50 of the best albums by LGBTQ musicians
Communities across the country are currently celebrating Pride Month, and one such way is through artistic expression. Whether it be visual art, film, television, or any other medium, art has been utilized to express LGBTQ+ themes to a significant degree. Out of all the artists, musicians could make the argument that their medium is the most digestible for this type of expression.
For decades, musical artists have released albums with both LGBTQ+ undertones and overtones. Members of gay communities have cherished these albums, the artists becoming idols and their songs becoming unofficial anthems. For those reasons, mainstream music releases from LGBTQ+ musicians have been considered to be important and powerful forms of representation.
To observe Pride Month, and to point members of these communities to albums they may have missed, Stacker has compiled a list of 50 albums from LGBTQ+ artists across various time periods and musical genres. These albums are a mix of commercially and critically acclaimed records, some being historically significant in some manner, or just generally interesting for the public.
This list will describe each album and point out what stood out to both critics and fans, particularly which hit songs spawned from them. Some of these musicians are well-known, others not as much. Whatever the case, all represent different parts of the spectrum of identity. As the attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community changed, so did the music that came from it. As these list items are arranged in chronological order, this list is somewhat of a musical timeline.
Which of these albums have you listened to, which albums are your favorites, and which ones do you need to catch up on for Pride Month? And in case you're craving some tunes afterward, check out Stacker's Pride Playlist on Spotify, full of the albums celebrated in this story.
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'Lady in Satin' by Billie Holiday (1958)
The album “Lady in Satin” represented a shift for jazz singer Billie Holiday, as her voice had gone through a dramatic change. Holiday's album included her own takes on songs like "I'm a Fool to Want You" by Frank Sinatra, and “difficult” songs like “You've Changed," "End of a Love Affair," and "Glad to be Unhappy,” all which she chose on “the basis of the lyrics.” Unfortunately, this would be the final album released during Holiday's lifetime, as the bisexual jazz artist passed away of cirrhosis not long after.
'The Velvet Underground & Nico' by The Velvet Underground (1967)
Rock band The Velvet Underground made their commercial debut with “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” which was recorded during Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour. While it was far from best-selling, it is still considered to be a significant influence on counterculture music to come afterward. The album is now considered to be ahead of its time, with musician Brian Eno recalling that while it only sold 30,000 copies, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”
'Switched-On Bach' by Wendy Carlos (1968)
Transgender musician Wendy Carlos brought the Moog synthesizer to the mainstream through her album “Switched-On Bach,” not only utilizing it, but helping the inventor of the Moog further develop the technology. The album became a trailblazer for electronic music, and Carlos would go on to compose music for Stanley Kubrick films and the Disney film “Tron.”
'Dusty in Memphis' by Dusty Springfield (1969)
"Son of a Preacher Man" is one of pop-singer Dusty Springfield's greatest hits, coming from her album “Dusty in Memphis.” Despite an initial lack of success for the album, it is still highly regarded by critics today for Springfield's display of vocal power.
'I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!' by Janis Joplin (1969)
Released in 1969, “I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” was the only Janis Joplin solo album released during her lifetime. The album from the vocalist featured songs like “Try” and “To Love Somebody,” and while Joplin's singing was praised, critics derided the background instrumentation from her band. The album is still loved by fans, but some would say that it takes ignoring the band to fully appreciate Joplin's raspy voice.
'The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars' by David Bowie (1972)
“The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” or “Ziggy Stardust” for short, is a famous concept album from iconic pop and glam rock star David Bowie. Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust is an androgynous bisexual alien rock star, representing Bowie's interest in tackling sexuality, identity, and general social taboos. The album contained hits such as “Starman” and “Moonage Daydream,” songs that were influential to youth in England and around the world.
'A Night At The Opera' by Queen (1975)
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” which became the namesake for the Oscar-winning 2018 film, originated from rock band Queen's fourth album. Considered “outrageous” and subversive, “A Night at the Opera” is often called Queen's magnum opus. Other than “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the album contained songs including "You're My Best Friend" and "Love of My Life."
'Screaming for Vengeance' by Judas Priest (1982)
Heavy-metal band Judas Priest produced their signature hit song "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" from their eighth studio album. It remains the band's best-selling and most influential album, and while the band was already popular amongst metal fans, this album brought the band to the mainstream. The album was rereleased in 2012 for its 30th anniversary.
'Colour by Numbers' by Culture Club (1983)
British New Wave group Culture Club released “Colour by Numbers,” considered to be part of the New Romantic movement that acted as an intersection of music and fashion. The album was preceded by the hit single “Karma Chameleon,” possibly the group's most famous song in popular culture. More than anything, the album helped to cement the identity of lead singer Boy George.
'Purple Rain' by Prince (1984)
“Purple Rain” is not only the name of a song, but also of an album and a film featuring pop-artist Prince. Still considered to be a masterpiece by music critics, the instrumentation behind each song was significantly dense, featuring full band performances, multiple layers of guitar, and electronic effects. Prince and his backing band the Revolution won multiple Grammy Awards, and even an Oscar for the music's use in the film of the same name.