Celebrate Pride Month and LGBTQ Artists with “The Relix Pride 21” Playlist
It’s Pride Month 2021 and we’re very pleased to present “The Relix Pride 21” playlist!
While the saying ‘We Are Everywhere’ is commonplace in the extended Relix universe, particularly amongst Phish fans, the same mantra rings true for the LGBTQ world and it’s never been as prevalent as in 2021 as social acceptance of LGBTQ artists and individuals continues to grow.
For example, at the 2021 GRAMMY awards, three of the eight acts nominated for Best New Artist (Phoebe Bridgers, CHIKA and Kaytranada) currently identify as LGBTQ.
Of course, whether proudly out, discreet, closeted or otherwise, famed queer artists have been around since the beginning of time, but seeing new and burgeoning out artists on the scale is a phenomenon that continues to grow and allow fans and fellow musicians alike to feel more seen and accepted, and we’re here to celebrate that.
Contributor Wesley Hodges has compiled a 21-song playlist for Pride 2021 with some context on each below. We hope you enjoy and let love reign this June and beyond.
The Relix Pride 21 Playlist
James Booker – Junco Partner (Recorded in 1973, released in 2019)
I’d be remiss to not introduce the playlist with a NOLA classic from “the Black Liberace” James Booker. Dr. John once famously described Booker as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.” Even more virtuosic than flamboyant in personality, this after midnight lighting-in-a-bottle recording was finally brought to light in 2019 and fans of Booker (and classic NOLA music in general) definitely want to check out The Lost Paramount Tapes if they haven’t already. While the James Waynes original has been covered by the likes of The Clash, Dr. John, Widespread Panic, Galactic and Professor Longhair, no one lights the fire under “Junco” quite like Booker.
Brittany Howard – Georgia (2019)
It’s a bit wild to reflect on the fact that Brittany Howard has been a musical force and evolving legend for over a decade now, and it seems her career is still settling into a groove. As the front woman for Alabama Shakes and her side project Thunderbitch, Howard has more recently struck out under her own name, creating deeply personal and equally groundbreaking music. “Georgia” is about a crush Howard had as a kid and channels Sly Stone as much as Frank Ocean, universal music with a queer tilt.
I just want Georgia to notice me. I just want Georgia to notice me. I just want Georgia to notice me. I just want Georgia. Georgia, see you don’t know it, but I’m afraid to tell you how I really feel or show you what I really mean when I’m saying hello or how I feel to watch you come and go. I just want Georgia to notice me.
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)
Author / Activist and veteran lead singer Laura Jane Grace’s journey as a public facing transgender artist has been well-documented in both song and story, and the courage it took to declare in 2012 in Rolling Stone that Grace is a woman cannot be understated. Almost a decade after, it seems deeply woven into Grace and Against Me! lore, but the struggle of such an experience and the sheer fact that statistically almost half of transgender people attempt to take their own life, underlies the immense courage it took for an already established public figure and band leader to make such a public pronouncement. The world is better for it and tunes like “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” are undoubtledly helping and inspiring people every single day. Edgy, self-effacing and raw as any song released in the last ten years, this song fucking rocks!
Meshell Ndegeocello – Fantastic Voyage (2021)
A new release on the stellar, astral David Bowie tribute LP Modern Love, bisexual singer, multi-instrumentalist Ndegeocello proves her staying power (performing in the limelight in five different decades now) yet again on this cover of the Starman’s “Fantastic Voyage”.
Perfume Genius & Sharon Van Etten – To Lay Me Down (2016)
While I’m a sucker for slow and devastating Jerry, it’s easy to stand by the fact that Perfume Genius’ take on “To Lay Me Down” from 2016’s timeless 59 song compilation, is unquestionably one of the best, a perfect showcase for Michael Hadreas’ majestic and tender singing voice.
The Highwomen (Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris & Amanda Shires – Crowded Table (2019)
As with a few selections in this playlist, Brandi Carlile is but one member of The Highwomen, but the out and married lesbian singer’s contributions to this instant-classic are noteworthy, even amongst her tremendous co-conspirators. A staple at the perennial Lockn fest, Carlile carries the torch for a generation of lesbian artists inspired by the songwriters who dotted the lineup of the 1990s Lilith Fair festivals and her solo output is every bit as essential as her collaborations in groups like The Highwomen.
