Music is a powerful medium to reach ears (as well as hearts and minds). Thankfully, there are a bevy of talented LGBTQ+ musicians, singers, and songwriters who are taking the stage for equality, entertaining fans and and uplifting historically marginalized voices in the process.
Below, behold the music stars of this year's Out100.
Everyone wants a little bit of Saucy Santana — some of them, a lot. For the past few years, the 28-year-old, Connecticut-born, Florida-raised rapper has been going it alone, hitting the ground hard and making the internet shake with his quotable phrases and addictive tracks. Every few months another song was going viral (usually on TikTok), telling fans to “walk him like a dog,” scream “Period!,” or declare themselves “Material Gworls!”
But in 2022, Santana went harder. “Performing with Madonna during Pride Month, touring with Latto and Lizzo, performing at the BET Awards and MTV VMAs pre-shows, signing to RCA Records,” Santana says when asked about his proudest moment. “Too many to count!”
And there’s still more to come. With singles like “Booty,” “I’m Too Much,” and “Bop Bop” having all dropped this year, and his next project on the way, it’s only a matter of time before no one remembers that he got his start as a makeup artist to his close friends, rap duo the City Girls. And with good reason: It’s not just the internet that the lacquered and bearded star is able to move, it’s actual crowds. As he often says, “a hit is undeniable,” and he’s been serving hits to the world time and time again while providing a new vision of what it means to be a pop star by simply being himself. And that authenticity has awakened a growing legion of fans that doesn’t plan to disband any time soon. @the1saucysantana
If there were an official soundtrack to the modern day LGBTQ+ rights movement, it would be sung by Shea Diamond. The singer, songwriter, and transgender activist has given beautiful voice to marginalized people with soul and R&B songs like “American Pie,” a staple of Pete Buttigieg's 2020 presidential campaign that demands a slice of equality; "Don't Shoot,” which confronts the country's epidemic of gun violence; and “I Am America,” the joyous theme song to HBO Max's We're Here that gives clarity to the old rallying cry: "Let me make it crystal clear, we're here."
It's been a busy year for Diamond. She notes making Billboard's Top LGBTQ Anthems of All Time list for "I Am Her," performing alongside Camila Cabello, and helping raise over $500,000 to assist organizations fighting “don t say gay” bills as her proudest recent achievements. She sees her art as contributing to a larger collective effort for progress. "I believe we are the adults we looked for when we were kids, to fight for us,” she says. “This work is bigger than myself, and it's humbling to see some of our allies who just so happen to be the biggest stars in the world coming together to exact change!
"The work I do is often unseen,” Diamond explains. "It s understanding the music I make has the power to save someone's life. It has the power to heal broken wounds, to encourage, to comfort, touch people all over the world without leaving my house, to inspire people that I may never get to meet. It's a job that has its own reward. You get to change the world with words."
Her life's purpose is to learn “as much as humanly possible, live fully — as tomorrow isn't promised — spread love, be happy, be humble, give of myself, and dare to inspire." @iamsheadiamond
Coming out publicly is never an easy thing, but it’s even more intimidating when you’re part of an industry where LGBTQ+ people are practically invisible. Such was the case with country singer and Brothers Osborne frontman TJ Osborne, who admits many of his fans are “predominantly conservative.”
But after publicly coming out in a profile with Time, the country crooner has been living his absolute best life. With a boyfriend on his arm and a Grammy on his shelf — Brothers Osborne took home the award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their single “Younger Me” in April — Osborne is basking in the glow of freedom.
“I decided to put my happiness first, alongside being fortunate to have a very strong support system being my family, friends, my boyfriend Abi, and ultimately my fans.” Osborne says. Abi is no stranger to Osborne’s social media — and the comments are (mostly) supportive.
Moving forward, the musician now says his purpose in life is to “bring visibility through my music in areas that are largely underrepresented in the LGBTQIA+ community.”
And as for what’s next? Well, according to Osborne, that’s easy. “I’m working on a new album and working on my motherfucking self!” @tjosborne
Clad in a leopard-print suit, Jake Wesley Rogers joined Brandi Carlile on stage at Elton John’s Oscar party to pay homage to the glam rock godfather with a cover of “Rocket Man” last March. A week later, Rogers performed at the GLAAD Awards in Los Angeles to a roaring crowd. It was a good year for the 25-year-old gay, gender-fluid singer-songwriter as he performed his queer-themed and often celebratory songs like “Middle of Love” and “Momentary” on increasingly larger platforms. And as Rogers’s star continues to rise, he’s remained true to himself and his queer roots.
“I experienced a lot of growth this past year and dreams coming true, but I think I’m most proud of not losing who I am in the process and holding on to why I started making music in the first place,” Rogers says. “There were a few times this year where people tried to tell me to be less authentic in order to be more successful. I overcame that by simply not listening and remembering that authenticity is always universal.”
