Queer Ear: Four tracks to queer up your playlist

By Sam Danley

While there’s no shortage of groundbreaking queer artists pushing sonic boundaries, the first step to queering up your playlist is cleaning house. From the problematic to slightly less sophisticated, here are four recommendations to help you get started.

King Princess, “Only Time Makes it Human” cover. | Photo courtesy of King Princess press

Instead of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl,” try “Hit the Back” by King Princess

The rising pop star is known for incooperating her identity as a queer womxn into her music with songs like “Pussy is God” and “1950.” Billed as a bottoms anthem, “Hit the Back” is more sexual but less fetishistic than Perry’s cavalier, radio-friendly tune (admittedly an easy target). It’s not a cheap callout to an exhilarating encounter but a genuine love song from a sub to their dom. 

“Well I’m a star but you’re an icon/A dirty girl with lots of passion,” she croons. “I don’t care if you degrade me/’Cause afterall, you are my safety.” Forget the taste of cherry chapstick and celebrate power play instead.

Róisín press photo

Instead of Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia,” try “Narcissus” by Róisín Murphy

There’s nothing wrong (and a lot right!) with Dua Lipa’s sophomore album, the first of several disco/90s-house revivals to hit airwaves recently. It’s a solid effort, but other, queerer artists are doing it better. Lady Gaga’s “Chromatica” is more deferential to the swelling strings and synth-heavy pop of nineties house, and no one can outdo Murphy when it comes to disco. 

The 47-year-old Irish singer-songwriter has been a staple of queer dancefloors for more than two decades, producing an almost endless stream of underground classics. In a better world, her latest album “Róisín Machine” would generate a dozen chart toppers. Check out “Narcissus” for its paranoid disco perfection, and give groovy bad luck banger “Murphy’s Law” a listen while you’re at it.   

Le1f press photo

Instead of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” try “Wut” by Le1f

Not only is Macklemore’s bouncing intro suspiciously similar to Le1f’s (the rapper has called out the similarities before), but your stream will support someone whose ties to the queer communitty go deeper than thinking they were gay in the third grade. It’s Le1f’s most well-known song to date, and for good reason. 

“Ukrainian cutie — he really wanna cuddle/ The fever in his eyes, he wanna suckle on my muscle,” he raps. “He wanna burst my bubble and see what’s up in my jungle.” Go for the eminently danceable beat, stay for the unapologetic queerness. 

Orville Peck press photo

Instead of Lana Del Rey’s “Blue Jeans,” try “Kansas (Remember Me)” by Orville Peck

The only thing thinner than Lana Del Rey’s mesh mask is her veiled racism toward womxn of color. She’s amassed a sizeable queer following with her old hollywood vibes, but has turned some off with a growing list of questionable-at-best hot takes. Enter Orville Peck, the openly gay masked outlaw who takes a similiar strain of Americana mysticism and blends it with old country shoegaze. Think Elvis on poppers, with a pinch of Johnny Cash and a dash of dark side Dolly Parton. It’s gimmicky (gays love a theme!), but not without substance. 

“Kansas (Remember Me)” from his debut album “Pony” evokes the melancholy heartache Del Rey is known for. Somber and poignant, Peck speaks to queers who may find themselves isolated by glamy disco and in-your-face anthems, and those uncomfortable with the shallow politics behind Del Rey’s stylized nostalgia. 

Sam Danley (he/him) is journalist and writer obsessed with queer history and current events. Former host of Pink Lemonade, a podcast highlighting drag performers throughout the midwest, he currently works as a reporter covering the food industry. His work spans playwriting (with a script staged by KC’s Coterie Theatre) and sociolinguistics (with research published by the NYU School for Experimental Humanities & Social Engagement). When he isn’t writing, he’s probably walking his husband or hanging out with his pets.

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