Boyfriend (w/ Galactic) – Bring It to Mama (2019)
Boyfriend has become an instant staple in both the New Orleans music / festival scenes (performing at Tipitina’s later this month), in addition to being one of the most sought after acts of the annual PRIDE festival circuit (where it left off physically in 2019 and digitally in 2020, and picking up again this month). The provocateur-rapper burlesque sensation is sure to continue making major waves on the festival circuit in the roaring ’20s and, with musical friends like Galactic, the collaborations to come should be incredibly diverse, bawdy and boisterous.
Orville Peck – No Glory in the West (2020)
As someone who grew up listening to Roy Orbison, Peck’s music hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I heard it. If the masked gay crooner’s collaboration with LGBT ally icon Shania Twain is any indication, Peck is going to be around for a long while, and tunes like “No Glory in the West” have made a big impact on both mainstream country radio and on independent dials in equal measure, exuding a crossover appeal rarely seen in this or any era.
Courtney Barnett & Sharon Von Etten – Don’t Do It – (2021)
Aussie songwriting savant and guitar shredder Courtney Barnett was one of the best things to arrive on the scene in the 2010s. Conceivably born a decade or two late, Barnett’s laid back and dare-I-say slacker style has fit in well with fans of artists like her co-conspirator Kurt Vile (with whom she recorded 2017’s duo LP Lotta Sea Lice), but the lion’s share of her following has been built on the strength of her lyrics and matter-of-fact style of delivery. This tune appears as a b-side on Sharon Van Etten’s (top-notch) new record Epic Ten, but I felt it deserved showcase here, in case you missed it.
Angel Olsen – (Summer Song) (2020)
Angel Olsen’s recent public coming-out was short and sweet (via Instagram) in April of this year. And while the 34 year old singer’s collab with “Like I Used To” with (there she is again) Sharon Van Etten is as good as any song I’ve heard this year, and her standalone LP from 2020 is worthy of full album attention.
Blood Orange – E.V.P. (2016)
Filled with soul-dripping swagger, the paradoxical genre-meshing sounds of “E.V.P.” exude modern R&B soul songwriter / screenwriter / producer Dev Hynes career continues to take off and evolve, it was his funky style nodding to Prince and INXS that first caught folks attention on his first two LPs. Transcending sexuality, style and sound has been Hynes’ m.o. since he first struck a chord with 2013’s Cupid Deluxe, and at this (still hopefully early) point in his career, there’s no telling what musical boundaries are set to be broken by the London-bred and NYC-based artist. Melancholy yet rousing lyrically, one could easily lose themself deep in the dancefloor-ready grooves here, until the chorus rings for attention:
How could you know if you’re squandering your passion for another
Without reservation, Blood Orange is one of the best live acts going into the ’20s, even after a delayed start.
Car Seat Headrest – Can’t Cool Me Down (2020)
Speaking of immensely talented live bands, the brainchild of gay frontman Will Toledo’s Car Seat Headrest could just as easily carry the torch from a band like R.E.M. as they could easily tour (and hold their own as a live force) alongside still moving rock stalwarts My Morning Jacket. One of the strongest songs from 2020’s Making a Door Less Open LP, I was lucky enough to see the tune open a Baltimore date in 2019 and was immediately hooked and looking for more live versions after.
Phoebe Bridgers – Summer’s End(2021)
You’d have had to live in a cave to miss the buzz surrounding Bridgers’ Punisher LP (or her guitar-smashing appearance on SNL earlier this year), but for my money, this touching and barebones cover of one of John Prine’s finest (and most recent) tunes is simply stunning, and a testament to the young artist’s appreciation for one of the greatest songwriters to ever put pen to paper. Bridgers isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and we’re excited to watch what’s next.
