2023's six best LGBTQ albums

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday December 12, 2023
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2023's six best LGBTQ albums

When it comes time to compile a "best of" list for the year, it's a relatively simple process. I ask myself what albums I kept returning to time and time again. Beginning with Brandy Clark's eponymous fourth album (which got the most spins of all) and concluding with Man On Man's sensational second album "Provincetown," it was a very queer year. While I did everything in my power to limit the list to five, I had to make an exception so you, dear reader, can learn about the great LGBTQ music put out in 2023.

Jake Shears kept us waiting five years for "Last Man Dancing" (Mute), the follow-up to his 2018 solo debut. An entirely different animal from its predecessor, the music is joyful, youthful, exhilarating, and forward-thinking. And, yes, dancing is required. "Too Much Music" is both retro and of the moment, while "Do The Television," co-written by Shears, and Scissor Sister bandmates Scott Hoffman (aka Babydaddy) and Ana Lynch (Ana Matronic) is mesmerizing.

Kylie Minogue duets with Shears on the irresistible "Voices" and we get a good measure of Big Freedia on "Doses." Shears makes use of the old-school continuous mix groove from "8 Ball" through "Devil Came Down The Dance Floor," giving listeners the feeling of being at their own private dance party or club.


It was only a matter of time before two of the biggest queer names in Americana/Country crossover collaborated, but we're glad that Brandy Clark and Brandi Carlile did. Clark's eponymous Warner Records album was produced by Grammy-winner Carlile, who plays on all but one of the 11 tracks. While Carlile's presence is felt, the album is pure Clark.

From her celebrated turn of phrase and distinctive sense of humor and perspective to her easily recognizable vocal style and delivery, the album is all hers. Unforgettable tunes include "Tell Her You Don't Love Her" (on which she's joined by Lucius), the gorgeous duet with Carlile on "Dear Insecurity," "Best Ones," "Ain't Enough Rocks" (featuring Derek Trucks), "Northwest," "Take Mine," and "She Smoked in the House."


The signs were there all along when it comes to Sufjan Stevens' official October 2023 coming out. What straight man could possibly write a song about serial killer John Wayne Gacy and his victims, and make it as gorgeous and chill-inducing as "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." (from 2005's "Illinois")? Would a straight man have been able to create a song as sensitive as "Mystery of Love," Stevens' Oscar-nominated tune from the gay film "Call Me By Your Name?"

His 2023 masterwork "Javelin" (Asthmatic Kitty), featuring the dedication to his late partner Evans Richardson (who died in April), feels less like a surprise, and more like a confirmation. The music is everything we've come to expect from Stevens, and more. From the alternately exquisite and jarring opener "Goodbye Evergreen," to the lush choral vocals on "A Running Start" and the potential hit single pop of "Will Anybody Ever Love Me?," Stevens continues to merge queerness and faith.


If you've been listening to and following queer musician Meshell Ndegeocello's compelling music career, from her early 1990s hit single, "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)," the political statement of "Leviticus: Faggot," and the breathtaking "Bitter" album, through her vast and varied 21st-century sonic explorations, you know that her output is anything but predictable or dull.

"The Omnichord Real Book" (Blue Note), Ndegeocello's first album of all original tunes since 2014's "Comet, Come To Me," continues her longstanding tradition of being musically daring. The roster of guest musicians, including Joan As Police Woman, Jason Moran, Jeff Parker, and Josh Johnson, is mind-blowing. The sound throughout is equal parts timeless and forward-thinking, soulful and soul-stirring.

Anohni has long been a transformational artist. From performing "Cripple and the Starfish" on 1996's various artists compilation "God Shave The Queen" to leading Antony and the Johnsons in the early years of the 21st century to going solo on 2016's "Hopelessness," Anohni has always remained their distinctive creative vision.

Now, coming full circle as Anohni and the Johnsons, this has proven true once again on the stunning "My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross" (Secretly Canadian). Beginning with "It Must Change" (a song with an environmental message on par with Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On"), Anohni makes a statement to which we should listen. The R&B vibe on "Can't," "It's My Fault" (featuring the lines, "It's my fault/The way I broke the earth"), and "Why Am I Alive Now?," also make these among Anohni's most accessible songs. Even the jarring "Go Ahead," with its Yoko Ono-style arrangement and delivery, doesn't feel out of place here.


When queer musical duo Man On Man — Roddy Bottum and Joey Holman, whose partnership is both creative and romantic — released its eponymous debut album in 2021, it was as if someone opened a gallon drum of poppers, and we were all experiencing the same thrilling head rush. Man On Man effortlessly avoids the dreaded sophomore slump with the incredible "Provincetown" (Polyvinyl). Not shying away for a moment from its sexy subject matter, Man On Man is in peak condition on songs including "Take It From Me," "Gloryhole," "Piggy," "Showgirls," "I Feel Good," and "Kids."


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