Members of the LGBTQ+ community have been part of the music industry forever, but just in the past decade we have seen a rise in the popularity of queer women making chart toppers. From massively popular artists to newcomers, queer women have been dominating the music market more than ever before. Even just looking at Spotify’s top hits playlist, you can see multiple queer and trans women dominating the charts, such as Ice Spice, Kim Petras, and Miley Cyrus. The increase in awareness of the importance of supporting queer voices has allowed for a space in the music industry for these voices to be heard. It is so important to highlight voices that have historically been silenced.

Queer women have been creating music for many years, and there are many major artists that identify as queer that the general public may have not even been aware of. These women are so important within the music industry because they paved the way for the queer women of today to be able to build a strong platform and create the music that they want to instead of the music that they’re told to make. Their influence on the music industry today should continue to be acknowledged and praised. Dating back to the 1930s, gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe and jazz singer Billie Holiday, were both reported to have had relationships with women although they did not go public with these relationships. Other singers in this era, such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, were much more overtly queer in their stage performances, paving the way for future queer artists. Years later in the 1960s, pop singer Lesley Gore, who was a lesbian and activist but not open about her sexuality during her career, had some of the largest pop songs of the decade including “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me.” The release of these songs aligned with the rise of second-wave feminism and the emphasis of independence for women. The 1970s led to the rise of many bands led by queer women, such as Fanny led by openly gay June Millington and Blondie led by the sexually fluid Debbie Harry. Their music offered new sounds to the music industry and were majorly influential. The 1980s continued to be a space for queer women in groups in the music industry. The 80s also introduced one of the greatest singers of all time, Whitney Houston, who was at the time not open about her relationship with Robyn Crawford but it has since been confirmed. The 1990s were also an important decade for queer women in music, with the popularity of k.d. lang, Melissa Etheridge, and Queen Latifah, who didn’t officially come out until years later. Into the 2000s and today, queer women have become more prevalent within the music industry and their influence is present in the artists that we see today. 

“Girls Like Girls” Music Video

Today, there is more and more queer female representation in the music industry than ever, and we have these predecessors to thank. Queer women now have an outlet where it is safe to sing about love for other women, which was once a taboo subject in music. Compared to music as a whole, queer women still make up a small percentage of singers today, but this number is continuing to grow. It is so important for queer women singing about other women to have a space for their music on the radio, as it normalizes these kinds of lyrics for audiences that may not be used to hearing them. For example, Halsey’s 2017 hit song “Bad at Love” is so important because she sings about past relationships with both men and women. This song was a mainstream hit, paving the way for other women to sing about relationships with women. Many queer women in music who are open about their sexuality through interviews or through their music often incorporate these themes into their music videos as well, so if the messages weren’t clear enough through the lyrics then the video will solidify them. One major influential music video released in 2015 was for the song “Girls Like Girls” by Hayley Kiyoko, who has been nicknamed “lesbian Jesus” by many on the internet. This music video was so important for many because even in 2015, seeing a music video that overtly showcases love between two women was not as common as it may be today. Hayley Kiyoko has been very open about her sexuality and continues to thrive in the music industry today. Another way that queer women are dominating the music industry, especially these past couple of years, is through collaborations. In 2017, bisexual singers Lauren Jauregui and Halsey teamed up for their song “Strangers.” Just last year, Phoebe Bridgers collaborated with the band MUNA for their hit song “Silk Chiffon.” This is not the only queer collaboration Bridgers has been a part of. She is also part of the music group boygenius which is made up of her, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus, all queer-identifying singers. Other notable collaborations happened during NBC’s Miley’s New Year’s Eve Party. Miley Cyrus’ star-studded guest list included Fletcher and Brandi Carlile, two openly queer artists. These collaborations have been majorly successful and prove that the space for queer women in the music industry is growing.

Watching the rise of queer women in the music industry has been so exciting, and I look forward to seeing how this space for them expands. There are many artists that I have enjoyed over the years that I always urge people to listen to. One of my favourites is the band The Aces, which includes multiple queer women. They have been very open about queer relationships within their music. Their third studio album is set to release this year, and I hope that they receive the mainstream success that they deserve. Another artist that I have been following for a while is newcomer, Reneé Rapp. She has covered all the bases, with being on Broadway and starring in a TV show, but she started releasing music in 2022 and is sure to be the future of pop music. I have also been a fan of the music groups MUNA and boygenius, who have worked together in the past, such as performing together at Coachella this year. They have shown us the power of the collaboration of queer artists. Finally, another queer artist that has a highly anticipated album set to release this year is Janelle Monáe, who showcased her role as an advocate for queer pride and female empowerment on her last album. This list could go on and on as I am a major fan of what queer women have been doing in music recently, but I urge everyone, no matter how you identify, to pay attention to the music that queer women are releasing.

About the Author

Hi! I'm Megan and I'm a fourth year English major. This is my first year writing for WEW and I'm really excited about it! Some of my favourite things to do in my free time are watching movies, reading, and baking. My favourite movies are La La Land (2016) and Little Women (2019) and my favourite book is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I'm looking forward to sharing my ideas with everyone and also learning about new topics from the other writers!