The 15 best queer albums of year ranked

Arlo Parks, Sam Smith, Janelle Monae, Chappell Roan and Troye Sivan against a rainbow coloured background.

Not a huge amount of good came of 2023 for queer people.

Republican leaders in the US ran amuck, attempting to introduce anti-LGBTQ+ bills at every turn. The British press and politicians fell further into the gutter in terms of their obsession with genitalia, and celebrities continued to fall from grace by making anti-queer comments.

For comfort, the community sought escapism in our playlists, and 2023 was an absolute gold mine when it came to LGBTQ+ artists delivering some of the very best music of their careers. The chips might be down right now, but this year, Miley Cyrus, boygenius, Janelle Monáe and others kept our spirits high.

Here’s the rundown of our favourite 15 albums of the year – in reverse order.

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15. Kim Petras – Problématique

Trans pop superstar Kim Petras released two albums this year: the one she was meant to, Feed the Beast, and Problématique, an unearthed mixtape that was intended to be released in 2022, but was scrapped after the bulk of it leaked.

As is the way with stan culture today, the fans demanded Problématique get a proper release on streaming. Eventually, in September, Petras obliged.

KimPetrasSportsIllustrated
Kim Petras released two albums this year. (Sports Illustrated)

While Feed the Beast held its own, it’s Problématique that comes out on top.

It’s paint-by-numbers pop, but it’s a lot of fun: “Born Again” is a would-be late-Noughties summer smash, while “All She Wants”, a collaboration with socialite Paris Hilton, is a classic addition to Petras’ library. If you don’t take it too seriously, Problématique is a great time.

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14. Sam Smith – Gloria

With their fourth album Gloria, Brit star Sam Smith welcomed in a new age of embracing their queerness – and riled up bigots in the process.

Their new era of self-expression was best exemplified in the music video for the RuPaul-sampling “I’m Not Here to Make Friends”, which saw them feign golden showers, and dance in a bejewelled corset and diamanté nipple tassels. The video was so “scandalous” that it made the morning news in the UK – a sure-fire way of showing you’ve got a hit on your hands.

Sam Smith had a hit and managed to wind up right-wing pundits. (Getty Images)

By this point, Smith had already made history with Kim Petras, as their collaboration “Unholy” became the first by a trans duo to top the Billboard Hot 100, in 2022.

While “Unholy” and “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” were by far the two queerest anthems on Gloria, the album’s more understated tracks, particularly “How to Cry” and “No God”, were classic additions to the Sam Smith canon.

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13. Jake Shears – Last Man Dancing

Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears returned in 2023 with his second studio album Last Man Dancing, the follow-up to his 2018 self-titled, self-described “honky tonk” debut.

By comparison, Last Man Dancing is a proper queer house party record. Incidentally, that’s exactly what kick-started the album’s process: after a tornado practically tore his town in New Orleans to shreds in 2021, Shears picked up the pieces, then threw a mammoth, wild house party to celebrate.

Jake Shears
Jake Shears’ Last Man Dancing is a big queer dance party. (Damon Baker)

The resulting record, which features the likes of Kylie, and queer legends Big Freedia and Amber Martin, plays like the hours after a Pride parade, when the sun is going down but there’s no end in sight. 

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12. Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation

Which other artists can say they spent 10 weeks of 2023 at the top of the charts, both in the US and the UK, then managed to bag six Grammy nominations? This year belonged to Miley Cyrus from the moment she dropped “Flowers”, with her comeback track becoming the biggest song of the year, just 12 days after it was released. 

Endless Summer Vacation arrived two months later, accompanied by an album cover inspired by Madonna, and featuring collaborations with queer power-houses Sia and Brandi Carlile.

Miley Cyrus has poked fun at a viral photo with Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift, telling her fans they should've known she was bisexual.
Miley Cyrus had a year she’s never likely to forget. (Getty Images)

Album track “Jaded” became such a fan favourite that it charted in the UK top 40, prior to even being considered as a single, while “Violet Chemistry” remains one of Cyrus’s strongest pop songs in years.

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11. Ali Sethi – Intiha

Ali Sethi’s career has spanned 15 years and several different vocations – he’s a multi-award-nominated author, film star and musician – but this year has seen him soar to new heights.

In 2022, his single “Pasoori”, recorded for Pakistani music show Coke Studio, became the first Pakistani song to reach Spotify’s Viral 50 Global chart, eventually hitting top spot. As it stands, the song’s video has almost 700 million views on YouTube.

Ali Sethi.
Ali Sethi released an album and an EP within months of each other. (Getty/Jamie McCarthy)

Following on from being named as one of Time magazine’s 100 rising stars in 2022, the queer, pioneering artist released his debut EP Paniya and first album Intiha within a few months of each other, the latter of which garnered a fan base worldwide.

Seamlessly mixing the poetry of Sufism music with the experimental, electronic stylings of musician Nicolas Jaar, Intiha tells tales of loss, lovers and longing.

