Atwood Magazine’s staff celebrates Pride Month 2023 with a special feature and playlist highlighting 20 of our favorite artists today! Read more below, and be sure to check out our Pride Month essay series for more insights into the significance and importance of this special month.
featuring The Aces, Ada Rook, Arlo Parks, Bronze Avery, Chrysalis, Claud, Dodie, Elliot Lee, Ethel Cain, FLETCHER, Isaac Dunbar, Janelle Monáe, JER, Maude Vôs & Marie Nyx, MUNA, Tim Young, Tove Lo, Trash Boat, Troye Sivan, & XANA!
Celebrating Pride Month in Music!
Triumphant and impassioned, The Aces’ third LP is an album of liberation and love, reflection and reconnection. It’s a record dealing with childhood repression in the band’s conservative hometown of Provo, Utah; one of leaving home in order to find your place in the world, and discovering (and embracing) your chosen family in the process. Released June 2 via Red Bull Records, I’ve Loved You for So Long reckons with The Aces’ past and present as the band deliver the catchiest and the most meaningful music of their career.
These songs are loud, proud, and achingly emotive: Baked into The Aces’ new album are the band members’ struggles lifelong with mental health as well as their individual (and collective) experiences with queerness (three of The Aces’ four members identify as queer) – a series of highs and lows that they lean into with the full weight of their rock band. Few tracks hit harder or carry more pure, raw passion than “Girls Make Me Wanna Die,” the churning and charged queer heartbreak anthem first released last June; it was and remains a highlight of this album, and of The Aces’ overall discography.
For The Aces’ lead singer Cristal Ramirez, writing and recording this album proved an intensely introspective and emotional process. “While trying to tell the stories of the now, of endless days and nights paralyzed by anxiety, fear, and a world out of control, there was someone else who everything kept pointing back to,” she recalls. “A 14-year-old queer girl from the suburbs of religious Utah, whose only real joy and peace was found puzzle-piecing melodies together in the basement with a guitar she snuck out of her older brother’s room. Really it’s her who saved me during a world on fire. It’s time to tell her stories – well, more like our stories. I thought I was so much different, that I’ve changed… and I’ve worn that like a badge of honor. Ultimately, I realize I’m that same 14-year-old girl in many ways. The difference is that I’ve started to like that girl a lot more than I ever have before.”
Unapologetic and uncompromising, The Aces are an inspiration in more ways than one, and their music is the best way to understand and appreciate their singular talents. Fall in love with one of the indie pop world’s best bands all over again with I’ve Loved You For So Long, and be sure to celebrate them and all they stand for this Pride Month!
Don’t bury your gays, bury the world! There are no mournful ballads on Ada Rook‘s UGLY DEATH NO REDEMPTION ANGEL CURSE I LOVE YOU, an album that practically crushes the listener under its weight with overblown distortion, industrial metal, filthy dance beats, and delirium visions of rage and despair. “Hold out for better days/You never know, you never know” shrieks Rook on “GRAVITY WEAPON,” drowning in pumping minor synths that suggest that, in fact, you actually do know.
For all its abrasiveness though, “GRAVITY WEAPON” is a cathartic track, not a hostile one – you deserve to be you even if its not cordial to straight society, it says, you deserve to be angry, and to pump your fist on a slick dance floor, smash a lamp and be a motherfucker. The song says it best, overflowing with emotion from its own flimsy bounds, “But in the end I’m a degenerate piece of shit/Motherfucker and proud of it/I cannot take another day pretending this is it/You know the score/Come at me, bitch.”
I definitely have a soft spot for Arlo Parks. It might be because she reminds me so much of Sappho’s poetry, or because I am a hopeless romantic and we bisexuals definitely need many, many more songs that represent us. From “George” to “Devotion,” Arlo has always managed to be a spokesperson for a constantly changing generation, made of queer people madly in love with their best friends (who usually do not reciprocate the feeling, as Arlo sings in queer anthem “Eugene”). Living in the same timeline as her is a pleasure and equally a privilege. I truly think she is the artist who most succeeds in making music poetry, at the moment. Her music warms the heart, and even more so does the realization that the bisexual community, as the sapphic one, is deserving of love too, regardless of what we may feel from a world that sometimes wants to crush us – but will never be able to make us miserable.
I think in a way, I’ve always loved you
I used to hate it when people said that shit
But I mean it
You make me feel free
Ripping it out of me like you feel
Gabriel Brown, known as BRONZE AVERY, has all the makings of a perfect popstar. Heavily influenced by the hyperpop production of Charli XCX, his music channels the bone-shaking 808s and eclectic vocal modulation into songs fit for the peak of a night out. In 2022, he released his debut album SOFTMETAL, a record that establishes his signature sound and flexes his production skills. It’s a must-listen if you’re a fan of Charli, Tove Lo, Britney Spears, or just unequivocally fun and queer music.
