In an industry that often does not recognize the talents of the most marginalized, these queer and nonbinary artists are breaking through the obstacles and defying the stereotypes to create some of the most groundbreaking work in the business. Here are 10 queer and nonbinary artists to add to your playlist!
1. Dua Saleh
A new, exciting powerhouse, Sudanese-American artist Dua Saleh has garnered critical acclaim for their musical prowess. After their debut in 2019, Saleh has only further solidified themselves as a talented upcoming artist.
Saleh’s artistry is a masterful mixture of rap, pop, and sensual R&B. Saleh alternates between rhythmic, poetic rapping and entrancing, spellbinding singing. It blends smoothly into a melodious vocal performance that flows like water through a speaker. Listening to their voice, you find yourself bewitched, incapable
As a nonbinary lesbian artist, Saleh tailors their music to the black queer experience with mystical finesse However, they don’t seek to have their compilation of identities become a primary fixation. Having been born in Sudan, Saleh utilizes different Muslim influences to incorporate into their music. Their song ‘Smut’ happens to be their first song released that is partially in Arabic.
2. Kelsey Lu
Very rarely do I hear an album so good, that it bewitches my body and soul. Kelsey Lu’s debut album ‘Blood’ is one of those albums. This album, a solid representation of Lu’s talents, can only be described as an extraordinary psychedelic experience. What I would call the magnum opus of indie music in 2019, ‘Blood’ is heartachingly beautiful, and by the end, you’ll have shed a few tears.
Astonishingly talented singer and cellist Kelsey Lu is an experimental visionary. Having been formally trained in classical instruments like the piano, violin, and cello, Lu immerses her listeners in meditational music that blends together soulful string plucks and her alluring, siren-like voice. Their sound doesn’t resemble anything else in music right now, and cannot be remotely replicated. Their talents have garnered recognition from artists such as Solange, Florence + the Machine, and Blood Orange.
Lu, whose music is an intimate journey of self-discovery and reflection, includes themes such as healing, identity, love, grief, and loss into their art. A staunch believer in the abolition of the cis, white, heteropatriarchy, Lu’s music is a healing refuge for queer individuals.
Singer-songwriter Kelela is another talented artist making her own path in music. Combining alternative R&B and progressive electronic music, Kelela is an inspiring vocalist who creates otherworldly music that ranges from club beats to bedroom listening. Finding musical inspiration in jazz music at a young age, Kelela continues to release projects full of authenticity and unprecedented rarity. She has also collaborated with artists such as Solange, Arca, and Gorillaz.
Los-Angeles-based singer-songwriter Syd initially gained popularity as the founder and lead singer of the Grammy-nominated band The Internet. Since then, Syd has branched out into her own solo career. A proficient DJ, producer, and singer, Syd’s music is a sultry neo-soul and R&B combination. Her 2017 debut album ‘Fin’ is fresh and breezy, and truly demonstrates her charisma and confidence as an artist.
5. Tayla Parx
Bisexual artist Tayla Parx is not just a skilled vocalist with proficiency in R&B, soul, pop, and hip-hop, but she is also an incredibly talented songwriter. She has been given writing credits on several Billboard smash hits such as ‘Love Lies’ by Khalid and Normani, “Thank U, Next’ by Ariana Grande, and ‘High Hopes’ by Panic! at the Disco. Her work on Grande’s album earned her a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year. Her catalog doesn’t end there. She has also been a contributing writer to albums by Mariah Carey, The Internet, Jennifer Lopez, BTS, and many more.
Her songwriting accolades aside, Parx is a visionary of contemporary R&B, operating in the grey area between urban R&B and “feel good” pop. Parx also has an impressive acting career. She’s starred in films like Hairspray and Beyond the Pretty Door, as well as television shows like Everybody Hate Chris, Victorious, and True Jackson VP. With singing, songwriting, and acting under her belt, Parx is the definition of a well-rounded artist.
Raveena Aurora, known professionally as simply Raveena, is a humble young artist with an affinity for R&B, soul, folk, jazz, and experimental pop music. As someone who was raised in a traditional Sikh household as is openly bisexual, Raveena’s music often at the intersection of culture, identity, sexuality, and tradition. She focuses on creating spaces, both personal and public, in her music to explore these nuanced ideas.
7. Orion Sun
Philadelphia-based singer, producer, and songwriter Tiffany Majette, known professionally as Orion Sun, is a multitalented artist whose tender alt-R&B sound provides the perfect backdrop for intimate escapism. Her voice, alternating between soft singing and eclectic rapping, is used to weave poetic melodies about trauma, queer relationships, loss, grief, love, and other emotional weights.
A lesser-known yet equally promising artist, Chicago-based singer-songwriter Tasha uses her music as both celebration and refuge for those like herself who imagine positive lives for themselves outside of oppressive forces. Tasha, who believes in self-care as radical resistance, creates a space for those of different identities to express vulnerability. Her music is genre-fluid. With a heavy reliance on guitar work, Tasha’s music creates narratives about the peaks, pitfalls, and uncertainty of love.
9. Siena Liggins
Siena Liggins, another queer rising star, brings a necessary new perspective to the realm of pop music. Pulling inspiration from artists like Destiny’s Child and Briney Spears, Liggins is taking control of the pop music sound. She remixes the usual cookie-cutter pop music to add her own swagger, bravado, and provocative beauty.
10. Serena Isioma
Serena Isioma, the Chicago-based Nigerian-American musician, is certainly an upcoming talent to watch. A lover of alternative R&B, Isioma has mastered how to blend classic R&B, hip-hop, indie, and pop at just 20-years-old. After receiving critical acclaim for her most recent project ‘Sensitive’ over the past year, Isioma seems to be the next big artist to elevate themselves into the mainstream.