As LGBTQ+ history month comes to a close, 20 Watts is celebrating 10 artists who have made music feel like a safe space for so many listeners.
The LGBT Sentinel describes Shamir as a “unique presence in the music industry” and that “his nonbinary gender identity and androgynous voice have made him a staple in the LGBTQ+ music scene.” Shamir recently left XL Recordings to be independent with Father/Daughter Records, and is about to release his first record with them. For every record purchased, Shamir has promised to donate a dollar to the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania.
Back in 2016, Pride Magazine wrote, “Meet Kehlani, the Bisexual R&B Singer That’s Taking Over 2016.” Now, at only 22 years old, Kehlani is known for always being open and embracing her sexuality — a rare find even for today. It’s also safe to say she’s had one hell of a 2017 with her recent release, “Honey,” which had everyone swooning.
Similar to Kehlani, Sam Smith tries to be as open and honest as possible. After coming out in 2014, Sam Smith continues to be a voice for the LGBTQ+ community, and told recently told Rolling Stone that he doesn’t consider himself a cisgender man. Smith said, “I don’t know what the title would be, but I feel just as much woman as I am man… Looking back on it, it was the fear of saying the wrong thing and offending, and I was 19 when I started writing my first album. I’d just moved to London from a village – I was literally the only gay in the village. I didn’t know what I wanted to say.”
Frank Ocean’s sexuality has never been nor had to be clearly stated. He has never labeled himself, but by mentioning same-sex attraction in lyrics like “My guy pretty like a girl” from his song “Chanel,” he’s pushing the industry to think more progressively and reconsider the way they label themselves and other artists.
Electropop singer Lowell most definitely brings her own flair of color to the LGBTQ+ community. With her long-lasting anthem, “LGBT,” she arguably puts it best out of anyone with lyrics like, “Don’t hate our love, when I look into your eyes I know that I am where I wanna be” and “Some old people wanna go back home/To the life where everyone’s pretending to belong/Some young people are smarter than the teachers/They teach us that we do belong.” Forever grateful for this song, Lowell.
Similar to Frank Ocean, Annie Clark (stage name St. Vincent) avoids using labels. Dating back to 2014, Clark has been dodging interview questions about sexuality. She once told Rolling Stone, “I believe in gender fluidity and sexual fluidity. I don’t really identify as anything… I don’t have anything to hide, but I’d rather the emphasis be on music.”
Emily Sprague, producer, guitarist, and singer in indie band Florist, posted on Twitter this past National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11) “being gay is literally my favorite part of being alive.” This just reminds us to be thankful for artists like Sprague who acknowledge that they have a voice that’s being heard by many people and use it to be sincere and encouraging.
This past Gay Pride Month, which is always in June, Billboard asked several artists to write a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community. Sia’s is sure to make your heart melt. She mentioned a video a boy made to one of her songs about struggling with being gay. She wrote, “In that moment I decided to dedicate myself to the queer community in a more meaningful way. I am so very grateful for my queer community and would have withered away long ago without them.” Sia is yet another amazing example of using your voice for empowerment and justice.
Halsey was flooding the media this summer with headlines like “Halsey Is Coming Through Loud and Queer” and “Halsey is releasing a bisexual love song, and it’s brilliant.” She also wrote a letter to the LGBTQ+ community for Billboard, fought back BuzzFeed when they criticized her image, and created a love song for the LGBT community with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui. As she should be, Halsey is not afraid to write lyrics about girls — and definitely not afraid to speak out about it.
Tegan & Sara
Both openly gay, twin sisters Tegan & Sara have been and always will be LGBTQ+ icons. In 2016, they launched the Tegan and Sara Foundation, with the goal to “fight for economic justice, health and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.” In 2017, they were given a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist.