My 7 Favorite LGBT Musicians
As we all know, two weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage, via the Obergefell v. Hodges case. Along with many other contributions in society, the LBGT community has notably impacted the music world. These musicians transcended expectations and exhibited their own artform, influencing a generation(s) through their songs, performances, clothing/costumes, etc. Here goes a list of my 7 favorite musicians from the LGBT community (not in order).
1. Freddie Mercury
A legend in his own right, Freddie Mercury stands firmly in the Mount Rushmore of LGBT musicians. As front-man of one of the most popular bands on Earth (Queen), everybody wanted to know about the man behind the voice. Mercury however, chose not to be open about his sexual orientation. He was described by many as a private man and didn’t think it was necessary to elaborate on his sexuality to the media, especially considering how society addressed topics of homosexuality then.
Mercury however continued to egg-on the suspicious at any given moment. Who could forget the momentous I Want to Break Free music video where Mercury, as well as the other band members, dressed up as women. Mercury, the star of the video, was the most memorable considering that people to this day dress up like the image shown below…
Sexual orientation aside, Mercury stands as one of the most distinct vocalist in popular music history. He hit notes many described as unhittable and had a vocal range ranked #11 in the list of “world’s best singers”, as explained in the chart below.
His piano playing, however, took a comfy sitting place in the shadow of the super-group’s musical talent, which included his vocals. Luckily we have evidence, provided by our fortunate friends at youtube, to showcase both his vocal ability and his underrated piano playing:
Among everything else, Mercury is also given the title of being one of the best performers in pop music history. He stood on stage on a mission to exceed the audiences money’s worth. As if his erotic tight clothing and dance moves weren’t enough, he would run around singing and sweating like a maniac. Its performances like his iconic performance at Wembley Stadium, that solidify Freddie Mercury as one of the all time greats.
2. Joan Jett
Who doesn’t love them some Joan Jett? Talk about a woman who never cared for her “bad reputation”. Jett started her career as a co-founder, guitarist, vocalist, and writer in the iconic, bad-ass, all-girls band, The Runaways. Here’s where audiences first got a glimpse of her infamous attitude.
Lyrics like “I am the bitch with the hot guitar” and songs like “Born to be Bad” challenged the norm’s perception of women and women in music. Controversy seemed to always follow the band, especially considering the fact that they were about 17 years old when the group first formed.
After the band’s breakup in 1979, Joan Jett was at a stand-still. Being rejected by 23 record labels would usually be enough hindrance to call it quits, but not to Jett. She formed her own record label, Blackheart Records, and sure enough success came her way. Through her decorated solo career, under her own label, is how we know the Joan Jett of today. Hits like “I Hate Myself for Loving You”, Crimson and Clover, and of course the iconic “I Love Rock n’ Roll” shaped the way the way we view rock music today.
Like Mercury, Jett has been quite private about her orientation.Although the public is aware that she has been in relationships with women, Jett tends to be quiet about that part of her life.She talks about David Bowie’s “mystique” in an interview with music-news.com, claiming that it was “a fuck lot sexier than putting it all out there”. When asked in that interview about her own sexuality, Joan laughs and says "she's all inclusive"
3. Frank Ocean
Words can’t describe the musical aura that is Frank Ocean. Since his debut 2011 project Nostalgia, Ultra, he has done nothing but amaze listeners and critics worldwide. It’s hard to believe that an artist with only two projects, one of which was a free mixtape, can gain so much acclaim and success.
A prominent asset in his arsenal is his distinguished voice. Ocean showcases a fairly impressive range in songs. Take the song Pink Matter, for instance. Besides an amazing rap verse laid down by Andre 3000, Ocean stays at a low range, transitions to high falsetto, and ends the last “pleasure” lines in a powerful chest voice.
Frank Ocean is also known for his exceptional lyricism; an asset that is evident in his hit single Bad Religion. “If it brings me to my knees... It’s a bad religion” I’ve always believed that line to be a triple entendre. 1. Ocean being weak, therefore brought to his knees. 2. In vintage religious fashion, kneeling to bring forth prayer. And 3. Ocean indicates performing oral sex on another man, the topic of homosexuality being a common theme in this song.
In July of 2012 Ocean came out publicly in his Tumblr account, telling the story of his first love, a man from “4 summers ago”. Being that he is an artist in the mainstream Hip Hop and R&B community, this caused a lot of commotion. The common overly-masculine trait in Hip Hop allowed Ocean to push the boundaries, battle past the ignorance, and continue making his music.
My only question is... When is this new album coming out, Frank ?! -.-
4. Dr. Frank N. Furter
Tim Curry is the real MVP. Along with a child murdering clown and a wildlife videographer (and father) in a kids television show, Curry can also add a transgender/alien/scientist to his arsenal of characters. Although not a real character, Curry plays Dr. Frank N. Furter in his breakout film The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Our society’s view on transgender people could be harsh at times, so you can just imagine how Dr Frank N. Furter was publicly criticized back in 1975. Furter was a very sexual being, especially the way Curry played the character on screen. Through every sentence spoken there was this overly-seductive tone to Furter’s voice (especially when addressing men), furthermore spewing more controversy.
Although controversy follows this character, and several themes of the movie, Rocky Horror is still regarded as a cult classic. Countless Halloweens and movie screenings worldwide give people enough reason to dressing up as characters of the film. Many actually pay homage, out of admiration, and dress up as Furter.
Personally, I can’t relate to this character in almost every aspect. I am a heterosexual, male, and (dare I say) human. Yet, my eyes are instantly glued to the screen every time Furter speaks. The captivating aura that is Dr. Frank N. Furter is the reason why so many people now want to be him and the reason why I still can’t help myself form singing Sweet Transvestite every time it comes on.
5. Azealia Banks
If there was one word to describe Harlem rapper Azealia Banks it would definitely be outspoken. If you take a nice stroll down her twitter account you will definitely see why. Twitter beefs/controversy aside, her outspokenness is evident considering the fact that out of almost everyone in this list, she has openly spoken more about her sexuality. She talks about her bisexuality in her interviews and more blatantly in her music.
Kick it with ya bitch who come from Parisian. She know where I get mine from and the season now she wanna lick my plum in the evening And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in I guess that cunt getting eaten - Azealia Banks, 212
It’s this same gritty New York attitude that makes Banks stand out from other artists. As an artist she is a fairly decent rapper who mostly relies on using fast delivery for her up-tempo instrumentals. An example of her notable lyricism would be from her breakout single 212. Banks sets up her rhyme scheme to make sure that the end of every bar rhymes with the words “two one two”. She also has end-phrases that sound strikingly similar to the words “two one two".
Ex. “Plus your bitch might lick it, wonder who let you come to one-two “, “You could get shot homie, if ya do want to”, “ Bitch I'm in the 212 with the fifth cocked nigga, its the two-one-zoo”
Banks is also one of the most experimental rappers I’ve ever had the pleasure of listing to. She is one of the very few in the history of the rap game, and probably the only one currently in the commercial world, who fuses techno/house instrumentation with rap lyrics. Other examples of her experimental approach would be the song Gimmie a Chance,off her 2014 debut album Broke with Expensive Taste. She raps in Spanish over a Salsa instrumentation. Not to mention she also sings a certain section of the song in Spanish. Aside from rapping, her singing abilities also make her stand out. Banks’ low-tone singing voice over unique production make a special combination for R&B/Pop songs, like Luxury.
6. Elton John
In 1976 Elton John shocked the world by announcing that he was a bisexual man. In fact, he was married to a woman before he divorced her and publically came out as a gay man in 1988. Although some people think he used his relationship with women to cover up his sexuality, some believe Elton to be as he said he was. They saw him as a straight man (at first) discovering his sexuality throughout the years. Since then he’s been a fond advocate and spokesman for the LGBT community. In December of 2014 he married his longtime partner, Canadian filmmaker, David Furnish after gay marriage was made legal in Great Britain.
If there’s one thing I know about Elton John is that the man knows how to dress… said no one ever. From his concerts to his interviews, John is known to have one of the most bizarre fashion tastes in the music industry. He would often wear glittery jackets and wacky costumes to catch he attention of audiences worldwide. Peep John’s outfit in his classic performance on Soul Train in 1975.
One Important theme to note in this video is a white artist flourishing in black culture, specifically black music. Elton John’s songs are sometimes characterized by Jazz and Blues music (two predominately black genres). This is especially evident in his piano playing. Regarded as an amazing piano player, John influenced various artists of today. I must admit, I myself have tried (keyword: try) to master the syncopation in Bennie and the Jets but I am not near as skillful as Elton John *sigh*. He is also a great singer/songwriter. His vocal range is ranked as #14 in the list of “world’s best singers” (see chart way up above). Listeners, to this day, tear up whenever they hear the smooth piano keys and his tender voice in ballads like Tiny Dancer and Your Song.
7. Sam Smith
Like Elton John, Sam Smith pays homage to black culture by succeeding in its artistic roots. Like most Brits, Smith’s voice speaks Soul music in its purest form. Smith has accounted people like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Beyonce to be influences in his music. Last year Smith pulled an Adele and dropped an album after heartbreak caused by another man. In fact, most of In the Lonely Hour is filled with sad driven songs about loss of love, which have given him the most success. The deluxe version of the album also contains upbeat songs like “Lalala” and “Latch”, which have also done well for him.
Like Elton John, Smith has also been very open about his sexuality. Smith came out to the public prior to the release of his debut album. Smith wanted to make sure everybody knew his sexuality for the sake of the album concept. Watch as he explains on the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Fans also loved tuning in his Instagram account, where he readily released memorable photos/videos of him and his then-boyfriend Jonathan Zeizel. Such as…
Sam Smith, like Azealia Banks, is fresh to the music industry. Already having an amazing debut album and multiple Grammy wins, four to be exact, nothing but success is expected from the young star. We,as fans, just hope he keeps shinning.