Looking to expand your record collection? We’ve selected ten essential LPs, each featuring queer theory, themes and characters or courtesy of LGBTQ+ artists, that we believe no album stack should be without. Whilst records like Welcome To The Pleasuredome and Born This Way can be argued as pivotal moments in pop’s queer history, our selection focuses on those deemed criminally underrated or without the recognition as exceptional queer records that they rightfully deserve.
The Knife: Shaking The Habitual
Few artists hold a record of tackling queer theory and gender issues head-on quite like The Knife. After a seven year gap, the Swedish duo’s fifth and final LP Shaking The Habitual cited Judith Butler’s book Gender Trouble as a direct influence whilst half the band completed a degree in Gender Studies in order to create the album. As is common with The Knife’s work, tracks like A Tooth For An Eye and Ready To Lose surround themes of intersectionality whilst Full Of Fire rounds off nine minutes of dark techno with the Salt-N-Pepa sampled “Let’s talk about gender, baby / Let’s talk about you and me.”
The established Queen of never-giving-a-fuck (see: Shake Yer Dix), Peaches’ second full-length finds the Canadian dance-punk pioneer at her most open. On I, U, She, the short and sweet “I don’t have to make a choice / I like girls and I like boys” makes for an epic statement.
Le1f: Riot Boi
Manhattan producer/rapper Le1f is pretty tired of the “queer hip-hop” tag that has found itself at the focal point of his career. With queer rap artists still far and few, Le1f’s stellar debut Riot Boi takes us a step in the right direction to omitting gay rappers as a novelty, whilst simultaneously proving the hype surrounding the former Das racist producer was all worth while.
Scissor Sisters: Scissor Sisters
Often recognised merely for the over-the-top, borderline-comedic value of their back catalogue, the debut from Scissor Sisters shone light onto New York’s gay nightlife in ways no other record could compete with. Jake Shears’ songwriting talent is most pivotal on Return To Oz, exploring the effects of crystal meth within the queer clubbing scene whilst proving that flamboyant pop can rightfully hold a place within the mainstream.
PWR BTTM: Ugly Cherries
Simply put, PWR BTTM are like no other. When the New York duo dropped their 2015 LP Ugly Cherries, nobody really knew how to shoehorn them into a category or dish out a suitable label. Ultimately, that’s what makes Liv Bruce and Ben Hopkins so damn wonderful.
Divine: The Story So Far
A compilation album from the legendary performance artist, The Story So Far found Divine stepping away from the John Waters associate label and straight into the hearts of club-goers across both sides of the pond.
Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Laura Jane Grace’s transition as a transgender woman has arguable been one of the most reported LGBT stories the music business has seen in recent years. Against Me!’s sixth record, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, centred itself around addressing Grace’s personal experience of transitioning, ultimately finding itself on numerous Album Of The Year lists for 2014.
Wendy Carlos: Switched-On Bach
Though the name may not ring an immediate bell, Carlos’ work includes the soundtracking of A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Tron whilst also overseeing the development of the Moog synth. 1n 1979, Carlos would become one of the first public figures to disclose having completed gender reassignment surgery with Switched-On Back (an electronic reworking of Johann Bach’s music performed on the Moog synth) helping fuel the commercial success of the synthesizer in popular music.
Cakes Da Killah: Hedonism
Another figurehead of the current queer hip-hop genre (whether he’s too keen on it or not), Cakes Da Killah’s debut Hedonism gained notable acclaim for rapid-fire bars and striking collaborations with the likes of electro-clash hero Peaches.
Frank Ocean: Channel Orange
Possibly the most notable of all these albums, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange marked a turning point for queer inclusivity within hip-hop, redefining queerness within pop and landing him the “LGBT voice” tag that would assist in boosting the anticipation for 2016’s Blonde. Nothing short of essential.
Photograph: The Knife