Graphic by Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He)
Nominations for the 2023 Grammy Awards were livestreamed by the Recording Academy on Tuesday (Nov. 15) and quite a few queer artists made the cut. Here’s a breakdown of the openly LGBTQ+ acts on the list and what they’ve done for our community, along with some honorary ally mentions.
Brandi Carlile comes out close to the top, taking home seven nominations for a total of 25 in her career so far. Her 2021 album, “In These Silent Days,” is nominated for Album of the Year along with Best Americana Album and features other big nods for her tracks “You and Me on the Rock,” featuring the indie rock band Lucius (nominated for Record of the Year, Best Americana Performance, and Best American Roots Song), and “Broken Horses” (Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song).
Carlile is a Seattle-born lesbian singer-songwriter and producer who spans genres from pop to rock to americana. Her career began as a “nobody lesbian folk singer” in 2004 with the release of her eponymously named debut album, her music going on to achieve breakthroughs as she climbed the charts with each new release. Her third album, “Give Up The Ghost,” was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Music Artist” and she received her first Grammy nominations in 2019, becoming the female artist with the most nominations that year and winning three out of six categories.
Early this year, Carlile was honored by the Human Rights Campaign with the Visibility Award, and during her acceptance speech addressed what she called the elephant in the room: anti-LGBTQ+ legislation running rampant across the United States. She started with a story about marriage equality, which she stated the queer community is “holding on…with a fucking death grip.” Carlile said that queer people “have to find ways to celebrate during turmoil, because we’ve had a lot of it,” but spoke up about how much the community is at risk today: “That legitimacy, the dignity, the pro-queer, pro-trans legislation, the validation that we all need is not here today…not in this country.”
Next up in the Big Four categories are Anitta, Omar Apollo, and Måneskin who all received nominations for Best New Artist.
Anitta is a Brazilian bisexual pop artist whose 2022 album, “Versions of Me,” exploded in popularity, with the lead-off track, “Envolver,” currently sitting at 430 million streams on Spotify. She also has some notable collaborations under her belt with other Latin stars like Maluma and Wisin y Yandel. She appeared on the cover of GAY TIMES last summer, speaking in her cover story about bisexual erasure. She stated, “I just think we should be honest and people…should not judge or expect each person to act the way they want them to. [Sexuality] is a very delicate subject and we should just respect each other’s way of finding themselves.”
Another international act, Måneskin is an Italian rock band who shot to fame after winning the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest. Their bassist Victoria De Angelis is openly bisexual and their band loves to mess with gender norms in their personal expression and stage presence. De Angelis told AP News that “we think it’s just fine to wear whatever makes you feel good with yourself.” Already at 25 million Spotify listeners, Måneskin are just getting started; their latest album, “Teatro d’ira – Vol. 1,” released in 2021 helped to propel them to the top of Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart and their latest single “THE LONELIEST” debuted in 2022 at No. 1 in Italy.
Omar Apollo is fairly new to stardom with his debut studio album, “Ivory,” released this year. Although he’s not a fan of labeling his identity, the 25-year-old R&B singer-songwriter has openly rapped about his queerness and fluid sexuality in songs from his 2020 EP “Apolonio,” including “Kamikaze” and “Bi Fren.” In an interview with Variety, Apollo was thrilled that “this generation of queer kids don’t want to label themselves,” stating, “I think that that’s the coolest thing.”
A new category, Songwriter of the Year, is meant to honor the overshadowed art of songwriting. And several of the first-ever nominees wrote songs for queer artists! Maine-native Amy Allen wrote “For My Friends” and “Too Bad,” two of the most streamed tracks off of lesbian icon King Princess’ latest album “Hold On Baby.” Tobias Jesso Jr. is a Canadian musician who also wrote for King Princess (“Dotted Lines”), as well as for gay country star Orville Peck (“C’mon Baby Cry”) and aforementioned Best New Artist-nominee Omar Apollo (“No Good Reason”); Jesso Jr. also makes his own music outside of just songwriting!