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10. Arlo Parks – My Soft Machine

A lot is made of supposed second album syndrome, where an artist’s offering fails to meet the dizzying heights of their debut. When you’re Arlo Parks, and your 2021 record Collapsed in Sunbeams has won a Mercury Prize, that pressure is likely to increase tenfold. 

Parks’ 2023 follow-up, My Soft Machine, is a levelling up. While it’s sonically in the same arena as Collapsed in Sunbeams, it sounds broader and bolder, with Parks’ belief in the music she’s making evident from the very start. It’s poppier, rockier and jazzier than her debut, while “Pegasus”, a warm and nostalgic collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers, is a standout.

Arlo Parks has announced a new album and UK and European tour dates.
Listening to Arlo Parks’ music is like getting a huge warm hug. (C Brandon/Redferns)

This is an album built on small, summery pleasures, whether that’s Parks being fed cheese by her girlfriend, fellow musician Ashnikko, on spoken-word intro “Bruiseless”, or dancing to Enya while holding a cat on “Dog Rose”. It’s a warm hug in 12 tracks.

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9. Sufjan Stevens – Javelin

Grammy nominee Sufjan Stevens was always going to break hearts with his thirteenth, indie folk record but the star added a new layer when it was released.

In an Instagram post, the singer seemingly came out, dedicating Javelin to his partner, the “light of my life” and “best friend”, Evans Richardson, who died in April.

“You know I love you but everything heaven-sent must burn out in the end,” Stevens coos on the first lyrics of opening song, “Goodbye Evergeen”, over a scarce, delicate piano chord.

Sufjan Stevens wears a pink and black striped suit jacket as he plays the guitar and sings into a microphone on stage
Sufjan Stevens dedicated Javelin, to the “light of his life” partner Evans Richardson, who died in April. (Getty)

It’s a beautiful, gut wrenching way to open the album, but this intimacy is carried on throughout the remaining nine tracks. Stevens lets us in on his need for connection, and is frank in what he sees as his failings.

“Hello wildness, please forgive me now, for the heartache and the misery I create,” he sings on “Will Anybody Ever Love Me?”.

If the rapturous response to Javelin is anything to go by, Stevens isn’t just loved – he’s adored.

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8. Slayyyter – STARF*CKER

Slayyyter knows how to craft pop magic because she learnt from the best.

Hailing from Los Angeles, she was raised on a diet of Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Kylie, to whom she’d listen while surrounded by fellow queer friends.

More than a decade on from her teenage years as a pop music stan, and she’s channelled all of those influences – plus the “evil” yet “c*nty” femme fatales of films like Body Double and Basic Instinct – into a her thematic second album, STARF*CKER

Musician Slayyyter in promotional images for her new album STARFUCKER.
STARF*CKER has the feel of femme fatales about it. (Callum Walker Hutchinson/Supplied)

Now, she’s the one making pure bangers – “Out of Time” and “Miss Belladonna” are easily two of the most pulsating pop songs of 2023. Touching on the insanity of celebrity (“I Love Hollywood!”), the fantasy of falling in love (“Girl Like Me”) and the pull of cosmetic surgery (“Plastic”), STARF*CKER might just be the best concept pop album since Marina’s Electra Heart.

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7. Reneé Rapp – Snow Angel

Bisexual Broadway star Reneé Rapp had a breakout year in music, deciding to leave her role in Mindy Kaling’s comedy series The Sex Lives of College Girls to release her debut album, Snow Angel.

It was a big risk, but thanks to the record’s stream of smart and occasionally caustic pop songs, it paid off.

Reneé Rapp gets candid about her history with an eating disorder
Reneé Rapp traded in one hit for another with her debut album. (Getty)

There’s break-up drama worthy of a Broadway stage (“I Hate Boston”), reflections on mental health and trauma on the title track, bereavement (“I Wish”) and cutting takedowns of non-committal women (“Pretty Girls”). It’s simple pop music, but Rapp knows how to do it well. 

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6. Janelle Monáe – The Age of Pleasure

“No, I’m not the same, I think I done changed,” sings the ethereal, 10-time Grammy nominee Janelle Monáe on “Float”, their comeback single released in early in 2023. After five years away from the music industry and their previous album Dirty Computer, change is to be expected.

Janelle Monae performs in a dress made out flowers and a flower crown.
Janelle Monáe celebrates being Black, queer and beautiful. (Getty/ Paras Griffin)

With their new album, The Age of Pleasure, Monáe is less high concept and more high on their own existence, celebrating being Black, queer and beautiful across 14 short but sun-baked reggae and dance-hall tracks. It plays like a day spent undressed by the pool, and an evening spent undressed inside.

Monáe themself puts it best on “Haute” where they sing: “I’m young and I’m Black and I’m wild… a b***h look good.”

