The 20 Best Albums by LGBTQ Artists in 2018: Critic's Picks


2018 has been a yr of true queer artistry. Starting again in January and up till at this time, LGBTQ artists not solely produced and launched a few of their greatest music so far, however they have been heard by huge audiences from all completely different genres that have been craving their distinctive perspective. If LGBTQ artists made a splash in 2017, then 2018 was a tidal wave.

With hit pop albums, introspective indie tasks, explosive rock data and nearly every thing else in between, queer artists ran the gamut of popular culture and received huge in essential success — and for some, business success as properly.

In a yr jam-packed with good music coming from queer artists, listed below are Billboard Pride’s picks for the 20 greatest albums by LGBTQ artists launched in 2018:

20. Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers, Bought to Rot

When not performing with Against Me!, Laura Jane Grace has been busy as a number one activist for transgender rights the world over. But in 2018, Grace and her aspect band, The Devouring Mothers, got down to blow the doorways off their viewers with Bought to Rot, their boisterous new album full of loads of head-banging, thought-provoking materials. Inspired by the works of rock greats like Tom Petty and Rowland S. Howard, Bought to Rot serves as a mashup of assorted completely different rock sounds, displaying that at the same time as a aspect undertaking, Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers are a band that’s unafraid to take their music in no matter route they see match.

19. Ah-Mer-Ah-Su, Star 

It’s refreshing that even in a society that devalues the lives of trans women and men in every single place, a younger star like Ah-Mer-Ah-Su can nonetheless craft an unimaginable murals. Star Amerasu, the artist behind the moniker, launched her debut album Star earlier this yr, an entrancing album about love, loss and what it means to develop up as a transgender youth in America. Ah-Mer-Ah-Su blends collectively her message of activism and self-love with a number of the most catchy-yet-hypnotic pop sounds of the yr, making Star one of the vital uniquely queer albums of 2018.

18. Kodie Shane,Young HeartThrob

Even in a style that has a traditionally tough observe report in terms of LGBTQ points, 2018 confirmed that queer artwork can come from anyplace. Kodie Shane actually proved as a lot with the discharge of her debut LP Young HeartThrob. The former Sailing Team member spat hip hop hearth on her debut EP, mixing her model of pop-infused rap with extra conventional entice and hip hop. Often entrancing and exquisite, Young HeartThrob serves as the proper place to begin for Shane to inevitably skyrocket to the highest of the rap sport.

17. Jake Shears, Jake Shears

Six years after Scissor Sisters introduced their indefinite hiatus to the world, former frontman Jake Shears stepped out on his personal to point out the world that he’s nonetheless received it. The singer’s self-titled album introduced a mixture of every thing that followers liked concerning the music of Scissor Sisters and his personal model of pop-rock glamour. From extremely campy, high-energy numbers like “Big Bushy Mustache” and “S.O.B.,” to extra simple '80s rock like “Everything I’ll Ever Need” and “Mississippi Delta (I’m Your Man),” Shears flaunted his endlessly entertaining expertise — with a wholesome dose of basic charisma — to make one hell of a enjoyable album.

16. King Princess, Make My Bed (EP)

It’s virtually arduous to assume that Mikaela Straus, higher identified by her stage title King Princess, made her official debut in 2018. The 19-year-old singer’s debut EP Make My Bed seems like a collection of songs from an artist who has been performing and releasing music from throughout the business for years. Make My Bed excels at creating lovely alt-pop harmonies, whereas additionally affirming Straus’ place as a creative juggernaut within the music world. It’s additionally refreshing to see such a younger artist current her queerness so plainly from the soar: Straus’ first tune off the album, “1950,” portrays her and her feminine lover as a pair eager to overtly categorical their love in a society that forbids it. If these are King Princess’ ideas at age 19, then we are able to’t wait to see what she comes up with in her 20s.

15. Lucy Dacus, Historian

Despite solely being 24 years previous, singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus is sensible past her years. Her second album, Historian, is proof of that truth, as Dacus navigates love, loss and the necessity for activism in a haunting-yet-rollicking album, infused with a contemporary indie sensibility. Even when the guitars and drums round her are blaring with an obvious rage on tracks like “Addictions” and “Body to Flame,” Dacus’ voice stays entrancing and superbly composed, making the juxtaposition that rather more intriguing.

14. Big Freedia, third Ward Bounce (EP) 

Listening to the bounce queen Big Freedia work her approach via a verse is just one of the vital joyful issues an individual can do. Fans of the New Orleans legend received to see loads of that this yr, thanks not solely to Freedia’s outstanding characteristic on Drake’s Hot 100-topping “Nice for What,” but in addition to the Queen Diva’s latest EP third Ward Bounce. While not a lot about Freedia’s sound has modified, Bounce is a testomony to Freedia’s capacity to spotlight the roots of hip-hop in her hometown. Freedia goes greater and bolder, with a observe like “Rent” displaying off a extra savage, visceral aspect of the bounce queen’s character, as she spits, “We may have had a great run/ But you achieved fucked up son.” And should you haven’t listened to third Ward Bounce, you then must hear these phrases extra rigorously.

