Queer pop: Five stars leading the revolution

The rise of queer pop looks set to continue in 2019, with stars like Christine and the Queens, LP and King Princess leading the way.

Queer pop is by no means new – after all David Bowie and the New Romantics got there first, decades ago. But last year the genre seemed to establish itself in the mainstream in a way it has never done before. Many of 2018’s most interesting – and relevant – pop albums explored gender fluidity, identity and sexual freedom. (The trend was seen in television too, where actors such as Asia Kate Dillon pushed boundaries). Here are five singers who are changing the game.

Christine and the Queens

This innovative French artist has made two stonkingly good albums. The first, Chaleur Humaine in 2016, drew on her struggles as a queer woman dealing with alienation and loneliness.

The second, last year’s Chris, saw the performer (with newly cropped hair and ripped biceps) toy with notions of masculinity and femininity, self-loathing and desire – all within the confines of deliciously catchy synth pop.

Like Prince, all her songs have a sexual undercurrent (The Guardian called her “a pansexual horndog”). Like Michael Jackson, she can dance, just check out her moves in the video for Girlfriend. It’s no wonder Christine and the Queens is up for Best International Female Solo Artist at next month’s Brits.

King Princess

King Princess, aka Michaela Straus, is a super cool New Yorker who recently came second in the BBC Sound of 2019 contest.

A musical prodigy who turned down a record deal with Virgin Records when she was 11, King Princess has since grown up and signed to Mark Ronson’s label. KP broke through last year with 1950. She played every instrument on the track, a well-crafted anthem to unrequited lesbian love.

Adam Lambert

The former American Idol contestant (he was runner up in 2009 and came out in Rolling Stone shortly after) spent much of 2018 on the road with Queen filling some of the biggest shoes in the business – those of the late, great Freddie Mercury. With his massive range, and flamboyant on-stage persona, Lambert succeeded in doing Mercury’s memory justice, without imitating him. He’s rumoured to be releasing a new album this year. Check out his recent rendition of Believe at a tribute concert for Cher in December.

Olly Alexander

The Years and Years frontman and erstwhile actor describes himself as “super gay”. He has spoken openly about homophobia, bullying and his struggles with mental health.

Alexander has also discussed the fact that gay popstars don’t use a male pronoun when singing about their love interest. He’s looking to change this.

In 2018 Alexander called for an antidote to toxic masculinity: “Let’s let our men be happy, be sad, be trans, be questioning, be bisexual, be non-conforming, be feminine, be masculine.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

LP

After slogging away in the music business for 15 years, singer-songwriter Laura Pergolizzi, aka LP, had an “overnight hit” with Lost On You. No one was more surprised than the artist herself. She’d almost given up on the dream of making it as a solo performer. Throughout her career the androgynous singer has refused to conform to stereotypes about what a female singer should sound or look like. As a result, she was twice dropped from record labels. But LP has no regrets. Inspired by Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman, she knew that she could never be anyone, but herself. LP, who released her fifth album Heart To Mouth in December, feels industry attitudes are changing, albeit slowly. She told Channel Four News: “Even now I feel like there is this quota [that there can only be a certain number of queer artists]. It would be great to get to a point where there’s not this quota scenario”.

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