We’ve needed music more than ever this year. Locked up in our homes with nowhere to go, music has allowed us to escape our new reality of social isolation and a grim schedule of breaking news. And when it comes to creating new musical worlds, connecting with people through emotive storytelling, and transcending the everyday, nobody does that better than queer people.
2020 has seen some truly incredible songwriting from LGBTQ+ music acts that have helped us grieve, celebrate, reflect and feel less alone. The power of song has been felt during a period of chaos, and we have a list of some of our favourites here for you to listen to all over again.
This isn’t a ranking – we’ve simply listed 20 of our favourite songs by LGBTQ+ artists in alphabetical order. We have, however, given a special mention at the end for our Song of the Year.
Arca – KLK (ft. Rosalia)
2020 has been chaos, but Arca’s glitchy anthem KLK is the kind of mayhem we’ll happily sign up to. Packed full of diverse musical influences and led by a vocal line from superstar Rosalia, it’s the song that shouldn’t work on paper, but soars high in practice.
Arlo Parks – Eugene
Rising star Arlo Parks is a poetic storyteller for a new generation of queer youth, and Eugene captures the emotional pain of heartache with poignancy and power.
FLETCHER – Bitter (ft. Trevor Daniel)
Lesbian break-up anthems don’t get more sensual than this. FLETCHER’s sexuality is unapologetic over a seductive R&B-pop production, full in the knowledge that her ex is still very much thinking about her.
Gia Ford – Sleeping In Your Garden
Gia Ford took a darker turn with her music in 2020, and Sleeping In Your Garden hits hard with its scuzzy guitars, rich vocals and rockstar attitude.
Isaac Dunbar – miss america
“She’s not the girl I used to know,” Isaac sings on miss america, yearning for his home country to return to a more unified and peaceful society following years of political division. This isn’t just a pretty pop song, it packs a political punch too.
Joesef – The Sun Is Up Forever
If you’ve been following Joesef, you know by now to expect soul-drenched vocals and rich, textured production. But with lyrics like “But honey now I’m better the sun is up forever, I just see you in a different shade” it’s undeniable he’s destined to be one of the greatest songwriters of his generation.
Kim Petras – Malibu
How Kim Petras isn’t already one of the biggest pop stars in the world is beyond us, but in 2020 she kept giving the gays everything they want with the infectious bubblegum pop of Malibu.
King Princess – Only Times Makes It Human
King Princess has ramped up the BPM for her new era and she wears it incredibly well. As one YouTube commenter correctly notes: “If there wasn’t a pandemic this would BANG at all the gay clubs.”
Lady Gaga (featuring Ariana Grande) – Rain on Me
We may have been stuck indoors for most of the year, but Mother Monster still managed to whisk us away to Chromatica. With a mammoth pop anthem like Rain On Me at the helm, it was the getaway we all sorely needed.
Miley Cyrus – Midnight Sky
Miley’s rich vocal tone sounds gorgeous on any song, but it really comes through over the 80s tapestry that is Midnight Sky. Born from trauma, the queerness of turning pain into power is on full glorious display here.
Orville Peck and Shania Twain – Legends Never Die
If Orville hadn’t done enough for the gays with his outstanding debut album Pony, he got Shania Twain back into her iconic leopard print look for their new duet Legends Never Die. It’s a big country anthem and an even bigger music video moment.
Pale Waves – Change
This sounds like it should feature on a classic episode of The OC – and quite honestly, we are here. For. It. That noughties guitar-pop sound gets us every time, and Pale Waves are queering it up for us too. Perfect.
Rina Sawayama – XS
Talking of feeling nostalgic for the noughties, Rina has taken some of the era’s best influences, added her own pop sensibility into the mix, and produced this absolute beast of a bop. Catchy hook? Tick! Lyrics about the evils of a consumerist society? Tick! A robotic Rina on a fictional QVC show? Tick!! Legends only.
Romy – Lifetime
There came a point this year when enough really did feel like enough, and at just around that point Romy unleashed this euphoric pop wormhole for us to all jump into. It’s the sound of queer joy. We are counting down the days we can lose our shit to this at a festival to be honest.
Shamir – On My Own
Shamir delighted us all when he served up some 90’s pop-rock realness with On My Own. Chewy hooks, echoed drums, and his distinctive vocals over an airy chorus drew us right in.
Tinashe – Rascal (Superstar)
Before Tinashe gagged us all with her GAY TIMES Magazine cover shoot, the sultry tones of Rascal (Superstar) had us all hypnotised. There’s no denying ‘Nashe is in full control of this one.
Troye Sivan – Easy
Easy is Troye Sivan dream-pop at its most raw. The wistful, breezy production backs some of the pop star’s most honest and vulnerable lyrics to date. Heartbreak anthems don’t get more emotional than this.
Tyler the Creator – Best Interest
Okay so technically this came out right at the end of 2019, but considering we didn’t sneak it on last year’s list it’s made it to 2020. An off-cut from Igor, Tyler is pondering his position as the third wheel, waiting for his lover to end things with his girlfriend so they can properly be together. “The team you play for is seesaw,” is easily our favourite lyric.
Walt Disco – Cut Your Hair
Post-punk 80s pop brought right up to date with a fresh queer twist, Cut Your Hair is one of the main reasons why Walt Disco have been on everyone’s lips this year. Need to experience this live asap.
Song of the Year: Joel Corry & MNEK – Head & Heart
Were we ready for this song when it came out in July or what! After months of being locked up indoors, the pure elation of this banger came at just the right time. Not only did this clinch MNEK a long overdue No.1 hit in the UK, it also charted high in countries where LGBTQ+ people are facing increasing challenges including Russia (No.6), Hungary (No.2) and Poland (No.3). An out gay Black man writing and singing the hit of the summer? It’s what 2020 and the world needed to see.