Considering we’ve spent the majority of the first six months of 2021 in lockdown, thank the pop gods above we’ve had some stellar music releases to keep our spirits up and our playlists bursting with queer excellence. It’s been an incredibly strong first half of the year for single releases, with LGBTQ+ artists traverses genres from pop and soul, to pop-punk and electronica.
We’ve had some truly iconic pop culture moments, fresh new faces pushing boundaries, and plenty of catchy hooks getting us pumped for when gigs, clubs, and festivals can (hopefully) fully open again.
Here we’ve listed our Top 10 best singles by LGBTQ+ artists of 2021 so far. They are in alphabetical order, but the final entry has been named our best song of the year to this point. We’ll be giving an even more comprehensive rundown of the best songs at the end of the year too.
ElyOtto: SugarCrash! ft. Kim Petras & Curtis Waters
ElyOtto is the 17-year-old Canadian star who has taken Tik Tok by storm. His hyperpop anthem SugarCrash! became an internet hit earlier this year, with its pitched vocals and manic production offset by some unexpectedly dark lyrics. Aided by Kim Petras and Curtis Waters on a fizzed-up remix with more E numbers than a box of Lucky Charms, it’s one of the most unique standout hits of the year so far.
Girl In Red: Serotonin
Norwegian star Girl In Red took her long-standing battle with impulsive thoughts and put it into a storming pop-rock number during therapy sessions last year. With production duties handled by Finneas (Billie Eilish’s brother and collaborator), the final result is an adrenaline-inducing anthem packed with vulnerability.
Isaac Dunbar: Fan Behavior
Rising star Isaac Dunbar took the old-age adage of ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’ and turned it into a thumping ear-worm of a pop anthem. Fan Behavior hears the 17-year-old channel a darker sound, and the song slaps even harder for it.
British-Zimbabwean singer-songwriter Kwaye delivers a powerful message on this neo-soul number, packed with raw honesty. Although the production is light, Kwaye’s soul-baring lyrics weigh heavy. In his vocals you can hear an artist who is digging into his emotions and confronting long unspoken truths.
MAY-A: Swing of Things
When it comes to wistful pop-rock numbers, they don’t get more infectious than MAY-A’s Swing of Things. The rising Aussie artist continues to build her reputation for airy guitar-led anthems ready to soundtrack queer coming of age journeys everywhere.
Omar Apollo: Go Away
Following his stunning “quarantine project” Apolonio last October, Indiana native Omar Apollo flexes his songwriting muscle to its full effect on Go Away. Silky smooth vocals, a catchy refrain and lovelorn lyrics over a bed of light guitar and squiggly electronics results in one of the year’s most effortlessly timeless songs.
VINCINT: Higher ft. Alex Newell & Princess Precious
Nobody even gets close to the sky-soaring heights of LA-based artist VINCINT when it comes to heavenly pop. Higher takes you there and then some. VINCINT’s soulful vocal (and incredible range) leads the song into a crescendo of pop euphoria.
Willow: t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l ft. Travis Barker
As the punk-pop resurgence revs up into into full gear, at the front of the queer pack is Willow Smith. The singer-songwriter pours the right amount of angst, attitude and amped-up guitars into t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l, as well as securing the services of iconic blink-182 drummer Travis Barker for good measure.
Years & Years: Starstruck
Considering we’ve all been holed up inside for more than a year, the burst of pop positivity that is Starstruck was more than welcome. Years & Years – which is now an Olly Alexander solo project – have built their reputation on arena-sized pop hooks, and this one blows the roof off. It’s exactly what we all needed.
Best Single of the Year (so far) – Lil Nas X: MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)
Lil Nas X doesn’t just create pop songs, he creates pop culture moments. Not content with breaking every record in existence with Old Town Road two years ago, Lil Nas shook music to its hellish core this year with MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name). Unapologetically queer, unequivocally addictive, and unfalteringly anthemic, it’s a behemoth of a song that will unquestionably make a lasting positive impact.