Happy Pride Month, everyone!
This June, we wanted to do something a bit different to celebrate our peers in the music industry: because a love song is a love song, and an angry breakup anthem is an angry breakup anthem, no matter who it’s written about or which pronouns are sung by whom.
I wanted to give thanks to and highlight some of the artists that have inspired me the most, as musicians, songwriters, and people who are comfortable with their sexuality.
Instead of recapping a Top 5 list at the end of the month as we normally like to do, we thought it would be fun to give these songs to you at the beginning, so you have all month (and beyond) to stream and explore these artists. Oh- and there’s a bonus song for the six colors of the rainbow (that’s counting purple as one color, not indigo and violet, just as it appears on the pride flag).
The releases of these songs all fall within the past year; that is, since last Pride Month. These artists span far and wide, though, ranging from our local Music City to the continent of Oceania.
Without further adieu, here are six of our favorite songs by LGBTQ+ artists from the last year.
6. Zack Joseph — “High”
The Nashville-based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist released “High” earlier this year, a bright- and happy-sounding single that shows off his powerful vocals, complete with his cello-like vibrato (a comparison drawn from his first main instrument). When we spoke with Zack Joseph earlier this year in an exclusive interview, he told us about some of the meaning behind the song, such as the fact that “getting lost—even if only to find your way again—is part of the journey, so why not have a little fun while you do it?” Since we caught up with him, he dropped the EP Keeping Me Sane, which contains four additional emotional songs, plus his previous single “Runaway Train.”
5. Libby Larkin — “Wrong Places”
“Wrong Places” by 25-year-old New Yorker Libby Larkin will have your hips swaying and head nodding with its sultry beat and looping hooks. Back in February, she released “the most vulnerable project” she’s ever worked on, a three-song EP called L|A book-ended with an intro and outro discussing more about the project. The songs include her signature laid-back temperament, ethereal vocals, and ghostly production. What stands out about “Wrong Places” is the atmosphere it creates, a catchy and danceable beat that still remains relaxed, giving it a versatile property. Her openness with her fans through her art is a respectable and important quality, one that many people aspire for but can’t always pull off quite as well. Many of us know someone who is “looking for love in all the wrong places,” and we’re right there with Larkin, watching painfully as they get hurt while we’re helpless to stop them.
4. Ladyhawke feat. Broods — “Guilty Love”
Ladyhawke (born Phillipa “Pip” Brown) is “a sort of pop superwoman creating radio-friendly songs with a single bound,” as we found out when we reviewed “Guilty Love” in March. The New Zealand native rock star also released a music video for the song, depicting two schoolgirls running off from a Catholic church where they were evidently not happy. The premise is presumably somewhat inspired by her own journey, which ended in a happily-ever-after when she married actress Madeleine Sami in 2015. With help from Georgia Nott of the sibling duo Broods, a vintage-feeling, dramatic and thrilling earworm is born. She is now busy promoting her fourth album, Time Flies, to be released in October, on which “Guilty Love” will appear.
3. MAY-A — “Time I Love To Waste”
19-year-old MAY-A commands a presence with talent and maturity well beyond her years. “Time I Love To Waste” is one of the Australian singer’s ten or so singles so far, yet despite not having released a cohesive collection yet, she’s accumulated an impressive and invested following. She stands out with her husky voice, which she has adept control over, and a distinct songwriting style filled with imagery and confidence. With an exciting contrast between understated verses and a dynamite chorus, “Time I Love To Waste” captures a frisky energy that takes the listener on a wild ride like a speed boat cruising along a smooth lake at sunset where they can get lost daydreaming about that one person they’d drop everything for, like her subject in the song.
2. Harry Strange — “I Like You”
Especially in this past lonely year, online dating seems to be one of the only ways to meet people. In “I Like You,” that’s how British singer-songwriter Harry Strange met his fling, but he doesn’t mind, as he sings, “And maybe one day we’ll forget just how we met / laugh about meeting someone on the internet / kind of funny, but really it’s lovely.” The very acoustic, stripped-back song gives way for his charming accent and subtle inflections that add a lot of personality to the song. By the last third of the song, though, the energy kicks up for a frantic, climactic bridge that carries the listener out of the song with a triumphant feeling.
1. Lauren Sanderson — “Frustrated”
It only takes the first ten seconds to get the listener hooked on “Frustrated.” The ambient sounds against a simple yet infectious drum beat capture your full attention even before Lauren Sanderson begins her first of many flirtatious lines with her magnetic voice, the first of which: “The way you move is something I just can’t explain.” What I can’t explain is how the song is so deliciously addicting from start to stop, though if I had to guess, it would have something to do with the catchy rhythms that beg you to sing along with hands thrown up in the air. From the perky guitar riff in the hook to her succulent voice, “Frustrated” is a perfect example of Sanderson’s rising status as the coolest rocker chick on the block. The Indiana native’s latest two singles, “Hi.” and “QUEEN BEE,” would have also easily been great contenders for this list, and are ushering in a new era of her music and career.