13. Trixie Mattel, One Stone

Among the numerous unfaithful stereotypes surrounding trendy drag queens, one of many worst is that they solely make dance-ready membership music. Enter Trixie Mattel: While the RuPaul’s Drag Race winner is actually not the primary queen to stroll away from “typical” drag music, her sophomore album One Stone is a testomony to her ability as a singer-songwriter and a performer. The album is extra melodically fine-tuned than her debut Two Birds, transporting listeners again to the late-'70s country-folk scene with only a few chords. Some songs really feel like they could possibly be trendy pop-rock jams (“Break Your Heart”), whereas others really feel caught out of that period of bluesy nation anthems (“Wind Up Man”). But via all of it, Mattel’s expertly crafted lyrics, like “Loving’s only a title for saving face/ And working’s simply the way in which I received the race” from her heartbreaking ballad “The Well,” present that she is a musical drive to be reckoned with, one not going away any time quickly.

12. teddy<three, LillyAnna

After serving to produce and co-write Shawn Mendes’ beautiful self-titled studio album, Teddy Geiger — now going beneath her new stage title of teddy<three — confirmed the world who she was with LillyAnna. A severe departure from her pop-infused work with Mendes and the likes of Christina Aguilera, 5 Seconds of Summer and others, Geiger’s debut is an at-times angsty, rock-filled album that brings audiences face-to-face with the fact of coming to phrases with your individual gender id. From begin to end, LillyAnna paints a uncooked, unflinching portrait of Geiger’s inside life, making it one of the vital private albums to return out of 2018.

11. Years & Years, Palo Santo

When achieved poorly, an idea album can really feel unnecessarily plot-heavy, making pointless stops to determine a narrative that does little to additional the that means of the music you’re listening to. That was not the case when it got here to Years & Years’ sophomore effort, Palo Santo. Based within the unfastened concept of a futuristic society the place people have change into slaves to androids, the album doesn’t waste time explaining its story to the listener, as a substitute launching right into a collection of pop jams like “Hallelujah,” “If You’re Over Me” and “Preacher” that infect your very soul and make you need to launch out of your seat and dance. With beautiful manufacturing and wonderful performances, Years & Years’ Palo Santo looks like one of the vital vital injections of joyful pop from 2018.

10. Sophie, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides

Before 2018, only a few folks knew what the influential DJ and producer Sophie seemed like. When the star producer lastly revealed her face to the world, she additionally launched her debut solo album, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, a trippy and emotional rollercoaster. The album options Sophie’s signature experimental music, with songs like “Faceshopping” and “Ponyboy” offering day-one fanatics what they crave from the producer. But with a observe like “It’s Okay To Cry,” Sophie used her personal voice along with her softest backing melody so far, making probably the most unpredictable tune on the album additionally her most typical, a welcome change to the oft-monotonous pop panorama we dwell in.

9. Shea Diamond, Seen It All (EP)

Soul singer Shea Diamond has arrived, and he or she deserves everybody’s undivided consideration. If the rising star’s debut EP Seen It All tells us something, it’s that true sheer expertise can come from anyplace. Delivering skilled shade on tracks like “Keisha Complexion” together with introspective contemplation on songs like “American Pie,” Diamond established herself as a outstanding trans voice who won’t be silenced. Plus, with all-star songwriter Justin Tranter providing his abilities as an govt producer on the album, Seen It All is a assured win for all those that hear it.

eight. Brockhampton, Iridescence

While LGBTQ artists managed to change into a major a part of the mainstream dialog in 2018, they nonetheless didn’t handle to seek out main success on the charts. That is, till you take a look at Brockhampton’s No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 albums chart with their Iridescence set. It’s comprehensible why this report noticed a lot business and demanding success — the hip hop collective/boy band made an album that subverted rap conventions, was extraordinarily well-crafted in its circulation and lyricism (“Weight” and “Something About Him” being significantly beautiful of their sharpness), and in addition managed to supply the big-hitting bangers followers had come to know and love. At the tip of an up-and-down 2018 for the group, the boys of Brockhampton have loads to have fun going into the brand new yr.

7. Christine and the Queens, Chris

Following up her self-titled debut album from 2014 was going to be a tough job for Héloïse Letissier, higher identified by her stage title Christine and the Queens. But Chris, the singer’s sophomore effort, is a funk-filled, pop-perfect masterpiece that explores the inflexible gender binary via Letissier’s persona of “Chris,” a extra masculine, butch model of herself. The whole album shines vibrant, with songs like “Damn” and “The Stranger” worming their approach into your thoughts. It’s the album’s lead single “Girlfriend” that sums up the complete undertaking, sending the star’s electro-pop sensibilities right into a collision with a brand new funk-inspired sound, creating one of many coolest-sounding songs (and albums) of 2018.