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5. Cub Sport – Jesus At The Gay Bar

The story behind Australian band Cub Sport’s fifth album Jesus At The Gay Bar is as sad as it is euphoric. Aged just 12, lead singer Tim Nelson met keyboard player Sam Netterfield at a pentecostal Christian school. They fell in love, dated briefly aged 17, but were forced apart by the relentless anti-LGBTQ+ messaging they were fed while growing up.

Now in their early thirties, the pair have been married for five years. The album’s title is based on a poem of the same name by trans poet Jay Hulme, which is about reconciling queer identity with religious faith. The album, largely, does the same.

Brisbane band Cub Sport in a promo photo for their new band Jesus at the Gay Bar.
Cub Sport’s fifth album attempts to reconcile queer identity with religious faith. (Supplied)

As a result, the record reflects on the joyous moments Nelson and Netterfield shared as they fell in love, in secret, and celebrates the love they enjoy so publically now. It’s a warm, glistening pop record that tells a gorgeous story of queer survival from start to finish. 

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4. Kali Uchis – Red Moon in Venus

The third studio album from Columbian-American singer-songwriter and bisexual star Kali Uchis is soft and sensual in vibes, but a little grittier in lyrics.

On “Worth the Wait”, a collaboration with gay singer Omar Apollo, Uchis hums about being a “nasty freak” who has installed a mirror on her ceiling so she can watch herself being topped.

Kali Uchis.
Kali Uchis matches biting lyrics with her ethereal voice. (Getty/Matt Winkelmeyer)

On “All Mine”, she scorns a “pathetic” love rival for ever thinking she’ll get her claws into Uchis’ partner, while “Hasta Cuando” sees her declare that her ex’s new girlfriend would “eat my p*ssy… “if I let her”.

The biting lyrics matched with Uchis’ luscious, ethereal voice is a winning combination. It’s playful in its takedowns, commanding in its sexuality, and confident in its delivery, proving that Kali Uchis is one of the most intriguing acts to come from the 2020s so far.

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3. boygenius – the record

The music industry in 2023 was dominated by queer women and non-binary stars working together to create magic.

Miley Cyrus worked with Brandi Carlile. Rebecca Black wrote with Lauren Aquilina. Sam and Kim.

Meanwhile, the record, the debut album from queer supergroup Boygenius – made up of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus – was the big gay cherry on top.

At times unflinchingly vulnerable, then witty and sardonic, the record has become a folk rock classic in the few months since it was released.

Boygenius
Supergroup boygenius are in line for a Grammy next year. (Getty Images)

The breezy “Not Strong Enough” has widely been named one of the best songs of the year, while the Grammy Awards have listed the record as a contender for album of the year at the 2024 ceremony.

All this, and that’s without even touching on the Kristen Stewart-directed music videos. Swoon.

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2. Chappell Roan – The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess

“I heard you like magic? I got a wand and a rabbit,” sings Chappell Roan on “Red Wine Supernova”, setting a new bar of excellence in terms of sapphic sex puns. The lyric is just one of the highlights on the riotous debut album, The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, are there are plenty more where that came from.

There’s “Pink Pony Club”, a theatrical pop song dressed up as a story, following a young woman who leaves her conservative family in Tennessee to take over stages in Los Angeles’ gay clubs. Meanwhile, “Naked In Manhattan” is a coming-of-age tale of falling in love with a woman for the first time, the pair of them brought together by their crush on Mean Girls’ Regina George.

Chappell Roan
Chappell Roan’s album is an exploration of coming into your queerness. (Supplied)

On “Casual”, a forlorn Chappell sheds a tear over a situation where a partner introduces her to their family, but refuses to otherwise commit. “I f****d you in the bathroom when we went to dinner,” she roars in the final chorus, “Your parents at the table, you wonder why I’m bitter?”

It’s a deliciously chaotic, frequently funny exploration of coming into your queerness, and all the power, lust, desperation and heartache that goes with it.

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1. Troye Sivan – Something to Give Each Other

One viral tweet explained it best: we are witnessing the “stardomification” of Troye Sivan.

Almost 10 years on from his debut EP, Happy Little Pill, 2023 saw the Australian musician finally settling into his status as a bona fide queer pop star. 

After breaking up with model Jacob Bixenman in 2020, Sivan had two options: write an album of limp heart-breaking ballads, or hit the clubs and make bangers.

Troye Sivan in the "Rush" music video. (YouTube)
Troye Sivan gave us his best album yet – and donned drag to “seduce” Ross Lynch. (YouTube)

Thankfully, he opted for the latter. First single “Rush”, inspired by the poppers brand, became the queer anthem of the summer, thanks, at least in part, to its sweaty, sexy music video, while the “One of Your Girls” video had the star don drag to “seduce” actor and fellow singer Ross Lynch.

Something to Give Each Other has its tender moments too. “Can’t Go Back, Baby” and “Still Got It” are two of the album’s best tracks. But they feel like part of a more delicate, more mature picture painted by Sivan, who has evidently began to wear his stardom more comfortably in 2023.

Here, he has wrapped the liberation of singledom up with the hollowness of heartache, and given us his best album to date.

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