“THE ONE” is the first single off his upcoming project HEATWAVE, a compilation of “summer songs made to make you sweat.” It evolves the sound from his debut by turning it to 100, and the booming basslines and earworm hooks will be stuck in your head for days. If the rest of HEATWAVE is anything similar, the record will definitely be added straight to my summer soundtrack.
Chrysalis (AKA Indigo Ansin) is a Boston-based indie-folk singer-songwriter, whose discography carries in it the full spectrum of human emotion. With their songwriting inspiration sourced from both the complexities and joys of interpersonal relationships, chrysalis pens heart-wrenching tracks that encourage others to — as their artist pseudonym would suggest — grow and change alongside one another.
Their most recent release, “Shapeshift,” is a dedication to the queer experience. chrysalis shares upon the track, “Our stories deserve to be told in all genres. We deserve to feel we can take up space” — and thus, they had their producer AJ Jones put a country-spin on the track. With soaring fiddle lines accompanying chrysalis’ powerful vocals, the track launches itself into a full-out country ditty; well suited for this beautiful month of celebration and queer bliss.
“To be openly queer and trans means you must fight to let yourself take up space,” chrysalis shares. “I have learned that to take up space is an act of liberation.” And so, don’t be afraid to take up space — both this month and every month.
Known for their catchy and humorous pop sensibility, this 24-year-old nonbinary artist has evolved immensely since their start as an independent artist in 2018. Claud signed to Saddest Factory Records in 2020, and released their label debut Super Monster in 2021. Super Monster is a sprawling landscape of ear candy and queer love stories. It doesn’t shy away from serious topics and lost love, but the sonics keep things upbeat, making it a perfect summer record.
The first three singles from their upcoming record Supermodels, are now out. “Every Fucking Time,” “Wet,” and “Crumbs” are three diverse tracks that show Claud moving toward a more acoustic sound. Claud is currently touring with boygenius.
English indie pop artist Dodie has been creating tender odes to the queer experience for nearly a decade. She began documenting her queer journey through song with the track “I’m Bisexual (A Coming Out Song)” and has only expanded that roster since. Whilst many may think of Dodie’s sapphic love song “She” when thinking of queer Dodie songs, my mind immediately goes to her more recent track “Rainbow” from her debut album To Build A Problem, This track is particularly special in the way it grapples with the realization of being queer both through lyricism and instrumentation, taking listeners on her journey of acceptance and appreciation of her identity.
During the first chorus the singer gently muses “But to say that I’m a rainbow/ To tell me that I’m bright/ When I’m so used to feeling wrong/ Well, it makes me feel alright.” accompanied by a plucky string piece and a quite clarinet. By the second verse a string quartet swells as she pleads “So please step inside my soul/ I’d love to watch you gasp/ You’d understand in minutes/ And I’d like to think you’d miss it/ ‘Cause so would I” This lyric is what sets this track aside from other “queer anthems” in my mind as it embraces the mundanity and uniqueness for this piece of one’s identity. Dodie acknowledges the queer experience is so special and rather than wish it away, as many queer people are told to do, she only wishes others had the ability to marvel in the wonder and joy that is also so much of the queer experience.
Elliot Lee is known for creating bold, edgy music that dares others to be different. Lee celebrates what makes each of us unique, within every one of their magnetic, dark-pop anthems. The singer recently came out as non-binary. Being fully open about their true identity took a lot of courage, and their pure authenticity inspires others to be vulnerable as well. Though a weight is lifted off your shoulders in doing that, there are still hurdles that take time to process. Lee’s latest single “Easy To Be You” is about their deep struggle with self-image. The title speaks to the fact that many of us fit into society’s confines of male and female. For those that find it to be an ebb and flow it can be challenging to navigate. This non-binary artist is an LGBTQIA+ and Autism Awareness advocate further showing how she provides a voice for those that can feel voiceless.
After coming out to her family as gay at 12 years old, Ethel Cain left her church at 16. On her 20th birthday, she publicly came out as a trans woman. The 2022 release Preacher’s Daughter detailed Ethel Cain’s heavily religious upbringing and generational trauma — and even caught the attention of Former President Barack Obama. Most songs on the album are infamously long, (we’re talking about 6 or 7 minutes per track), but are perfect for moments of introspection. Or crying in your car. Your choice.
FLETCHER is exploding into Pride Month! The queer singer/songwriter has been hosting, partnering and putting on events this year to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. She kicked off the month by hosting her first ever FLETCHER & FRIENDS festival in her hometown for 5,000 people. She also played LA Pride in the Park. Throughout the month, she is partnering with Tinder for the second year of “Meet Her At The Bar.” An experience that celebrates Pride at 15 woman-owned queer bars nationwide with proceeds going to GLAAD.
