I like girls. And boys. And every gender on the vast, colorful spectrum. As a girl who likes girls, though, I’ve had an extraordinarily tough time finding music that reflects my sexuality. I listen to music every day, breathe it, can quite literally not function without it, but I’ve spent so much time forcing hetero songs and artists to somehow adhere to queerness (read: I make every song gay as possible). I believe that music transcends gender, that the feelings described and represented by music transcend gender, and heartbreak is heartbreak, love is love, feelings are feelings, but I also know that to lack representation in art is to swallow invisibility and try to stomach it. I know that some experiences are uniquely queer experiences, that girls who like girls should have a space in music all our own. This playlist is a collection of songs by queer artists that are simply queer in nature, that capture feelings and moments and fragments of queerness.
This song. Marika Hackman is one of my favorite artists out there, and her most recent album, I’m Not Your Man, has been the soundtrack to my past month. The album is this unabashed, sly exploration of female queerness, and this song best embodies its smirking, sardonic undertone. I love how sarcastic and taunting this song is, while also being poignant and a true bop.
2. “Girls Like Girls”
Hayley Kiyoko is a gay legend, and every time she releases a music video, my circle of dedicated fellow queers and I implode our group chat. This is a classic, a queer anthem, and the song has become one of the most beloved music videos in recent queerstory.
This is literally a song about Adventure Time, and whenever I hear it, I think of my #1 ship, Marceline and Princess Bubblegum. It’s such a gorgeous, unique song and Willow sings it beautifully.
Kehlani is yet another gay icon with immense talent for lyrical genius. If you want to feel really (like a sickly-sweet but also badass) gay, this song is an acoustic, tender celebration of womxn loving womxn.
5. “i wanna be your girlfriend”
This one’s a sweet, boppin’ song that one of my best friends showed to me recently. It has a lofi, garage-y feel and some extremely relatable lyrics about the gut-ache and desire of crushing on a straight girl.
6. “Boys Aside”
I found this song during a deep dive into searching for Spotify playlists curated by random people all with themes of queerness. I love this song because it’s sensual, but not for the benefit of the male gaze or male fetishization. It’s about female pleasure, and it’s also a subtle recognition of how womxn are taught to prioritize male pleasure in sex rather than their own.
Kitty has a lovely, achingly beautiful voice, and her lyrics convey the kind of confused, complicated maelstrom of feelings that can accompany loving a girl who hasn’t yet fully come to terms with her own sexuality. It’s honest, warm, and passionate.
This is another Marika Hackman song that makes my heart swell—a slow, overwhelming ode to her girlfriend’s mouth, her girlfriend herself, and uninhibited female sexuality. This song triggers my synesthesia immensely, not with the color of the title, interestingly, but with dusky blue and crimson.
A classic. It’s highly relatable, like a heavy sigh and desperate heartache all at once. Again, this music video is gorgeous. The song is about having your dream gal “in your head” and the attachment to fantasy that can often come with brutal crushes like these.
10. “Chinese New Year”
I adore SALES, and this was the song that introduced me to them. It’s lighthearted and incredibly breezy, but the lyrics are unusually clever and capture the awkwardness of crushes, of wanting without knowing how to want.
Frankie Cosmos’s music always lingers in my head well after I listen to it, and “Sappho” is one of those catchy, sly, lovely songs of hers that I hum absentmindedly all the time. It’s lighthearted, but I also find this unsureness—this gawky, incredibly honest self-questioning in it that is so present in all of her music. Sappho is one of the classic Greek poets from, fittingly, the island of Lesbos, and is not only a brilliant member of the Greek canon but also really, really gay. In this song, Frankie looks up into a girl’s window and curiously asks herself, “Is that Sappho you’re reading?” I hope so.
“SGL” is a really unique song that is also extremely easy to sing along to without consciously doing so. It’s upbeat, but the lyrics are thoughtful and bittersweet, questioning the constraints of female friendship and that blurry place between friends and more.
13. “Make Me Feel”
Janelle Monae’s newest album Dirty Computer is queer as hell, conceptually brilliant, and absolutely wonderful. This song is magnificent because of its versatility: dance to it, nod your head, bop along, but also, pause and contemplate its lyrics. An ode to breaking norms and feeling feelings unapologetically, a self-exploratory insistence on just being herself without needing to define who that is—this song is all of that and more.
14. “I Know a Place”
In this song, MUNA describes her friend’s tendency to party as a means of avoidance; she deals with her feelings by distracting herself from them in the nighttime. It’s a tender, slightly melancholy desperation—to show her friend, who “thinks being herself means being unworthy”—that they can unapologetically be themselves for a night, can love freely and break down their armor. MUNA is an eclectic band composed of all womxn; a band that is very queer and incredibly talented.
15. “Moon River”
Frank Ocean has a piece of my heart, and this cover is one of the reasons why. To listen to it at night, swathed in darkness, alone in your bedroom, is like stepping into warm water, into that moon river of which he sings. Ocean is an openly queer artist, but this cover transcends sexuality; it is tender, painful, and embodies longing in all its forms.
Ting Ting Chen