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It’s been a historic year for many reasons, and music has played its role in 2021 like never before. There are anthems that kept us all going during the many different lockdowns that took place across the globe. There are songs that now soundtrack cherished memories of bars, festivals and gigs opening back up again. And there are bangers that have broken down barriers and really switched up the game.

LGBTQ+ artists – as ever – have been at the forefront of the most exciting, innovative, imaginative and most popular tracks this year. From modern-day icons like Lil Nas X and Years & Years’ Olly Alexander, to newcomers like Isaac Dunbar, Baby Queen and MAY-A, via an actual queer legend in the form of Elton John, LGBTQ+ artists continue to push boundaries.

Here we list our 20 best singles of 2021 by LGBTQ+ artists, rounding up some of the year’s most infectious bops. We’re not in the business of ranking, so they are in alphabetical order, but we have given a special mention to our Song of the Year at the end of the list.

Baby Queen – Dover Beach
An all-consuming infatuation bop, Dover Beach is some of Baby Queen’s finest work. Treading the line of saccharine obsession, artist Bella Latham -aka Baby Queen- bodes with her daydreaming fascination towards her romantic interest. Inspired by Matthew Arnold’s same-titled poem, Latham pens an attention-catching track sung as an ode to being unrequitedly in love. Dover Beach is a non-skip single. ZRS

Craig David & MNEK: Who You Are
Considering how good their voices sound together on this track, it’s a wonder Craig David and MNEK hadn’t collaborated sooner. The pair serve up some deliciously nostalgic garage beats over a smooth pop melody, for a track that feels so effortless in its execution. Lyrics of loving yourself no matter what people say make this an underdog anthem that anyone who has felt like an outsider during their life can connect with. LC

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. LC

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. LC

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. LC

Josef Salvat: I’m Sorry
2021 is the year Josef Salvat properly leant into his pop sensibility with his huge bop I’m Sorry. First written eight years ago, this past-paced banger hears him take responsibility for his fair share of the “fuckery” caused during the breakdown of a relationship. This switch up makes us very excited for his third album Islands in 2022. LC

Kim Petras: Coconuts
It may only be a month since its release, but a track so infectiously camp as this was destined for our end of year singles list. With a pop hook bouncier than Pamela Anderson running down a sun-kissed beach in slow motion, Coconuts is the most magnificently ridiculous music moment of 2021. LC

KWAYE: Runaway
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. LC

L Devine: Priorities
Us queers love a sad-banger moment on the dance floor, and in 2021, L Devine served up one of the year’s very best. Priorities swirls in lyrics of feeling second best to absolutely everything in the eyes of the one you love most, but all of that frustration can be shaken away by the track’s thumping synths, earworm melody and a finale with echoes of Robyn’s finest. Crying in the club never sounded so good. LC

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. LC

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. LC

MUNA & Phoebe Bridgers – Silk Chiffon
Teaming up with Phoebe Bridgers, MUNA gave the gays an iconic crossover. Switching up their typical sad girl synth pop, the LA band unapologetically celebrates queerness and LGBTQ+ identity in a buoyant fun track. If that isn’t enough, the trio’s music video is a playful parody of the 90’s cult classic But I’m A Cheerleader. It’s a release going full-throttle on joyful representation in the community and we are here for it. ZRS

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. LC

Raveena: Tweety
No-one gave us that turn-of-the-millennium pop nostalgia quite like Raveena did on her dreamy single Tweety earlier this year. Lyrics of falling in love float through the airy production for joyous mix of R&B bliss. LC

Regard, Troye Sivan & Tate McRae: You
Troye Sivan’s knack for sad-boy pop is given a jolt here by Regard’s pulsing electronic production, resulting in one of the most underrated summer anthems of the year. With additional vocals from rising star Tate McRae, this moreish dance number has lived in our heads rent-free for months – and we’re not mad about that one tiny bit. LC

Syd: Fast Car
Syd’s smooth and sultry vocals are paired with deep grooves and a seductive electric guitar line on Fast Car, echoing some of Prince’s finest work in the 80s. The song was written “for the gay Black girls,” resulting in sophisticated yet carefree pop full of warmth and playfulness. LC

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. LC

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. LC

Years & Years: Starstruck
Considering what we’ve all been through over the past two years, 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. LC

Song of the Year – Elton John & Dua Lipa: Cold Heart (Pnau remix)
If the world has taught us anything over the past decade, it’s to expect the unexpected. But not even Elton John would’ve expected he’d be finishing off 2021 with a global hit single on his hands; one that reached No.1 in the UK and Australia and has been certified platinum in numerous countries. Cold Heart (Pnau remix) was instantly likeable when it first premiered in August, but the key to its success is how it seeps further and further into your pores after every listen. Before you know it you’ve spent the best part of three months with it continuously doing the Disco Finger inside your head. It helped that Pop Queen of the moment, Dua Lipa, was on board to connect it with younger audiences, creating a playful bop that transcends generations. What’s even more remarkable is the make-up of Cold Heart; a mash-up on Elton’s classic tracks Rocket Man, Sacrifice, Kiss the Bride and Where’s the Shoorah? given a disco tint by Australian trio Pnau. It’s been an incredibly challenging few years for everyone, so a blend of nostalgia, upbeat grooves, and a coming together of two of the world’s biggest artists hit just the right spot for us all. LC