Music is a universal language. At a time where unprecedented amounts of hatred and fear are being directed towards the LGBTQ community, championing queer musicians – their joy, artistry and achievements – can be an impactful way to fight back against the negative noise.
Take a look at some of the LGBTQ musicians of color nominated for the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Award categories of Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist and Outstanding Music Artist. These nominees are leading the pack with their viral hits and unabashed queerness.
Nominees for Outstanding Breakthrough Music Artist
After his hit song “Bad Habit” off of the “Gemini Rights” album went viral on TikTok, Steve Lacy has been a household name in modern alt-R&B. Before his breakout success with Gemini Rights, Lacy has worked with several artists to co-write iconic music, including Solange Knowles, Chloe X Halle, and Kendrick Lamar.
Lacy’s solo success speaks for itself, but it doesn’t hurt that he recently won the Grammy for Best Progressive R&B Album along with netting 2 other nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. We can’t wait to see what’s next for Lacy after such an amazing year for him.
Another breakout star with a song going viral on TikTok, is Dreamer Isioma. Isioma saw massive success with the release of their single “Sensitive” which made the rounds on TikTok gaining tons of popularity.
But we can’t ignore the amazing work they’ve done in the years after. Isioma recently released their debut album Goodnight Dreamer, and it’s filled with R&B, funk, and hip hop influences with an alternative vibe. them dubbed Isioma a “nonbinary rockstar” and we completely agree.
Along with their trademark confidence, Isioma’s unique style is something to be witnessed. Their guiding principle when it comes to fashion is that “drip has no gender” and combines the feminine and masculine aspects of their identity and personality to craft a beautifully nonconformist wardrobe.
Internet heartthrob Omar Apollo, released his debut album Ivory in 2022 and we haven’t stopped thinking about him since. Recently, Apollo has been performing as the opening act for SZA, with R&B fans everywhere rejoicing.
Apollo has always been one to experiment with gender norms and sings candidly on gay love and heartbreak. His song “Go Away” has Apollo singing about how he’d wish his lover would find the heart to stay pleading to see him again: “I just don’t see you enough I wish I saw you enough.”
He also loves incorporating elaborate choreography in his performances and music videos, as he appreciates the ways in which it allows him to express a liberation free from gendered assumptions. Apollo told The Guardian , “I grew up dancing with women and the men all thought it was too expressive…I’ve always loved it. I was never afraid of that.”
Nominee for Outstanding Music Artist
Hot off the success of her Hold the Girl tour, Rina Sawayama is making a name for herself as an international pop sensation. Her albums Sawayama and Hold the Girl both bring the familiar pop sounds we know and love, but add twists of rock, R&B, and even country into the mix.
Sawayama’s confidence in her identity is clear as her music tackles queer love, race, and the ever-relatable pain of loneliness. She’s always changing, always fresh, and as she said to Billboard “maximizing the sound, maximizing the slay.”
Her talent extends even further than her musical career, as Sawayama is slated to make her debut on the screen in John Wick 4 alongside a star-studded cast. At a time of despair and uncertainty, Sawayama’s success illustrates how we can rise above hate. After all, like our favorite Sawayama lyric says, “this hell is better with you.”
While not queer himself, GLAAD is highlighting the allyship Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, aka. Bad Bunny, has shown for the queer community.
Bad Bunny’s performances always incorporate a subversion of gendered expectation and is making room for all those who don’t conform. Notably, this subversion goes further than just an aesthetic, as Martínez has repeatedly vocalized support for the queer community. In the face of transmisogynistic violence in Puerto Rico, Bad Bunny has made a national statement on The Tonight Show on the murder of Alexa Negrón Luciano, donning a shirt that read, in Spanish, Alexa was a trans woman, not a man in a dress.
Martínez’ use of his platform to advocate against transmisogynistic violence and queer rights is a perfect example of what an ally should be. An ally should be one who not only embraces, but advocates for the safety and rights of queer people
Through his allyship, Martínez has most definitely become an queer Latinx icon – and don’t take our word for it, just ask Ricky Martin.
These are just a few of the many queer artists of color changing the game when it comes to music, representation, and visibility. Hopefully their messages and confidence can be something that inspires you to embrace your own unique identity.Interested in exploring more queer artists who are breaking ground? Check out GLAAD x Sony’s ICONS series for more.