Hayley Kiyoko burst onto the LGBT music scene in June 2015 with the release of her music video “Girls Like Girls”. As a previously obscure artist, “Girls Like Girls” was incredibly important for Kiyoko, gaining her a massive LGBT audience. Since then, she has gone on to release several more visuals centring around female same-sex attraction, including “Cliff’s Edge”, (notably the first of her music videos where she displays her sexuality), “Sleepover” and “Feelings”.
She also takes a main role in the production, having directed and starred in all of her videos since “Cliff’s Edge” (with the exception of “One Bad Night”, which she directed, but doesn’t star in). Kiyoko shows female queerness in an explicit way often not shown in media: she subverts tropes of men chasing after women in “Feeling”’, a continuous shot video portraying Kiyoko in the stereotypical masculine role, playing chase with another girl, gauging whether she is interested in her.
Her work has led fans to bestow nicknames upon her including ‘Lesbian Jesus’, highlighting her importance to her fans: primarily young women who also experience attraction to women. Fans of Kiyoko have praised her music for empowering them, and for helping them to accept their sexuality.
Similarly, Janelle Monaé made a very recent venture into LGBT music. Her 2018 visual “Make Me Feel” features Monaé pursuing both a male and female love interest, in a club setting with the bisexual pride flag colours featuring prominently. Monaé hinted at same-sex attraction in her 2013 video “Q.U.E.E.N.”, but “Make Me Feel” is an overt celebration of bisexuality. It was received extremely well by fans, being dubbed a ‘bisexual anthem’ and accumulating over 11 million views on YouTube in two months.
Since the release of “Make Me Feel”, Monaé has released a short film, making strong feminist statements and focusing on relationships between women of colour. Her music empowers women to own their sexuality, and challenges taboos around female sexuality that are still prevalent in society, where derogatory terms are thrown at women who are vocal about their sexuality, while men are often praised for doing the same. Monaé has been praised by fans and the LGBT community extensively, creating a lot of excitement on social media around her new album, Dirty Computer.
Another important voice in LGBT music is DJ SOPHIE. SOPHIE pushes the boundaries of music genres and is notorious for her minimal social media presence and limited interviews. While she dislikes the idea of ‘coming out’, SOPHIE has been open about being a transgender woman since the release of “It’s Okay to Cry” in 2017. SOPHIE chose to remain relatively anonymous at the start of her career, only placing her voice and image alongside one another for the first time with the release of “It’s Okay to Cry”.
SOPHIE’s music blurs lines between genres, linking to the focus on the fluidity of gender in her music. Like Kiyoko, SOPHIE has been directing her own music videos, as well as starring in them, perhaps unsurprising as she has always controlled her public image. Her most recent video, “Faceshopping” addresses the implications ofself-imagee, as well as the role of social media.
LGBT music is having a massive impact on young people today, whether it’s helping them to accept their identity as a member of the LGBT community, or whether it’s normalising LGBT identities and relationships. These three women, and many others, are working hard to normalise marginalised identities and their work should be praised as the important part of a cultural movement that it is.