Our favourite queer and trans songs of 2022

From Carly Rae Jepsen to Destin Conrad, here are the songs we couldn’t stop listening to this year

Amazing music by LGBTQ2S+ artists was released this year, and as we draw the curtains on 2022, Xtra staff and music writers reflect on their favourite queer songs in our end-of-the-year playlist. Dance pop from MICHELLE and Carly Rae Jepsen, experimental electropop from Yeule, punky folk-rock from Hurray for the Riff Raff and more—we’ve got you covered across a vast range of genres with our eclectic picks. Use this roundup of tunes as the soundtrack to your very gay holiday season and happy new year. We’ll see you in 2023!

“The Loneliest Time”—Carly Rae Jepsen (feat. Rufus Wainwright) 

There’s just something about the way Carly Rae Jepsen captures the release of pure, unfiltered joy that no other popstar comes even close to. There were high expectations going into her album The Loneliest Time, released this fall as a follow-up to the beloved one-two punch of 2015’s Emotion and 2019’s Dedicated (and their accompanying side Bs, of course). Could Jepsen capture the same effervescent secret sauce? 

The answer’s a resounding yes. The Loneliest Time is an album that gets better and better with every listen, as Jepsen’s infectious earworms reach into your skull and hook their glittering arms into you, dooming you in the best possible way to have their melodies echo in the back of your thoughts on repeat. Nowhere is this more true than on the title track, a disco-infused grooving duet with gay Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright about rekindling a relationship. Its incredibly catchy bridge has already been adopted by TikTok—“I’m coming back for you, baby!”—but the entire song is a true queer beacon of light in an album full of them. Watching Jepsen sing it live to an arena full of gays dressed like her on Halloween weekend in Vancouver was a highlight of my year. 

Tack on a music video full of glitter, eyeliner and space-vogueing (plus an appearance from drag queen Fena Barbitall) and you’ve got a recipe for the sort of queer joy we all needed in 2022. 

—Mel Woods, senior editor, culture



“POSE” by queer NYC-based indie pop band MICHELLE is a song that I fell in love with over and over each time I listened to it in 2022. Released on MICHELLE’s debut album AFTER DINNER WE TALK DREAMS, I first heard it performed live by the band when they opened for Mitski’s Toronto show in March. Immediately, the song’s groovy and mellow synths produced by Julian Kaufman and Charlie Kilgore and its sweet harmonies sung by the group’s four vocalists, Sofia D’Angelo, Layla Ku, Emma Lee and Jamee Lockard, lodged into my brain and played on a loop for the next few weeks. And then weeks turned into months, and I was still enjoying this earworm.

The song is strident but soft-spoken with an undercurrent of gentle melancholy, celebrating the act of rejecting a person who overlooked you in order to prioritize yourself and have fun solo. You can’t help but mimic the choreography in the music video, and when performed live when the catchy “pose one, pose two, pose three” sounds off in the chorus. “POSE” is subtly glamorous, and it makes me want to dance carefree through a subway station every time it comes on.

—Jordan Currie, community coordinator

“PIERCED ARROWS”—Hurray for the Riff Raff 

Running into exes and complaining about rich kids—are we reading my Instagram stories or the start of my favourite queer song of the year? The New Orleans-based band’s LIFE ON EARTH album was released on Nonesuch Records in February 2022, pulling away from their folk-rock roots and moving into more electronic territory. Queer feminist singer/songwriter Alynda Segarra rises to the challenge, their sensational voice a constant in HFTRR’s long history. (Yes, a group with a 25-year-old at its helm—HFTRR is Segarra with a rotating cast of bandmates—can have a long history.) 

The album is billed as “nature punk”—songs about survival, “for a world in flux—songs about thriving, not just surviving, while disaster is happening.” And it’s all there in the lyrics of “PIERCED ARROWS,” from the intimately personal to the broadly political, all in one verse. 

This was the place that fell apart

You were the one to break it

I don’t believe in anything

This whole fucking world is changing

Segarra cites The Clash, Canadian trans musician Beverly Glenn-Copeland, Bad Bunny and Black queer activist and author adrienne maree brown among her influences on the album. There is also a beautiful acoustic version, but I swore I wouldn’t pick the saddest version available for this end-of-year list. 

—Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, senior editor, power

“DOWN BAD”—Destin Conrad

Initially entering the public pop culture space as a comedic star on the late social media platform Vine, Destin Conrad has recently moved into music through a sultry, honest, R&B realm guided by his hopes, dreams, insecurities and life lessons. This year, the young crooner released his second project, SATIN, a record he described as “an experience that explores the transcension into adulthood through intimacy and queerness.” 

While the project is phenomenal, the standout track, “DOWN BAD,” speaks to an experience all too common: a tumultuous breakup. On the track, Conrad mourns the person he fell for who let the Los Angeles social scene change them. They become obsessed with vanity and lose sight of themselves, choosing the scene over their relationship. The hypnotizing melody serenades as if a love song dedicated to what once was clashes with the lyrics chronicling their end. It’s the perfect soundtrack to seemingly universal complex queer romance dynamics. 