Rogers, who hails from Springfield, Mo., and grew up in a religious environment, continues to imbue his work with religious iconography, often turning it on its head. The “Momentary” video includes a resurrection narrative while paying homage to queer revolutionaries like Marsha P. Johnson and Oscar Wilde.
While this packed year has already brought Rogers and his message increased visibility, he’s about to reach even more audiences on a fall tour with Panic! At the Disco. And he’s recording his first full-length album.
“I believe my purpose in life is to tell the truth. I love the Toni Morrison quote, ‘the function of freedom is to free others’ — I really hope that by sharing my story openly it brings freedom to others,” he says. @jakewesleyrogers
Angel Olsen has hit the Big Time. After a decade in the music industry, in 2021 she came out as queer, and this year released the best album of her career so far. She’s reaching creative highs she’s never reached before.
Just days after Olsen came out to her family, her father died. Then, two weeks after she introduced her partner to her family at his funeral, her mother passed away as well. She was able to channel her heartbreak and growth into one of the best albums of the year, the classic country-tinged Big Time.
The album and accompanying film dive deep into the triumph of being free to be your best self and also the tragedy of not having the people you love the most be there for it. She says making the film that shares its name with the album was the biggest obstacle she had to face this year, as it forced her to confront her parents’ deaths directly. She used the filmmaking process “as an exercise to process and let go of memories and fears from the past.”
“So far, I feel my purpose has been to make music, make art as a medium for deeply communicating subjects most people don’t talk about, and always aspiring to create a space for others to connect and search further for themselves within, too,” she says. But she doesn’t want to stop there. She also wants people to know what’s possible if we can all follow love.
“Love is possible and powerful,” Olsen says. “And can change us from the inside. We can be anything with love if we let ourselves.” @angelolsenmusic
After voicing the buff middle sister Luisa in Disney’s Encanto, Jessica Darrow and her deep, husky voice became a star. The queer Cuban American actress, singer, cat parent, and “emo 4 lyf” also released a song and music video this year titled “Make it Clean” and was able to take her family on a much-needed vacation.
Darrow also became a star on sapphic TikTok, as girls around the world got crushes on both her character and on Darrow herself. Girls all over who felt bad about their deep voices, body size, and mental health struggles saw someone they could relate to.
“I believe my purpose in life is to always use access that is granted to me as an artist to tell stories that seldom get heard — important stories that may not always be the easiest to embody but the most fulfilling to bring to life,” Darrow says. “I believe it is my purpose to do this while practicing self-love as dutifully as possible, to always lead with love so that I can hopefully inspire others to do so by example. And to convince the world that it’s queer as fuck and kick the patriarchy’s butt.”
After reuniting with her Familia Madrigal again this November at the Hollywood Bowl, where she’ll be performing Encanto Live, Darrow also has a role in an upcoming Amazon Prime series where she gets to play a “sexy queer sports publicist” that she’s “so excited about.” We are too. @jessdarrow_
Dove Cameron can be a better boyfriend than him, and she wants the world to know it. The pansexual actress and singer released the song “Boyfriend” this year, a pop banger dripping with queerness and sexual confidence. In “Boyfriend,” Cameron sings to another woman about how she “could do all the shit that he never did…plus all my clothes would fit,” as she tries to woo her away from her male partner. After going viral on TikTok and earning national radio play, the song peaked at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 2 on the Mainstream Top 40.
Cameron — also an actor known for Schmigadoon! and Disney Channel’s Descendants film series — says that getting an overtly queer song on mainstream radio and then winning a VMA for Best New Artist due to the strength of that song were her two proudest accomplishments this year.
“That was something I also never thought would happen as I wrote ‘Boyfriend,’ never thinking anyone would ever hear it,” she says. “I’m not the first person to ever do it, but it was something very meaningful to me to join the select few who have crossed over to mainstream radio with a queer song. It makes me feel hopeful, and it’s a huge privilege.”
While she historically hasn’t been the kind of person to believe that people have a “purpose in life,” she says she’s been thinking about the idea lately. “I always thought that was a way to subside fear for people and to give their lives structure, when I believe that there is no rhyme or reason to things,” she says. “But recently I found it less a restrictive definition to rely on and more a direction to go in. I have found it to be a motivator for when I feel really burnt out.”
“I think my purpose in life is to unite people who feel disillusioned or lost, who feel neglected or unseen or unsafe,” she adds. “I want to unite people with a sense of community and warmth and empower them to remember their value and remember that their voices matter. I want to illuminate issues I feel need a swarm of people to pay attention to or tangible translations — whether that be through music, acting roles, or activism.” @dovecameron