Dua Saleh – Warm Pants (2018)
Any artist who devotes the title of one of their EPs to pay tribute to godmother of rock and roll. Sister Rosetta Tharpe is worthy of attention and the Sudanese singer-poet strives to represent and create a space for queer, black, trans and non-binary people to be heard through her music and outspoken nature. With ringing endorsements from established artists like Moses Sumney and Purity Ring, Dua Saleh’s escapist appeal and genre-bending style are set to take in fans by the droves. Check out the expansive arrangement that drives out of “Warm Pants” for a glimpse of Saleh’s unique sound and vision.
Khruangbin – So We Won’t Forget (2020)
The Texas trio has made a huge impact over the last several years, performing at festivals and packing venues worldwide (and notably headlining Red Rocks for the first time this fall). Out bassist Laura Lee Ochoa is as much of a style icon as the low end of Khruangbin, donning flowing dresses and her trademark wig on-stage, providing added allure to the band’s already abundantly intoxicating allure.
Tig Notaro – When I’m 64 (2016)
While not a musician or a song here, Tig Notaro’s endlessly entertaining podcast “Don’t Ask Tig” has been a constant for me over the last year since it debuted. The Mississippi-bred lesbian is a top-line comedian, cancer survivor and friend to humanity. Music and comedy fans won’t want to miss her episodes featuring musicians like Cyndi Lauper and Indigo Girls, alongside hilarious segments with comedians like Reggie Watts, Will Farrell and Molly Ringwald.
Tash Sultana – Pretty Lady (2021)
The starmaking power of social media and YouTube to raise the profile of artists like Tash Sultana hasn’t waned and the Aussie loop-making guitar virtuoso showcases both their dexterous ability and patience on the recent “Pretty Lady” single from 2021’s massively successful Terra Firma LP.
Big Freedia (feat. Lizzo) – Karaoke (2018)
There simply aren’t very many more capital F fun artists out there doing their thing besides Big Freedia and Lizzo, two icons of LGBT fans around the world who thankfully shared mic duties for this rowdy single that should go on any and every party playlist this and every summer. If you haven’t been following along for over a decade, Big Freedia’s ascent hasn’t been as fast as one may think, as the bounce legend developed a name for himself as a cross-dressing and stage-owning gay sensation in the sweaty clubs of New Orleans, with a constantly busy touring schedule and constant television obligations.
If you wanna know how to twerk it, look no further than the Karaoke video.
Come make a wish, then make them bounce
Pride on your lips, come make that sound
If you gotta get thin, then get down
If you gotta drip then make them drown
Joy Oladokun – Sunday (2021)
Recently featured in the Music Is Universal: PRIDE release, “Sunday” is a lyrically raw queer ballad for anyone who’s ever struggled to cope with the oftentimes complex cross-section of religion and sexuality. The Nigerian-American’s musical prowess stands out the most, but the relatable nature of this song and others in her catalog certainly speak to LGBT listeners on, and “Sunday” is undoubtedly drawn from Oladokun’s deeply personal experience coming to terms with her sexuality and maintaining her faith.
Sunday bury me under the weight of who you need me to be
Can’t you see
Janelle Monae (feat Of Montreal) – Make The Bus (2010)
Two (now-veteran) acts joined forces over a decade ago for a tune on Monae’s breakout concept LP The ArchAndroid, years before the mainstream public knew Janelle’s name. Now a household name and phenom, those who saw her talent in the early days (like Prince and Kevin Barnes / of Montreal, who had the artist open for her a decade ago — or Andre 3000, who helped discover Monae) knew she was destined for greatness. While it’s been years since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Monae live, her genre and gender-defying sets in the early-2010s will always go down as some of the best (and most fun) I’ve seen. Two gender and genre-benders collaborating at the most exploratory phases of their respective careers, give it a whirl.
Jónsi and Alex Somers – Indian Summer (2009)
Alas, we leave with Sigur Ros’ Jónsi with a tune from the reawakened ambient LP Riceboy Sleeps collaboration. Released in 2009, the project never hit the live stage until a decade later when the duo toured the globe for a proper orchestral rendering of the album. While his main squeeze bandmates have long-been massively successful around the globe, Jónsi has always made space for more personal solo and collaborative side projects. Like some of the best Sigur Ros tunes, “Indian Summer” plaintively plugs along, sparkling with beauty seemingly forever, before a brief vocal crescendo brings it home.