Now deep into summer escapades, you've likely exhausted your go-to playlists for regrettable Fire Island hook-ups, stoned Jacob Riis hangouts and impromptu rooftop dance parties. As we edge closer to August, and you continue crossing off your list of summer '17 goals, allow these 16 essential bops by LGBTQ artists—from MNEK to Quay Dash and Brayton Bowman—soundtrack the final stretch of sunny, carefree fun.
"We Could Be Beautiful" by Wrabel
"If you saw you the way that I do, we could be beautiful," sings Wrabel on his debut EP's title track, punctuating a relatable sentiment about insecurities and the way they impact our relationships. Though his lyrics are bittersweet, the melody is euphoric, driving the chorus into a bouncy electronic breakdown that's perfect for mid-summer hangs. The queer singer/songwriter, who recently co-penned Kesha's feminist anthem, "Woman," manages to capture the dichotomy of romance that's at once beautiful and broken—a more optimistic message than on his pained EP highlight, "Bloodstain."
"Paradise" by MNEK
Grammy-nominated MNEK, who's responsible for co-penning Beyoncé's "Hold Up" and Madonna's "Living For Love," continues carving out his space as a solo artist on "Paradise." The 22-year-old's new single samples an iconic guitar riff from Ultra Nate's 1997 dance hit, "Free," and sees him dropping powerhouse vocals above alluring R&B production. "Would you like to go to paradise?" the queer singer/songwriter/producer questions on the chorus. "Cause I'm not tryna go alone." We'll happily join, that is if he personally sings us every single song off his debut Small Talk EP.
"Mattress" by Leland
Los Angeles artist Leland takes a break from lending his lyrics to other artists on "Mattress," his latest release as an openly queer solo artist. Famous for co-penning such hits as Troye Sivan's "Youth" and Selena Gomez's "Fetish," Leland allows himself to take center stage on the vulnurable electro-pop cut—a long overdue shift from behind-the-scenes to behind-the-mic. "Why do I always do this to myself?" he asks on the chorus. "I let you go with someone else, when all I want's my body on your mattress." An achingly relatable narrative about the one that got away, Leland somehow finds a way to dance through the pain of love lost.
"If You're Hearing This" by Hook N Sling, Parson James & Betty Who
Queer vocalist Parson James, who's perhaps best known for his Kygo collaboration, "Stole the Show," joins forces with LGBTQ ally Betty Who and producer Hook N Sling on "If You're Hearing This." A slick, summer-tinged anthem, James and Who duet about waiting patiently for love's arrival, if ever. "If you're hearing this, I'm at King and 5th," James says, later echoed by Who on the wistful lyric, "I'm still wandering down these lost avenues." Together, they repeat on the chorus, "I've been waiting, been waiting for you," as Hook N Sling's production loops in breezy guitar licks and bright finger snaps.
"Imaginary Parties" by Superfruit
If you thought you were too cool for acapella supergroup Pentatonix, Mitch Grassi and Scott Hoying's offshoot Superfruit proves you wrong. Lifted off their breakout EP, Future Friends - Part One, "Imaginary Parties" is a power-pop anthem that sounds like the type of music Prince would make if "I Wanna Be Your Lover" had been conceived in 2017, not 1979. Grassi's soaring falsetto perfectly balances Hoying's baritone, as they exchange verses above funky basslines and wildly sparse, staccato production. "Just you and me together in our imitation leathers," they sing. "Baby let's get fresh, I know we know how."
"Bossed Up" by Quay Dash
Rising from New York's queer underground, Quay Dash's SOPHIE-produced "Bossed Up" shows signs of major crossover potential. The Bronx rapper's menacing delivery—brash and brazen—is a perfect match for the track's metallic, sinister instrumental. "Bossed up, look at me I'm flossed up," she says, giving heavy weight to the word, "Boss." Lifted off Dash's debut six-track Transphobic EP through Perth Records, "Bossed Up" is easily one of the strongest, most exciting hip-hop releases this summer—a single step on her inevitable rise to rap royalty.
"There For You" by Martin Garrix & Troye Sivan
Troye Sivan, who's become one of pop's most powerful newcomers, proved he can compete with mainstream radio on his new Martin Garrix-produced scorcher, "There For You." Co-penned by longtime collaborator Leland (who also appears on this list), the track flirts with EDM trends, but challenges those with intimate, honest queer lyrics. "When your tears roll down your pillow like a river, I'll be there for you," he promises, before giving an ultimatum: "But you've gotta be there for me, too." As Garrix's production erupts, the pensive track becomes positive, like an explosive exchange of trust that's captured in vibrant, sparkling synthesizers.
"What I Know Now" by Sakima & AOBeats
London-based Sakima is on a mission to bring sexually charged queer narratives to mainstream pop, and does so successfully on "What I Know Now." Lifted off his debut EP, Facsimile, the AOBeats-assisted track is a glistening, synth-pop ode to Sakima's lovers: "My fuck buddy so efficient," he sings with alluring, metallic vocals. "I'm-a bite down on you, take a line off your back." It's straightforward and seductive, delivering the perfect soundtrack to steamy summer hook-ups with pristine, sparkling production.