—Daric L. Cottingham, columnist


In a year defined by Bad Trans News, I’ve been clinging to what few shining moments of trans joy I’ve been able to find—and among those, NoSo’s song “Parasites” off their debut album, Stay Proud of Me, shines brightest. Written in the wake of their own top surgery in 2020, NoSo (the musical project of L.A.-based Baek Hwong) sings to their younger self with such palpable love and tenderness, pushing back on the narrative that gender-affirming care—and transness by extension—are experiences necessarily defined by pain, or indeed by others’ perceptions of us. Their voice is contemplative but confident as they sing about being a child and tracing over the faces of men in magazines, and how lovely it is to be born again: “It’s your life. Take off the drag.”

According to Hwong, Stay Proud of Me is about learning how to develop compassion for all their iterations—past, present and future. And you feel the intimacy of this compassion in “Parasites”—from their subdued-yet-hopeful vocals, to the music video, which features an actor portraying Hwong’s child self, as they hide their drawings of men under the bed, or try on a too-big suit and smile quietly to themself. For just a moment, while they sing, you can forget the chaos of being a trans person in 2022 and sit in that moment of becoming with them.

—Oliver Haug, contributing editor


blackwinterwells, a 25-year-old transfeminine producer and vocalist from Hamilton, Ontario, has a seemingly endless well of creativity to pull from. The year 2022 has seen the hyperpop-aligned musician, who makes tunes on the unclassifiable boundary between emo rap, alt-pop and ethereal electronic music, put out two albums, an EP and a number of singles—not counting the production work she does for other young, innovative artists like midwxst, glaive and 8485. 

“gnarlethorne,” her debut single on the independent record label bitbird, is the perfect example of the controlled chaos ’wells—as she’s known to fans—brings to her creations. The song starts off by pulling listeners into a swirl of soft-footed melancholy, like being stuck in a glimmering snowstorm at midnight. ’wells breathily sing-speaks over the glitteringly heartsick production, stepping languidly between fantastical storytelling (“venomistic wraith, the fight is over”) and emotional candidness (“exhausted with these games you play, you’re tying your own rope.”). The snowstorm whirls faster and faster until it freezes for a moment, then drops you off a cliff onto a dancefloor with a euphoric, dubstep-reminiscent break. Surprises like these are what keep the enduring sadness of the song tinted with hopefulness, wonder and joyful curiosity. 

—Nour Abi Nakhoul, contributor

“Too Dead Inside”—yeule 

In February, while the city I live in was in partial lockdown for the third time, I often escaped by spending a few hours in the evening anesthetized by drugs and taking frigid walks around my neighbourhood. Signapore-born non-binary artist yeule’s second full-length album, Glitch Princess, was a frequent—and apt—soundtrack. In it, the glitch-pop singer obsessively circles contradictory themes: surges of hope and rushes of despair; crushing pain and sudden ecstasy; the longing to stay and find human connection and the seductive pull of an overactive death-drive. The album’s eighth track, “Too Dead Inside,” captures a particularly familiar feeling. Starting off with a sparse synth accompaniment, it swells in and out of a layered, alienoid, electronic backing as it builds to its final chorus. “Where do I go when I want to see the sunrise, but I’m too dead inside?” yeule repeats breathily again and again before imploring, “Take me somewhere pretty, pretty enough to fill this empty.” 

After nearly three years of personal and collective crises, it sometimes feels hard to know what’s left—and what’s gone forever. In the track’s outro, yeule sings, “Who the fuck wired my mind?

I’m trying to find something divine.” A persistent emptiness lingers—but if we can hold on to what we find holy, we may be able to fill it. 

—Ziya Jones, senior editor, health

“Hold Me Closer”—Elton John, Britney Spears

Let me just admit off the bat that this song was my second most-listened-to track of the year. With Britney Spears’s 13-year-long conservatorship finally ending in November 2021, I had imagined she might just leave music behind for good. However, like many other queers, I was stoked to see the Princess of Pop return on her own terms and team up with gay icon Elton John to remix his 1971 hit “Tiny Dancer.” After a six-year hiatus from performing, Britney came back with a bop!

The synth- and autotune-heavy track is a perfect pump-up song as you and your pals gear up for a queer night out … or in my case, for puttering about my apartment and tidying. The track also includes verses from Elton’s 1992 “The One,” and samples his original power duet, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” with Kiki Dee. To put it simply: it contains multitudes. The uplifting disco beat really conveys Britney’s newfound freedom, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

—Lito Howse, video producer

On occasion, the number of editors and other staff who contribute to a story gets a little unwieldy to give a byline to everyone. That’s when we use “Xtra Staff” in place of the usual contributor info. If you would like more information on who contributed to a particular story, please contact us here.

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