Next up is Nija Charles, an absolute powerhouse who has written for the likes of Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Megan Thee Stallion, SZA, and so many more alongside making her own music (I’m sure you’ll recognize her hit “MY POWER” produced and featuring vocals from queen Beyoncé). She is nominated for her writing on tracks like Anitta and Missy Elliott’s collaboration “Lobby,” “Ride for You” by Meek Mill ft. Kehlani, and “Tangerine” performed solo by Kehlani, a proud lesbian whose music speaks to sapphics everywhere. Last but not least is Laura Veltz, nominated for her work on Disney-star-turned-nonbinary-rocker Demi Lovato’s “FEED” and the powerful “29” from their 2022 album “HOLY FVCK.”
Speaking of transness, Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ smash hit “Unholy” is nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Smith and Petras are the first nonbinary solo artist and first trans solo artist, respectively, to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. They were knocked from their four-week streak by Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” but are still holding on in the top 10 (as they should).
Legendary bisexual pop star Lady Gaga got a couple nods this year for her work on the soundtrack for box office hit “Top Gun: Maverick,” nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media and Best Song Written for Visual Media with her single “Hold My Hand.” Her entire career radiates queer exuberance, from iconic queer tracks like “Born This Way” and “Poker Face” to her dedication to supporting the community and wearing fashion that makes cishets clutch their pearls. Although her coming out more than a decade ago is often forgotten, I for one am glad she’s on our team.
Comparatively lesser-known British punk band IDLES is nominated for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Performance for their fifth album, “Crawler,” and pseudo-title track, “Crawl!,” respectively. Joe Talbot, the vocalist for the band, is openly bisexual and speaks frequently about his experiences with toxic masculinity growing up.
Big Thief, a band headed by queer singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker, is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album with “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You” and Best Alternative Music Performance for the album’s folksy fourth track, “Certainty.”
To round off our list are a couple more artists who only received one nomination each, but most certainly deserved it. Janis Ian released her first album in 1967 and is still making kickass folk music in her seventies. Ian came out as a lesbian back in 1993 with the release of her album “Breaking Silence” and has been happily married to her wife Patricia Snyder for over 30 years. This year she was nominated for Best Folk Album for “The Light at the End of the Line,” making her a seven-time Grammy-nominated artist.
Lastly is a nomination for Best Global Music Performance: the single “Ubhero Na” by Arooj Aftab featuring Anoushka Shankar. Aftab was nominated for Best New Artist at the 2022 Grammy Awards, as well as Best Global Music Performance again. The Pakistani neo-Sufi artist opened up about being queer to Pitchfork last year, saying, “I was a little bit different from the rest. Being queer was a thing — everybody else was just so straight by default.” Featured artist Anoushka Shankar, although not openly queer herself, has a history of supporting LGBTQ+ rights in India.
Although that’s all for queer nods this year (that we know of), here are some honorary mentions we’d be amiss to exclude.
Beyoncé took home nine nominations for her album, “RENAISSANCE,” a stunning tribute to the Black queer and trans roots of house and disco, inspired by the underground ballroom scene. Country singer Maren Morris is nominated for Best Country Song, Best Country Album, and Best Country Solo Performance and has repeatedly stood up for trans youth’s rights to gender-affirming healthcare. Florence + the Machine, the gay awakening of a significant part of the lesbian community, is nominated for Best Alternative Music Performance. Whimsical woodland spirit Björk, who has never strictly defined her gender or sexuality, is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album. Willie Nelson, the classic country mind behind “Cowboys Are Frequently, Secretly Fond of Each Other,” is nominated for Best Country Solo Performance for his single “Live Forever.” The list goes on and I hope every artist who has spoken up for the community knows we appreciate them (and hope they use their influence to push for meaningful change).
I, for one, can’t wait for the queers to dominate the 2023 Grammy Awards. You can watch the ceremony live on CBS next year on Feb. 5.
Author: Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He)
Copy Editors: JQ Shearin (She/Her), Bella (She/They)