if I get scared now,” allow you to experience the thrill and passion of queer love alongside him.
“Liz” by Remi Wolf
In “Liz,” bisexual bedroom-pop musician Remi Wolf twists queer yearning into queer appreciation. With lyrics like, “And it was Liz, Liz / She taught me how to live / It was Liz, Liz / She taught me how to give / It was Liz, Liz / She taught me how to live,” Wolf highlights the joy and love that grows within queer friendships. Wolf’s edgy and colorful songwriting style makes each one of her songs unique and entertaining to listen to.
“Honey” by Kehlani
In their soulful R&B track “Honey,” lesbian and non-binary singer-songwriter Kehlani shows us that there is joy to be found in the messy complexity of queerness. The Grammy-nominated musician sings, “Oh, I’m a beautiful wreck / A colorful mess, but I’m funny,” reminding us to enjoy the complicated nature and blurred lines of the queer identity.
“Make Me Feel” by Janelle Monáe
Written and performed by Janelle Monáe, “Make Me Feel” is a funky Prince-influenced track that makes you want to jump onto the nearest elevated surface and dance like nobody’s watching. Monae has established herself as a queer icon with her message about living freely and joyously; in 2018, Monae came out as pansexual, and in 2022, she came out as non-binary. In an interview with Rolling Stone, they said, “Being a queer Black woman in America, someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.”
“Coconuts” by Kim Petras
With the release of “Coconuts” in 2021, trans artist Kim Petras invented a whole new genre of music. Her self-proclaimed “slut pop” is a combination of unabashed confidence and total sexual freedom. “Coconuts,” with its intoxicating beat and flirty lyrics, is pure fun and embodies a form of unfiltered, unhindered queer joy.
“fan behavior” by Isaac Dunbar
Liberian-Italian songwriter Isaac Dunbar marries Billie Eilish’s iconic dark alt-pop sound with Remi Wolf’s “stream of consciousness” lyricism in his 2021 track “fan behavior.” Dunbar’s edgy production, confident lyrics, and cold laugh are sure to make any listener feel like a bad b****. With gems like, “I guess I’ve got myself a fan (Join the club, join the club, join the club),” Dunbar shows us it’s sexy to know your own self-worth.
“Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys)” by Rina Sawayama
In “Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys),” Japanese-British artist Rina Sawayama sings about the exhilaration and delight that comes with ditching the gender binary and living confidently in a queer reality. There is joy in confidence, and Sawayama’s track makes you feel like a model strutting down the runway no matter what you are wearing.
“Immaterial” by SOPHIE
Being queer is fun. That message sits at the core of trans musician SOPHIE’s song, “Immaterial.” This song, alongside the other tracks of SOPHIE’s album, “OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES,” pushed the boundaries of the music industry when the album was released in 2017. Its upbeat, maximalist production was the start of a new genre of hyper-pop, and the song itself describes the joy that comes from living outside the boundaries of society.
“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga
It is impossible to make a list of joyful queer songs without mentioning “Born This Way” by Lady Gaga. On the track, Lady Gaga urges everyone to find contentedness in their identities, “no matter gay, straight, or bi,” and to have a good time unapologetically. After its release in 2011, “Born This Way” became an anthem for queer pride and joy, and it serves as a reminder that queerness should be a source of celebration, not a source of sadness, “cause you were born this way, baby.”
Author: Tavish Mohanti (He/Him)
Artist: Kelly Doherty (She/Her)
Copy Editors: Emma Blakely (They/She/He), Brooke Borders (She/Her)