Known for her pop-infused, truthful and catchy tunes, FLETCHER opened up about her life in her debut album Girl Of My Dreams which was released on September 16, 2022. The about 50-minute album features songs such as “Becky’s So Hot,” “Serial Heartbreaker” and “Her Body Is Bible.” In an Instagram post she wrote, “It is the culmination of every experience and lover and moment in between. I have never been more proud, excited and ready for something to be out in the world.”
It’s been super fun watching Isaac Dunbar’s progress since I first started listening to “comme des garçons (like the boys)” off his 2020 album isaac’s insects. He’s always come across as astonishingly self-assured in his work, with a clear vision and the production skills to match. Dunbar’s most recent project, Banish The Banshee, displays that same sense of ownership, confidence, and undeniable pride he’s shown since day one. Featuring powerful synth-pop bangers that harken back to his earlier punchy work, Banish The Banshee still touches on tender with tracks like “Fool’s Paradise.” It’s exciting to remember that Dunbar is just 20 years old, and with such a bright beginning, who’s to say where he’ll go next? Wherever it may be, it’s heartwarming to see such confidently queer artists feel safe and empowered in today’s music space.
Though her most recent album, The Age of Pleasure, didn’t continue Janelle Monáe‘s string of excellent albums starting in 2010, it doesn’t take away from the fact that her past work has made her a queer icon. Her debut album, The ArchAndroid, was a cinematic concept record that posited her as Cindi Mayweather, an outcast in the futuristic city of Metropolis due to the fact that she’s a cyborg. This otherness she wrote about drew from several factors — queerness, race, and religious upbringing. Though The ArchAndroid and its follow-up The Electric Lady were heavier, more unrelenting masterpieces, her 2018 album Dirty Computer was her most accessible yet. Combining soul, funk, pop, R&B, and a multitude of other genres, Monáe’s career exploded and she cinched a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. “Pynk” and “Make Me Feel” discuss her being an openly pansexual woman, and other tracks like “I Like That” discuss her place in the music industry, and “Screwed” and “Americans” take digs at American capitalism and society. Now, on her most recent album The Age of Pleasure, she expands and talks about her sexuality almost constantly on the album, no longer needing to hind behind a cyborg veneer to discuss what she really wants to.
JER, creator of the surprise hit YouTube channel Skatune Network, is a non-binary ska musician and anticolonialist working to give the most unfairly maligned genre in history its due. Though really, who’s surprised? We all knew ska was destined to make a comeback eventually – mock it as teenage mozzarella stick music all you want, your pathetic ironic detachment falls to pieces at the first trombone blare and you find yourself skanking with reckless abandon – and are those checkered suspenders you’re wearing?
JER released their debut album, Bothered/Unbothered, in May of 2022, a unique pastiche of nostalgia-inducing ska vamps, trap influence, defiant lyricism and that’s both a unique take on ska-punk and perfectly JER. Drawing on the genre’s liberatory roots and its underdog status, “Clout Chasers” takes aim at the “too cool,” the disingenuous, the golden-ladder-climbers, and yes, maybe even our mindnumbing heteronormative monoculture (although I’m extrapolating there). As JER sings, “Now you want to come back with me/’Cause now I got clout/Even though there’s no doubt/You didn’t give a fuck about me/Too cool to be seen/Hanging with the ska band back in 2017.” “Clout Chasers” works as a callout of the influencer, but also about the attitude towards ska, and in fact music in the social media age, as a whole.
Twenty years after 50 Cent scored what remains one of the biggest hip-hop hits in history by elaborating on the ongoings “In Da Club,” L.A.-based duo Maude Vôs & Marie Nyx are doing their own part to document said setting with their new house number, “In The Club Out.” It may feature fewer words than Fiddy’s old hit, but it still gives us the sense of the club as a place where the LGBT crowd is free to be themselves and keep their sexual orientation unobscured. “I am gay in the club, I am queer in the club” are words that can be freely hollered out in such a setting.
Maude & Marie have made the most of their efforts to create what they describe as “an ode to queer club culture [that] embodies the richness and fulfillment we experience after a night out with our found family.” It’ll be fun to follow them as they roll out the next phase of this project – inviting LGBT artists in cities across the U.S. to record their own versions of this song and compile them all into the In The Club Out EP.
They’re the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world. Comprised of Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson, MUNA carved a unique space in the indie pop scene. Each member is deeply involved in the creative process, with the group debuting their self-titled album in 2022. They’re fun and unapologetically queer — and if you’re lucky, will feature artists like Phoebe Bridgers or Lorde during their concerts.
Tim Young’s journey has been one of self-discovery and overcoming adversity. Having grown up in a strict Christian household the artist faced the challenges of leaving his religion in order to embrace his true self as a gay man. Now, during Pride month, Young unveils his beautifully emotional new track, “Lavender,” sharing, “Lavender is not exclusive to the gay experience, but it is my experience, and my experience is gay AF.”
