2016 Was a Strong Year for Queer Representation in Music

2016 Was a Strong Year for Queer Representation in Music

Despite the setbacks faced by the LGBTQ community this year, music has remained the progressive force it always has been, driving queer representation into the spotlight it deserves. Here, we round up the 10 best tracks by queer artists in 2016.

Despite the setbacks faced by the LGBTQ community this year, music has remained the progressive force it always has been, driving queer representation into the spotlight it deserves. Here, we round up the 10 best tracks by queer artists in 2016.

Text: Ian David Monroe

"The Greatest”—Sia

At first listen, the prolific singer-songwriter's latest track sounds like an empowerment anthem that could be applied to just about anyone—but the music video revealed the song's deeper intended purpose. An homage to the victims at the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June, the clip shows 49 dancers (the number of people who lost their lives that night) in an eerie dance hall before ultimately dropping to the floor, lifeless, with a young Maddie Ziegler crying tears of rainbow. When put in this context, the song's message becomes clear: the LGBTQ community will survive, and continue its greatness, no matter what tragedies befall it.

“I Know A Place”—MUNA

There was perhaps no better LGBTQ anthem of acceptance and freedom than MUNA's "I Know A Place." In an uk essay writer, vocalist Katie Gavin explains that this track is "meant to serve as encouragement for our community to remain vulnerable and kind and hopeful in the face of violence." The song comes during a particularly poignant year when LGBT safe spaces like a club dance floor have been exposed to unimaginable violence. While the summer's Pulse Nightclub shooting didn't inspire the track, it's impossible not to see the connection and find healing in its message.

“Desire ft Tove Lo”—Years and Years

While the track itself doesn't actually make any reference to sexuality or use gender-specific pronouns, the video is a total celebration of sexual freedom across genders and sex, and acceptance. Representation of any kind, especially visually, is important for the destigmatization of queer culture, and sex, in general.

“Boyfriend”—Tegan and Sara

This track recounts a confusing love triangle in which Sara Quinn was in a relationship with a bisexual woman (who had never dated a woman) who was also seeing a man. In an interview with Billboard, Sara explains, "Obviously, being gay, there's sort of a bit of a gender twist in the song... that sometimes doesn't seem immediately relatable to everybody." "Boyfriend" brings a lightness to a complicated situation that many in the LGBTQ community face in the dating world.

“What Happened To Us”—Shura

An out lesbian, Shura, details a young school crush, one she wasn't prepared for: "No, I'm no child but I don't feel grown up/I was never ready, it was never meant to be," she sings. It's not entirely clear what Shura wasn't ready for, but the situation is easily relatable for any person growing up questioning their sexuality, and hesitant to take the first step.

“You Don’t Know Me”—Mykki Blanco

In an interview with Fader, Blanco explains that the track is "directly about me coming out as HIV-positive and about the fallout, too." The stigmatization of HIV has plagued the gay community for decades, which makes Blanco's candor on such a personal topic so refreshing.

“I Don’t Love You Anymore”—ANOHNI

The majority of HOPELESSNESS is political or social in nature, but not this track. Here, ANOHNI seems to grapple with her trans identity, one she fully embraced, as a musician, with the album's release—changing her professional name from Antony Hegarty to ANOHNI, a name she's used privately for years.

"Good Guy"—Frank Ocean

Due to the intended mass appeal of mainstream music, it is so rare that a queer artist will use gender-specific pronouns, but, on "Good Guy," Frank Ocean does just that. While trying to remain as detached as possible from the situation he sings about, Ocean laments the unreciprocated feelings from a man he's gone to a gay bar with. Given Blonde was applauded as one of the best album's of the year, this is an important win for queer representation.

"OOOUUU"—Young M.A.

Rap isn't a field that has historically embraced homosexuality (quite the opposite really), so it's remarkable that a song by a lesbian artist, in which she explicitly references lesbian sexual encounters, charted at #5 on the Billboard US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The track is proof that there is room for all in the genre, and proves that listeners are more accepting than previously thought. .

"Sunday Night"—070 Shake

For the same reason Young M.A makes the list, so, too, does 070 Shake. The rising New Jersey rapper has never kept her relationships (if you can call them that) with women a secret, always using female pronouns when describing her lovers. "She know that we'll never be us again. She know I'm focused on me as a man." Here, she recontextualizes traditional, heteronormative rap lyrics on their head, queering them in the process.

Bonus: “Heaven”—Troye Sivan

Sivan's "Heaven" came out in December of 2015, but its message resonated strongly into the new year. Here, pop star Troye Sivan tackles his inner struggle with coming to terms with his sexuality and accepting that his religion views it as a sin. Singing, "Without losing a piece of me, how do I get to heaven?," Sivan asks a question that so many of today's LGBT youth are faced with today, especially when coming out. In a video preceding the track's release, Sivan says, "When I first started to realize that I might be gay, I had to ask myself all of these questions. These really, really terrifying questions."

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