As the year comes to a close, we’re celebrating some of the great new music by out recording artists that came our way in 2021.
Check out just some of the artists Instinct readers responded to over the past 12 months ranging from mainstream pop, country, soul, disco and more.
There’s something for everyone here, and all is imminently listenable. Click around and you’re sure to find something you like. We encourage folks to help support these talented musicians.
Note: this is not a definitive ‘Best Of’ list. We love lots of terrific artists and, unfortunately, couldn’t fit everyone on one list. This collection represents a mélange of the wide-ranging genres indie LGBTQ singer/songwriters are making their own today, from pensive to party town.
And so, in no particular order…
First up, acclaimed out singer/songwriter Eli Lieb’s single and music video, “Boys Who Like Boys,” arrived in time for Pride but it’s on point for every gay’s day.
Eli finds his way to the center of his songs with uncluttered focus and gives voice to what I think of as the ‘every gay’ (as opposed to the ‘everyman’).
Not only do his lyrics swagger like a boss, but Eli knows his way around a strong hook and when to drop those stadium drums for maximum effect. The result? Total Pride anthem.
Out country music artist Hayden Joseph totally embraced being “Backwoods Bougie” while reimagining country stereotypes to better align with his authentic self.
Armed with White Claw seltzers and unicorn water pistols, Joseph and friends hang out at a backyard party complete with inflatable floats and rainbow-colored summer attire.
Joseph says he wanted to veer away from a “bro-country” approach about “trucks, beer and women.”
“For obvious reasons, I am never going to be able to write to that template and feel remotely authentic,” Joseph recently told HuffPost’s Curtis Wong.
Out singer/songwriter alex devastated us with his intimate and emotionally candid single, “Confrontations.”
The gentle, stirring vocals by alex land right in the sweet spot as he explores how he got from ‘there’ to ‘here’ as a gay man. And the achingly honest lyrics amid a spare but artful musical arrangement allows the storytelling to take centerstage.
I never liked baseball but I always ended up on the team
I wasn’t drawn to the girls in the Sports Illustrated Magazine
And when push came to shove I hid who I was
Under lock and key
I built a whole man I didn’t understand
And people called him me
The track feels authentic and specific, yet at the same time universal.
Non-binary singer/actor Kat Cunning released the powerful new single, “Boys” – an imminently danceable pop track showcasing Cunning’s honest, authentic songwriting. Cunning’s vocals soar in a clarion call to love ourselves.
Unzip your skin and let me in
We’re the last ones, the last ones, the last ones here
Don’t be afraid I know a place
For the last ones, the last ones, the last ones here
The entire cast and crew of the fun and joy-filled music video identifies as either transgender or non-binary.
“The video was extremely important for me to make to spell out the true focus of the song because of the lyric’s subtlety,” Cunning explains. “I wanted to do my part to help represent the diversity and beauty of the transmasculine community that is so often erased, exploited or hardly peppered into the media.”
Out artist and producer Brandyn Killz dropped his upbeat new single written for a friend struggling with addiction titled, “Losin’ It.”
The infectious dance floor filler is musical jet fuel for anyone faced with a challenge.
“Losin’ It” is a fighter’s anthem,” shared Brandyn in a recent interview. “It’s one of those songs you can use to encourage a friend or give yourself a boost. It’s an instant invite to dance your troubles away with me.”
“As long as you keep fighting, I’m not gonna give up on you,” says the San Diego-based artist. “Sometimes, we have to take a few L’s, so we can win this thing together. And who says we can’t share a little dance on the way to greatness.”
With her single “Iridescent,” Boston-based indie artist Zola Simone captures the 360 degrees of emotion that can flood young love and the wistful, lighter-than-air feeling when vulnerability gives way to ineffable passion.
The music video echoes the ebb and flow of the indie guitar track as Simone allows herself to daydream about a love that might (or might not) come to fruition.
“There are some shots which we did on super 8 which are supposed to show my (the main character’s) idealistic daydreams of what their relationship could be,” says Simone. “Lots of yearning. Guess that’s part of my brand now!”
Out country artist Cameron Hawthorn served up a loping, tranquil soundscape of country music romance with “Dreamland.”
The gentle ballad is filled with languid, country-boy imagery as Hawthorn’s warm, honeyed-vocals journey us through his picturesque vision.
Hawthorn has demonstrated serious songwriting chops when it comes to country romance. The handsome crooner hopes his music inspires people to “keep holding on to the belief that it could happen to them. People often dream of finding love, but it’s pretty hard to find if you’re not looking.”
Soul chanteuse Shea Diamond throws down serious dance beats with her single, “Smile.”
With a funky bass line, bright sassy horns and Diamond’s signature groovy vocal goodness, this track is a winner.
“This song reminds me that I’m not the victim society deemed me; I’m a survivor,” Shea said. “I wanted a song that captured the roller coaster of emotions and experiences we go through in life.”
“With the pandemic mostly over I wanted a song of triumph and celebration, one that encourages you to get up, get out, and dance!”
Out singer/songwriter Milahroy invites you to follow the furry goodness on the way to “My Malibu (feat. theLMNOP).”
The bouncy indie bop has a fun, infectious folk/pop vibe that conjures up echoes of Mumford and Sons – only more fun.
“‘My Malibu’ isn’t a place or a person – it’s where I go when I open that guitar case & grab my instrument – it lights me up,” says Milahroy. “I feel I enter this oasis that is unworldly.”
Miami-based out artist Michael Lazar shares his debut single, “Capsule,” from his upcoming album 51/49 due out this fall.
Written during the pandemic when the world was locked down, “Capsule” describes the feeling of being trapped, censored, or somehow silenced, both literally and figuratively.
The electro-pop track blends unique, layered harmonies with rolling rhythms and chord structures that results in a subtle sonic sense of urgency. For Lazar, the song “speaks to that feeling we’ve all had when you’re shouting to be heard but no one seems to be listening.”