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7 Queer Artists to Rock You Into 2021
There's something timeless about Omar Apollo's tunes. The Mexican-American singer-songwriter pairs neo-soul elements with funky electric guitar riffs and 808s (beats) to create otherworldly tracks that take you to another dimension while exploring the very human themes of love, loss, sex, and self-destruction. Last year he released his debut album, Apolonio, which features the standout "Kamikaze." In it, Apollo reconnects with a toxic old flame. It seems the 23-year-old would rather be defined by his ethereal falsetto than his sexuality; when asked about it by the Los Angeles Times, he simply said, "I'm just chilling." He's not hiding who he is, though -- he explores same-gender relationships in his music videos. But there's a freedom that he brings to his infectious music, a vibe you can sink into.
It's sadboi hours, and James Droll is ready to break your heart. It's tough to pinpoint a genre the gay singer-songwriter fits into; there's a very strong R&B presence, often over soft guitar-plucked melodies or a sleek, synth production with Droll's delicate crooning always driving the music's current. Think Bruno Major or JP Saxe. The 20-something grew up on a llama farm in Ohio and began writing songs as a release, cataloging his relationships, breakups, and great loves to express the feelings he couldn't say aloud. Last year, 2020, was a great year for Droll. He dropped his Pity Party EP with Trove as well as the single "I Don't Care" with rising pop artist Charlotte Sands. It's become his most streamed track yet. That teary-eyed heartbreaker of a song gives an ex-lover permission to curse his name. His latest, "FTL," is a shift for Droll, a sensual and saccharine love song. "Tears drop with a smile on my face," he sings. "Don't stop, I love the way we're tempting fate."
"I can't get this bitch up out my head," Killboy sings on her latest single, "U + Me." A little punk, a little hip-hop, and a hint of pop, this Texas native is writing her own rules when it comes to her career in music. She dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles to create on her terms. Her vision is on full display in the chaotic music video for "U + Me," a brash declaration of love for another woman. Killboy makes it clear that she isn't your average singer-songwriter. Now, who wants to make some bad decisions?
Another generation of LGBTQ+ artists is rising from the ether. At just 17, Isaac Dunbar is boldly exploring all the uncertainties, first loves, and existentialism of the queer teen experience in his eclectic pop jams. His latest EP opens with "Makeup Drawer," a synth track that he has said is about "acceptance of my sexuality," further noting, "For a long time I tried to repress it, but I have learned to love this side of me." Dunbar might think he's late to finding himself, but he's someone boldly sharing who he is at a remarkably young age in a brave, beautiful, and empowering way. One new track, "Intimate Moments," shares his anxiousness over opening up to someone with heart-tugging strings and his signature vocals. Put on your dancing shoes and open up your heart to Isaac Dunbar.
Get lost in the trance of Planningtorock. The eclectic nonbinary genderqueer alt-pop musician dropped their collaboration EP with Chanel sound director Michel Gaubert last year, titled PlanningtoChanel. They're donating a portion of all release earnings to antiracist organizations like the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, which advocates on behalf of Black trans people in the U.S. Planningtorock also opens the Magician's new mixtape, Magic Tape 100, with "My Fire."
You might not know her name (yet), but you've certainly heard her songs. 27-year-old Tayla Parx is a seasoned singer-songwriter who has written massive hits for Ariana Grande ("7 Rings"), Panic! at the Disco ("High Hopes"), Mariah Carey ("Infinity"), and many more. But she's more than capable of standing on her own two feet. Late last year, Parx released her second studio album, Coping Mechanisms, an outlet for her post-relationship feels "rather than let a breakup break her," as a press release states. Parx plays with genre effortlessly, blending R&B, pop, and hip-hop into an astounding collection of songs that are both familiar and unheard of. Take the album opener, "Sad," for instance -- a bouncy, lighthearted track wishing her ex the absolute worst. The bisexual star won't "Dance Alone" as long as we're within earshot.
Put your phone away before listening to Fletcher or you might end up texting your ex. The sexually fluid, 26-year-old New Jersey native is poised to be the next big thing with her brand of dark, sexy, heart-wrenching dance-pop. Last year, Fletcher released The S(ex) Tapes, a reckoning with her self-destructive tendencies after a messy breakup through catchy hooks and heavy beats you feel in your toes. "Bitter" is the standout. "I know you fucked her on the counter right before you cooked her dinner, yeah," she sings. "I know you think about me when you kiss her / I left a taste in your mouth, can she taste me now." Most recently, Fletcher's voice crackled over the end credits of the thrilling revenge flick Promising Young Woman, a foreboding pledge that she'll be the one with the "Last Laugh." Keep one eye open for Fletcher -- she's coming for you, 2021.