Every June, it’s always difficult to strike a balance between wanting to whole-heartedly celebrate our authentic queer selves with other queer people, while also acknowledging that the LGBTQ2S+ community is constantly fighting a stream of never ending battles—especially in 2023. Drag bans, limits (and downright eliminations) of access to healthcare for trans youth, hate crimes, being labeled “groomers” by conservative groups for simply existing as human beings in the world—it’s overwhelming, and the pressure is more than enough to detract from the enjoyment of living as a queer or trans person today. In spite of it all, I hope we can all say “cheers” to the moments of levity and queer joy, big or small, that we’ve gotten to experience, including the amazing music by LGBTQ2S+ artists that came out this month.
“Must’ve Been A Fool”—Pantayo
Queer love and desire is in the air on Pantayo’s sophomore album Ang Pagdaloy. The quintet of queer Filipinx women—Eirene Cloma, Michelle Cruz, Joanna Delos Reyes, Kat Estacio and Katrina Estacio—are known for their signature usage of kulintang, a traditional instrument made up of small gongs laid horizontally in a row or hung from strings, blended with luscious pop and R&B, adding a unique, metallic texture to familiar popular genres. “Must’ve Been a Fool” is slow and smooth R&B, reminiscent of iconic ’90s groups like All-4-One (and, as a Filipino myself who has participated in many family karaoke nights, this track sounds perfect for such an occasion, like it could fit perfectly into the roster of other ’80s and ’90s R&B/pop/soul ballads). The kulintang adds a pleasant discordant sound to the softness of the groovy guitar, percussion and vocals, illustrating the song’s storyline of trying to get your mind off of a lover you had to turn away from. You’ll be swaying back and forth like a tree caught in a gentle breeze to this jam.
“Keep It Rolling”—Bloc Party, featuring KennyHoopla
English rock band Bloc Party are back with new music, just a few months after the April release of the funky party bop “High Life,” with their first-ever collaborative single: “Keep It Rolling” featuring American artist KennyHoopla, also known as Kenneth La’ron. The band, made up of lead guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist Justin Harris, drummer Louise Bartle and gay frontman Kele Okereke, have always been unafraid to take risks with their eclectic sound. But “Keep It Rolling” feels like a return to form of sorts for the group, calling back to the angsty yet energetic and dance-focused punk, rock and groove-based bangers they’re most associated with from their earlier albums. KennyHoopla turns up the power with his scream-sung vocals, culminating in a fiery finale. OG Bloc Party fans will revel in the throwback feel of this tune, and new fans will have a taste of the band’s expansive discography.
“Only Have Eyes 42”—Janelle Monáe
Janelle Monae has given us many fiery and celebratory songs about queer love and sexuality in the past, and not only is “Only Have Eyes 42” from her latest album The Age of Pleasure yet another amazing addition to that cannon, it also adds the unique spin of being about multiple partners. Yes, that’s right—it’s a polyamorous, bisexual, pansexual love song! I’m no expert in the realm of tracks involving poly love, but it’s refreshing to hear a song that encapsulates the act of holding love for more than one person beyond a description of a spicy threesome (although there’s plenty of horniness here, too). The track’s title is a cheeky play on “I Only Have Eyes For You,” made famous by The Flamingos, and it samples the beat and melody from Derrick Harriott’s “The Loser.” Mellow reggae and Monáe’s love-drunk crooning make for a relaxing, endearing and sexy Pride tune.
“Song About America”—Olive Klug
On the cooler, somber end of the Pride anthem spectrum is queer singer-songwriter Olive Klug’s “Song About America,” a simple yet poignant acoustic ballad with a protest song’s spirit from their upcoming debut album Don’t You Dare Make Me Jaded. It’s exhausting and hopeless to have to absorb and endure the systematic violence and oppression of homophobia, transphobia, racism, poverty…and Klug makes that exhaustion and hopelessness a persistent force on this track. “But hey, everything’s so different now / With corporate Pride campaigns and how / Hollywood is getting so diverse / But I’m not even gonna try to write a song about America / So I’ll settle for a chorus and a verse,” they sing to a delicate melody. But even as Klug observes these fleeting snapshots of injustice passing them by one after the other, there’s still a glimmer of determination not only to wish for change, but to act in order to get it. Songs like “Song About America” are just as vital to Pride Month as the big and loud party-oriented ones.
“Hard 4 You”—Chela
If you’re a hopeless romantic whose favourite love songs are bombastic and anthemic, “Hard 4 You” by queer Australian musician Chela is the one for you this Pride season. The track throws listeners straight into the highest heights of an electrifying romance, and its dazzling, larger-than-life pop embellishments hook you in and leave you feeling as infatuated as Chela does. Fans of Hayley Kiyoko might even be reminded of “Feelings” when hearing this track, not only sonically, but also in their respective music videos, where each artist flirtatiously dances in a cat-and-mouse fashion around their love interests. I, for one, am 100 percent here for the “charismatic gay girl goes after what she wants” subgenre of dance pop songs, and Chela’s addition is pure summer fun.
“Remember Myself” by queer experimental electronic artist Kilamanzego (pronounced “kill a man’s ego”) is bursting with boisterous hip-hop beats and quirky instrumental flourishes that, when blended together, create a hyperpop-like symphony of delightful chaos. The track comes from her forthcoming EP Black Weirdo, and it keeps you guessing as to which direction it’ll go in next—aggressive clanging beats that sound like they’re bouncing off the walls of your brain switch to tinny synths blinking in the distance, and the organic sound of plunking piano adds another textural layer that contrasts yet complements the rest of the ecosystem of this song. “Remember Myself” is offbeat and just a little out of step with the other tunes on this list, in the best way possible.
“Over and Over”—Becca Mancari
Ending our June Tune-Up is a splash of optimism and a tender ode to queer friendships with Becca Mancari’s “Over and Over.” Romantic love, sex and unity are themes that tend to dominate the Pride music scene every year, but this one cherishes the tiny joyful moments: the reckless late-night hangouts and shenanigans with friends that flood you with warmth every time you remember them. Coming off of the non-binary artist’s third album Left Hand, “Over and Over” features backing vocals from Julien Baker and a cute music video that includes other queer musicians, guests and pals of Mancari. It’s a sweet and soft alt pop tune that embraces the value of platonic love.