"PUFF PUFF PASS" by Brayton Bowman
"Why don't we roll up another?" questions queer vocalist Brayton Bowman on "PUFF PUFF PASS," a R&B-leaning cut he co-wrote with MNEK (who also appears on this list). The track, which is lifted off Bowman's 22 Minutes Later mixtape, is not only an ode to weed, but a reminder to let loose. "Watch your worries go up in smoke and just puff puff pass, he sings soulfully on the hook. "Relax a little bit, take a breath and exhale." There's a fitting atmospheric quality to the song, with production—also courtesy of MNEK—that subtly recalls '90s hip-hop with a laidback dance-pop sheen.
"Strangers" by Halsey & Lauren Jauregui
When bisexual singer Halsey wanted to duet about queer romance, she knew she needed to join forces with someone who could genuinely relate to her lyrics. On "Strangers," lifted off Halsey's Hopeless Fountain Kingdom album, Fifth Harmony's Lauren Jauregui—also bisexual—lends vocals to the alluring synth-pop cut. "We're not lovers, we're just strangers," the pair sing together, sliding through the lyrics with seduction. "With the same damn hunger, to be touched, to be loved, to feel anything at all." As two visible performers in mainstream music today, Halsey and Jauregui's collaboration is a milestone for bisexual representation in pop culture.
"When We're High" by LP
Lifted off LP's sophomore album Lost on You, "When We're High" sees the lesbian singer/songwriter fusing classic folk with contemporary dance-pop—a successful sonic recipe she's rightfully leaned on throughout her career. "There was a life I was inside my head," LP sings, her vocals fluttering wildly alongside a bare acoustic guitar. "Then finally I rested in your bed." The track's verses are wishful, and at times obsessive—"I'd swallow the moon and the stars to follow the beat of your heart"—before breaking into an effortlessly cool groove on the chorus: "Let's get high, live until we die," LP suggests, reveling in sensational romance.
"Blood Under My Belt" by The Drums
After The Drums' co-founder Jacob Graham left the band, frontman Jonny Pierce largely created his new album, Absymal Thoughts, as a solo artist. With a fresh perspective and independent voice, the 12-track effort has been one of summer 2017's strongest LPs, wrestling with Pierce's heartbreak and regret amidst sunny lo-fi guitar-pop. On album highlight, "Blood Under My Belt," the queer performer finds a perfect balance between emotional storytelling and bright, optimistic production. "Yes, it's true that I hurt you," he begins on the chorus. "But I still love you, I love you, I still you (But you don't believe me)."
"Oo La La" by Beth Ditto
Formerly the Gossip's lead singer, lesbian performer Beth Ditto unleashes her grizzly powerhouse vocals on Fake Sugar, her debut full-length album as a solo artist. Among the standout effort's bluesy gospel-tinged tracks is Ditto's charged stomper "Oo La La," which sees her wailing wildly above driving drums and searing guitars. "Headbanger, go getter, I'm all over the place," she warns with a cocky shout. "Bone crusher, sin eater. Stone cold, get in your face." There's a lite-punk undertone throughout, recalling her band's roots, with a power-pop sheen that revisits her breakout self-titled electronic EP.
"Cocky" by Shea Couleé, Lila Star & The Vixen
Chicago-based performer Shea Couleé proved she's more than RuPaul's Drag Race royalty when she surprise dropped her debut Couleé-D EP and a series of three original music videos last month. The project's highlight, "Cocky," is a proud declaration of Couleé's worth, opening with a sinister cackle before breaking into menacing rap verses above glam house-inspired production. "Gonna go all the way, bitch, don't forget it," she spits with notable nonchalance. "Eyes on the prize, I'm the one to beat." She's joined by Miss Latina Continental, Lil Star, and fellow drag artist The Vixen, who collectively come for blood on their respective features.
"Louder" by Crush Club
An offshoot of New York's electro-pop outfit Avan Lava, Crush Club was formed by TC Milan and Le Chev with a mission to make you dance. Their power-pop summer single, "Louder," is a product of this purpose, bringing together Prince-style production with a demanding chorus that leaves no option, but to "get louder." The dazzling breakout duo revels in campy queer lyrics, as Milan proudly flings lines like, "I be wearing sweet perfume, so everybody knows I'm in the room." Together, they're attention-grabbing and reviving a simple, feel-good sound—something that's much-needed in mid-summer heat.
"Strawberry Margarita" by Macy Rodman
Macy Rodman's "Strawberry Margarita" is a punk queer "Holiday," taking the Madonna song's sunny, euphoric attitude and infusing an underground Brooklyn edge. Lifted off her debut full-length album The Lake, the tropical synth-pop song is inspired by her job as a bartender, when thirsty girls need her to mix a strong sugary drink. "I can tell she won't leave without a strawberry margarita," Rodman sings on the chorus with her signature nasally tenor. "She's a simple girl with simple needs." Set against lo-fi bedroom production, the track is a summer anthem for LGBTQ outsiders.