6. Hayley Kiyoko, Expectations

While #20GayTeen might check with all the wonderful queer artwork that we now have obtained this yr, there’s a purpose it was originated by Hayley Kiyoko’s fan base. The star kicked the yr off along with her single “Curious,” adopted by her extremely anticipated debut album Expectations, a pop tour de drive that highlighted the younger star’s distinctive vocal capacity. Kiyoko is in full artistic management on this album, expressing her queer love and want overtly and superbly on tracks like “What I Need,” “xx” and “He’ll Never Love You.” After such a scorching debut, expectations shall be excessive for the singer’s subsequent huge undertaking.

5. Kim Petras, Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1 (EP)

While many pop artists will launch their very own albums of Christmas music in October, breakout pop performer Kim Petras determined to interrupt the mould but once more by getting a bit spookier. But Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1 is generally a Halloween album by default — Petras merely creates extra of the identical chic pop that she has change into synonymous with whereas imbuing them with a spooky spirit. While the eight-track EP solely consists of 4 full-length songs (the opposite 4 are extraordinarily catchy musical interludes), every tune completely matches Petras’ pop narrative she’s created for herself, taking part in the villain who will seduce you along with her lovely voice, after which “eat your coronary heart.”

four. MNEK, Language

Throughout his profession, Uzo Emenike — identified primarily by his stage title MNEK — has confirmed that he is aware of the best way to correctly craft a pop tune, serving to to form hits like Beyoncé’s “Hold Up,” Dua Lipa’s “IDGAF” and extra. But along with his debut album Language, MNEK proved that he is likely one of the most gifted pop alchemists presently working. He reveals off his huge vary, from full-blown bangers just like the corporeally titled “Tongue” and “Body,” to extra delicate and sensual tracks like “Honeymoon Phaze” and “Paradise.” Even as one of the vital slept-on albums of the yr, MNEK's Language ought to nonetheless be heralded as a modern-day information on the best way to make wonderful pop music.

three. Brandi Carlile, By the Way, I Forgive You

Throughout her almost 15-year profession, folk-pop singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile has made a reputation for herself as a singer of anthems. While By the Way, I Forgive You, the singer’s sixth studio album, actually has its justifiable share of crowd-uniting singalongs (“Hold Out Your Hand” specifically), it additionally reveals the 37-year-old in a extra weak house, analyzing the choices she’s made to get thus far in her profession. Lyrically touching and musically beautiful, Carlile’s newest report was a triumph, heralding yet one more instance of wonderful queer musicianship exterior of the pop style — and scoring her six nominations on the 2019 Grammys, together with one for album of the yr. 

2. Troye Sivan, Bloom

Over the course of 1 yr, Troye Sivan seemingly managed to get the complete pop music business centered on him. With an early string of singles, just a few well-timed late evening appearances and the promise of a brand new album, the Australia-born singer turned the most important “up-and-coming” title in pop music. When he lastly did launch his album Bloom in late August, it felt prefer it had the hype of a whole business behind it.

Luckily, the report didn’t disappoint. Bloom was the moody, atmospheric, in some methods almost anti-pop album that audiences wanted in 2018. While managing to provide long-time Troye followers what they needed with crowd-pleasing jams like “Seventeen” and “Bloom,” Sivan additionally managed to tread some new inventive floor for himself on stripped-down tracks like “The Good Side” and “What a Heavenly Way to Die.” The 23-year-old star had promised that his subsequent album would blow followers and critics away, and Bloom certainly delivered.

1. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer 

There is nothing sweeter than seeing an underappreciated expertise obtain the reward and recognition that has lengthy been resulting from them. Janelle Monáe is a type of artists. For years, Monáe has been making wonderful music, ensuing within the well-received albums The ArchAndroid and The Electric Lady, however by no means appeared to attain the heights of recognition that her music deserved. Something was holding her again.

In 2018, two issues modified. First, Monáe revealed to the world that she was queer, telling Rolling Stone in a canopy story she noticed herself as a “free-ass motherfucker,” and inflicting a large spike in web searches for the phrase “pansexual” Second, she launched Dirty Computer, her most private and idiosyncratic album to date, which earned one of the best first-week numbers of her profession and was finally nominated for album of the yr on the 2019 Grammys. Monáe totally embraced her roots of funk, soul and pop and delivered one of the vital unique sounding albums in years. Gone was the persona of Cindi Mayweather, the Christ-like robotic alter ego she had been displaying audiences for years. In her place was Janelle.

Those two info about Monáe’s yr should not solely necessary, however appear virtually inexorable from each other. Dirty Computer would possibly not exist as a chunk of artwork had Monáe determined to stay within the closet. But her queerness may be felt in each lyric and each observe of the album, from the bisexual-affirming “Make Me Feel,” to the deeply empowering “Americans.” From the album’s themes of analyzing your individual “bugs” and “coding,” to its entrancingly queer visuals, Monáe created not solely one of the best LGBTQ album of the yr, however one of many biggest albums from 2018 as an entire.