6 Artists That You Need To Listen To – Celebrating Pride Month with Arca, Sophie, Cakes Da Killa +

In honor of pride month, we put together a collection of trailblazing LGTBQ+ artists that are innovating in modern music. The modern music scene has been heavily influenced by the LGTBQ+ community for decades with gay culture having profound roots in all genres of music from disco, electronic, rock, to pop. It’s undeniable that many of the top artists from today would not be where they are without following in the footsteps and taking influence from their LGTBQ+ predecessors and peers. It’s important that our music community not only takes the month of June to recognize the LGTBQ+ community’s impact on music as a whole but to continuously be conscious of cultural history while supporting these influential artists and musicians. Let’s take a look at some artists that are truly changing the way we make and listen to music. 

Shea Diamond

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Shea Diamond is a singer, songwriter, and a transgender activist. Shea spent most of her early life moving from city to city to with different relatives until she finally ran away from home at fourteen, finding herself in foster care. At seventeen, Shea emancipated herself from foster care and began directing her church’s choir where she nurtured her love and passion for signing. After many years of deeply struggling with her identity, Shea found herself at a Trans Lives Matter rally where she performed her original song “I Am Her” for the crowd. Singer/songwriter, Justin Tranter (who has as credits with Britney Spears, Gwen Stafani, Linkin Park, Justin Bieber, and more) was in attendance and couldn’t help but notice Diamond’s powerful voice and thought provoking tune. Soon after her performance at the rally, Tranter co-signed Diamond to Asylum Records and has been releasing small projects and singles since. Diamond is paving the way for transgender artists by turning themes and thoughts of gender identity and struggle into resonating R&B, soul, gospel, and blues tunes. Heavy influences from legendary vocalists like Tina Turner and Nina Simone come through in Diamonds singing and lyrics. She will be releasing a new single, “SMILE”, June 18.

Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko is a singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress who has been using her talent to make waves in the modern music scene. First starting her career as a child actress, Kiyoko got her first big musical break in 2007 when she was asked to be a founding member of The Stunners, an all-female pop group that would support artists like Justin Bieber on tour. The group signed with many big labels like Colombia and Universal Republic Records but eventually would disband in 2011. After disbanding with The Stunners, Kiyoko began releasing solo EPs and solidified her status as an individual artist. Kiyoko had known about her sexuality since she was young but struggled to come out publicly. Kiyoko finally did come out as a lesbian to her fans to which she received great support and praise. Kiyoko has made it her mission to normalize lesbian relationships being the subject of pop music tracks in an effort to deconstruct heteronormative ideologies within popular culture and society. Kiyoko takes inspiration from many female pop artists from the early 2000’s like Katy Perry and Tegan and Sara. On June 1 of this year, she released a music video for her newest single “Chance” which is a pop song highlighting a blossoming lesbian relationship.

Pabllo Vittar

Along with being a prolific drag queen, Pabllo Vittar is a singer, songwriter, and fashion icon. Born in São Luís, Pabllo experienced lots of bullying, harassment, and even assault while growing up due to his feminine demeanor and interest in gay culture. While facing these hardships, Pabllo turned to the nightlife scene in Maranhão and began performing and singing for the scenes many audiences. Just after coming out to his family, Pabllo first performed in drag at seventeen and quickly began performing regularly for LGTBQ+ parades and rallies across the city. Eventually, Pabllo’s exciting performances and personality garnered attention from entertainment industry executives who would set him up for musical success. Though Pabllo’s music is considered pop, he’s cited to have drawn influences from Aretha Franklin, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, and Tina Turner while writing and recording his debut album, Vai Passar Mal. Pabllo has also said that he’s inspired by artists like Liniker,  Elza Soares, Lana Del Rey, Allie X, and specific albums like Rihanna’s Anti, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade

Arca

Hailing from Caracas, Venezuela, Arca is an experimental artist who is broadening the spectrum of pop music with her incredibly unique style. First learning piano as a child, Arca began learning to write music and released her first project under the name Nuuro as a teenager. As Nuuro, she gained popularity in the Venezuelan music scene and recognition from large local artists like Los Amigos Invisibles. Before studying music in the US at NYU, Arca also collaborated with several Venezuelan artists and even programmed synthesizers on La Vida Bohème’s Grammy nominated album, NuestraAfter releasing her first project under her current stage name in 2012, Arca was given programming and writing credits on Kanye West’s album, Yeezus, as well as FKA Twigs’ EP2 in 2013. Arca has also worked along side other huge experimental pop artists like Björk. In 2014, Arca released her debut album, Xen, which brought her into the limelight as an avant-garde creative. Arca relies heavily on electronics to create abrasive and interesting soundscapes mixed with cinematic yet rhythmic drums. This combination gives Arca the ability to create a variety of projects in different styles from super intense ballads to intricate dance tracks. Her music often addresses themes of trauma and crises of identity, issues that affect many members of the LGTBQ+ community.

Cakes Da Killa

Cakes Da Killa first found success in 2011 with the sudden rise of LGTBQ+ rappers in the New York hip hop scene. Like many modern rappers, Cakes began rapping at a young age as a hobby, posting recordings of himself rapping over instrumental beats he would find on the internet. To his surprise, his homemade demos would grab the attention of a producer by the name of Stixx who would ask Cakes to do a feature on the mixtape, Downtown Mayhem Vol. 1, distributed by the Downtown Mayhem label. Cakes would release his debut mixtape, Easy Bake Oven, Vol. 1under the same label shortly after which would signify the start of his professional music career. During Cake’s rise, many other LGTBQ+ rappers also began experiencing success after an article published by the legendary music magazine, Pitchfork, addressed the emergence of an LGTBQ+ community in the nationwide hip hop scene, calling it’s rise a ‘movement’.

SOPHIE

Sophie was a Scottish producer, singer, songwriter, and DJ who was best known for her impact on the hyper-pop genre. She first grew an affinity for music when her father would play cassettes for her and bring her to raves and concerts as a child. After she was gifted a keyboard, she began writing and creating her own music. During her adolescences, Sophie spent many years learning music production on her own and discovering new and inspiring music that would lead her to craft a signature style. She got her first taste of being a professional musician in 2008 when she began performing regularly across the UK and Berlin with her band Motherland. Using Motherland as a stepping stone to collaborate with other artists like Jeffery Sfire and Dux Kidz, Sophie would move on to begin releasing solo projects. In 2013, she released her debut single titled “Nothing More to Say” with several b-sides and other singles following. In 2015, UK pop star, Charli XCX, announced her collaboration with Sophie, meaning that Sophie would be the main producer of several of Charli’s upcoming projects. After producing these projects, Sophie released her debut album, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, which would get her a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album in 2019. She was the first openly transgender person to ever be nominated in the category. Tragically, Sophie would pass away in January 2021 after being involved in a severe accident. Despite her untimely death, Sophie’s impact on pop music radiated with her unique production style and creative songwriting.