LGBT+ Music

The Modern-Day Relationship between Music and the LGBTQ+ Community

by Hannah Ryan

The world of indie rock is currently undergoing an unprecedented change, it would seem. Where before the genre was dominated by young, largely heterosexual men, in recent years, there has been a significant challenge presented to this in the form of the young, non-straight women that have been making a name for themselves on this scene – take, for example, the recent successes of Marika Hackman and Snail Mail (the latter being the moniker for Lindsey Jordan). Both have crafted albums that centre on the kind of piercing ache that comes with being young, confused, and in love. Both, incidentally, happen to refer to relationships with other women – which chart the agonies of first heartbreak and assign them to same-sex encounters.

I have discovered albums before which expertly capture the simultaneous delight and anguish which comes with first love, such as in Lorde’s Melodrama, but rarely have I found one in which the heartache found in the music has come as the result of a relationship between two women. As a young, gay woman myself, I have waited years to find the kind of honest, open desperation present in the debut album, Lush, of Snail Mail. Her depiction of unrequited longing on Heat Wave, a song which seamlessly intertwines the headiness of a summer romance with the eventual melancholy of its temporary nature, feels as familiar to me as if the words had been conjured up by taking a peek inside my own head. Lush is a special kind of album – the kind which is not only breathtakingly authentic in its pain, as Jordan declares she is ‘not in love’ with someone’s ‘absence’ on ‘Anytime’, but which is also revolutionary in it being written by a woman for a woman. Adolescent pining is common in indie music – entire albums inspired by experiencing such yearnings for a member of the same sex are not. For this, Snail Mail’s work feels like something completely new, and offers us a glimpse into a refreshing future, where the music of young, gay women in scenes often overflowing with heterosexual, male energy, can reign supreme


by Izzy Boulton

Whilst the LGBTQ community is paving the way to equality in the modern world, it is encouraging to see these actions being echoed by various musicians and artists who are using their platform to spread the love on an enormous level. In a tweet, earlier on this year, American singer Hayley Kiyoko baptized 2018 with the new name of ‘#20GAYTEEN’, as she commented that “It’s our year, it’s our time. To thrive and to let our souls feel alive”. The tweet began a whole thread of tweets from fans in the community sharing their support, thanks and excitement for the year to come. Alongside this, Kiyoko has been known for featuring lesbian couples in her videos (such as ‘Girls like Girls’) ever since 2015 and normalizing LGBTQ relationships and desire.

Artists such as Blood Orange and Steve Lacy also encourage discussions on race, black masculinity, gender and sexuality through their music. Steve Lacy, guitarist of The Internet came out as bisexual to the public in 2017 and has since featured in music videos with a male love interest whilst sporting floral and fitted clothes that convey a feminine touch. Furthermore, Lacy walked designer Virgil Abloh’s first Louis Vuitton show just months ago styling a sheer shirt. Dev Hynes a.k.a. Blood Orange discussed his sexuality in 2016, referencing the attitudes of Bowie and Prince regarding fluid sexuality. He commented that “Things are fluid… I’m not hiding in not defining myself. I’m openly not defining myself”. In an interview with ‘Vulture’ magazine, he also shared how as a teen he was pushing boundaries by being “…a black kid wearing makeup, painting my nails, and relaxing my hair.”

British-Japanese singer Rina Sawayama released her single ‘Cherry’ in early August this year and used this release as a platform to share her pansexual pride. The lyrics of her song convey her struggle at coming to terms with being pansexual, as she sings “Even though I’m satisfied, I lead my life within a lie, holding onto feelings I’m not used to feeling”. She highlights that although she is living her life and appreciating it, she cannot be truly happy until she learns to be proud of her feelings and attractions towards others. Her new single Cherry has been received by fans with an overwhelming response of thanks as Sawayama becomes an icon for the queer Asian community.


The featured image is a still from Hayley Kiyoko’s music video ‘What I Need’