The song narrates the story of heartbreak and the aftermath of being in an all-consuming relationship. Young is haunted by the scent of lavender, who his ex was obsessed with and would douse himself in any product that consisted of it. Young explains, “He made his cologne out of it, he’d bathe in it, he’d smoke it. Everything about him, our time together, was wrapped up in that scent.” The powerful track is representative of the artist putting a close to this chapter and is the perfect anthem for anyone who is trying to move on from their past.
I discovered Tove Lo by seeing her almost by accident last year at a festival. Right away she had amazed me with the confidence with which she moved while singing and enchanting the audience. Three seconds, and I already had goosebumps. So I started listening to her and discovering her, song after song, and then falling madly in love with “Dirt Femme” – and discovering, as icing on the cake, that she is bisexual. A piece of news that normally would not have surprised me all that much, except that I have only recently begun to actually realize my sexuality, having never had any examples of bisexual people in my life (famous or otherwise).
Discovering this side of the singer comforted me more than expected. While I grew up in a decidedly toxic environment, where it is inconceivable not to be married by the age of 25 to a rich man, I had proof that I was not an anomaly, something that needs to be fixed. Tove Lo seriously showed me that you can literally do whatever you feel like doing in this world, because there will always be someone ready to accept and support you as you are. To me, that woman is the quintessence of freedom, and it is honestly what I aspire to most in my life.
The LGBTQ experience is complex and multifaceted, harrowing, isolating, and uncompromising. In a world where queerness is met with stigma and aversion, Trash Boat frontman Tobi Duncan certainly counts his lucky stars for being able to express and embrace his identity growing up. But, being raised in an accepting environment does not mean he turns a blind eye to queer struggles at the hands of an unsupportive support system — in fact, he’s more conscious of them. Realizing his experience is less-than-universal, Duncan takes a stand against the (far more commonplace) familial othering and rejection of queer youth in the UK five piece’s defiant pop-punk anthem of resistance and power, “He’s So Good.”
“It will never cease to amaze me that people can let such a benign thing as sexual preference or gender identity have such a dramatic impact on their concept of morality,” he shares. “Even to the point where they would abandon their child. As if the deviation from the status quo of human presentation and partnership for procreation was an affront to the very essence of what it is to love. I wanted to put that energy into a song. I want people to know that it is written with them in mind. I want people to be able to use the topic as a point of pride and enjoy listening to music that makes them feel confident and heard. Ask anyone who knows me well, they know this isn’t a shy topic for me! There’s just a time and a place. And it’s now.”
Australian pop star Troye Sivan dropped his debut album Blue Neighborhood in 2015 documenting his coming of age in every facet, including his queer experience. Sivan held such significance in the queer music space as so much of his queer journey had been documented online, via his YouTube channel. The internet sensation then took his story to the studio creating a an ethereal soundscape of self contemplation. Track nine of the album features the dreamy yet melancholy sounds of Sivan contemplating the concept of heaven in tandem with his queerness.
“Without losing a piece of me/ How do I get to heaven?/ Without changing a part of me/ How do I get to heaven? […] So if I’m losing a piece of me/ Maybe I don’t want heaven?” the singer belts accompanied by echoing, larger than life harmonies and 2016 trap beats.
Sivan wrote this track in response to anti queer rhetoric sharing, “If there is one I like to think I’m a good enough person to make it there. Being a sinner before you’ve even woken up in the morning and done anything wrong or before you’re even born (because I believe that people are born LGBT), it’s just something that doesn’t sit well with me.” Sivan flips this anti queer rhetoric on its head and actively distances himself from a community that is not accepting of him.
This song has resonated with so much of the queer community who have questioned their identity amongst those who do not accept them with Sivan providing a safe haven for everyone who has questioned their sense of belonging, asking “So if I’m losing a piece of me/ Maybe I don’t want heaven?”
Canadian pop artist Xana is known for weaving LGBTQ+ themes throughout every song she writes. In fact, she is so honest and personable in her music, that listening to her songs is like reading some of her most intimate diary entries. Her latest single “babyblue” is evident of just that, with Xana opening up about her anxiety when it comes to realizing that as time passes and we grow older, we lose connections and friendships with people we used to cherish in our lives. Through her raw delivery, the musician encourages others to be more transparent with their own thoughts and feelings. Speaking about what she hopes to accomplish with her music, Xana shares, “I hope my music inspires others to write! All their feelings and all their thoughts, even if no one but themselves ever reads them. I think writing and documenting your human experience is one of life’s greatest gifts and is often missed out on. It’s such a beautiful and powerful tool, and if they do find it in them to share with the world, the world is a luckier place because of them. Also, to kiss girls.”