Let’s be real: music in 2023 was pretty freaking gay.
And if that statement sounds hyperbolic to you, just take a look back at the year’s biggest releases, breakout artists, and tours.
There were viral TikTok hits by performers like Corook, Bronze Avery, and of course, Dixon Dallas. Straight country artist Tyler Childers gave us a tearjerking gay love story via music video with “In Your Love.” And heated discourse around rising pop girlies who courted queer fanbases, like Sabrina Carpenter and Tate McRae, arose time and time again.
Furthermore, the summer belonged to Troye Sivan and Kylie Minogue, who dropped zeitgeist-capturing singles and ignited intense debate around song of the summer. (An argument so passionate, that next year’s Grammy Awards may not even draw a conclusion.)
Even Tracy Chapman’s 1988 queer-coded escapist fantasy “Fast Car” had a cultural resurgence, making her the first-ever Black songwriter to win Song of the Year at the CMA Awards after country singer Luke Combs covered it.
And if we’re being honest, both Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s economy-boosting tours were made for the girls and gays –– especially those who got Burlington, Berkeley, and Cambridge on their Spotify Wrapped.
As 2023 comes to a close, we’ve got a lot of bops and history-making moments to celebrate. And if 2024 is listening: you’ve got big heels to fill.
Scroll down as we reminisce on the 10 biggest (and gayest) music moments of the year.
1. The dawning of the Troye Sivan-aissance
Against all odds, Troye Sivan –– the Aussie pop prince known for “#BopsBoutBottoming” –– managed to out-gay himself on this year’s Something to Give Each Other. And it was glorious.
To be fair, Sivan has long embraced same-sex pronouns and candid romantic confessions in his music. Still, his third record found him occupying an even more unapologetically queer space. After praising the “truly f*cking nasty, nasty bad pop girl” on messy HBO series The Idol, he essentially became the much-needed queer equivalent.
From thirsty Instagram snaps and glory-hole vinyls, to homages to club faves like Bag Raiders and The Village People, Troye remained the twink on everybody’s lips. And just when gays thought they had him pegged, he transformed into an it-girl, donning stunning drag in the “One of Your Girls” video.
Still, the release of anthemic lead single “Rush” truly ushered in the Sivan-aissance. Arriving right after Pride Month, the lusty track (and its fearlessly sexy video) was inescapable during the sticky months. Has there ever been a better tribute to summertime lust, intoxicating liberation, and the smell of poppers? Certainly not one nominated for a Grammy.
2. Kim Petras became the first openly transgender woman to win a Grammy.
Yes, we are still talking about “Unholy” by Sam Smith and Kim Petras… if you needed any more proof that it’s been a long year. However, you can’t underwrite this herstoric moment at February’s Grammy Awards when Smith and Petras took home Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their naughty and addictive hit.
The commercial success of “Unholy” was one thing. After it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Smith and Petras became the first openly non-binary and trans artists to score a chart-topper, respectively. But recognition from the Recording Academy was even more colossal, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. And in her acceptance speech, Petras saw that, thanking “all the incredible transgender legends performing who kicked these doors open,” including late and legendary producer Sophie.
3. Omar Apollo found new ways to keep us parched.
If we had a dollar for every time alt-R&B singer Omar Apollo had us clutching our metaphorical pearls (and begging for more) in 2023, we’d be rolling in dough. The 26-year-old singer-songwriter had a breakout year, building on the momentum of his 2022 debut album Ivory on tender and touching new EP Live for Me.
With a stacked discography of sad boi bops and a spot opening for SZA’s SOS Tour, we’ve watched Apollo’s star rise all year long. That being said, his chaotically horny social-media presence didn’t hurt either. Between hawking condoms as merch, flirting with Pedro Pascal, and the explicit nude portrait that graced the back cover of his vinyls (and temporarily hung in the MoMa), he’s given us plenty to talk about. And repeatedly thirst over.
4. Reneé Rapp went full-on bi-con.
OK, yes, Reneé Rapp was born in 2000. But the Broadway starlet, turned sitcom actress, turned full-fledged pop star represents the future. With the release of her debut album Snow Angel in August, the openly bisexual performer leaned even harder into her identity. On standout track, “Pretty Girls,” she tackled WLW dating culture with a knowing wink, giving us a bop in the vein of Hayley Kiyoko’s “Curious” and Demi Lovato‘s “Cool for the Summer.”
With quips like “I like a straight jacket / But it feels like it’s a little tight” and “Yeah, that b*tch is gay,” the song was enough to set TikTok ablaze. It has us even more excited for her take on the iconic Regina George in next year’s Mean Girls musical film.
5. Madge gave us reason after reason to continue the Celebration.
Madonna embarking on a retrospective tour in celebration of her biggest hits sounded too good to be true. And it almost was after a hospitalization forced Madge to push back the first few dates. Still, its October kickoff in London was proof nothing can keep the Queen of Pop down.
Alongside Bob the Drag Queen, who serves as emcee, Madonna honors the LGBTQ+ community and her trailblazing career with nearly every song. No spoilers, but even celebs like Donatella Versace, Julia Fox, Aquaria, and Diplo have had to check it out for themselves.
There’s no doubt The Celebration Tour is the can’t-miss gay event of the year –– if you can manage to snag tickets that is.
6. Chappell Roan took sapphic fun to new heights.
If you don’t know Chappell Roan’s name, you’re going to. With bop after bop –– including “Red Wine Supernova,” a fruity hookup track featuring a splash of Shania influence –– the Missouri-born pop singer has quickly become a mainstay on gay playlists across the world. Harnessing a drag-like persona, irresistible hooks, and the audaciousness to pine after perverted crushes and find the kink in karma, Roan is easily this year’s boldest new queer voice.
In fact, her debut album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess was recently crowned one of the best records of the year by Rolling Stone. And as she told the outlet, crafting the collection of singalong ear worms helped her “come to access [her] queerness.”
7. Lauv, Sufjan Stevens, and Billie Eilish joined the fam.
Alexa, play “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross!
This year saw several queer musicians bravely share their truths with the world. There was J-pop idol Shinjiro Atae, who boldly revealed he was gay in front of 2,000 fans at an event in traditionally conservative Japan. Then during Pride Month, Lauv posted a TikTok calling himself “gay but not gay but gay but not gay” after saying he was dating a woman but “a little bit into men.” In a tearjerking note on Instagram, Sufjan Stevens seemingly came out as queer by dedicating new album Javelin to his late partner Evans Richardson. And even more recently, pop prodigy Billie Eilish said she identifies as bisexual, telling Variety she thought it was “obvious.” We’re glad you’re all here!
8. Flamy Grant changed the face of Christian music.
Flamy Grant, Christian music’s “shame-slaying, hip-swaying” drag-queen, rose above the hate after being targeted by a conservative preacher earlier this year. After the altercation, the singer-songwriter (whose name is a play on religious mainstay Amy Grant) topped iTunes’ Christian music charts and even made an appearance on Billboard.
At a time when drag queens are being attacked and bigoted churchgoers rule the narrative, Grant is fearlessly carving out her own niche. And her work to bring LGBTQ+ representation to the genre is extremely necessary. “I chose Christian music because it matters to me,” she told Billboard. “The reason I’m here is because I know there are queer kids still growing up listening to this … I don’t want them to have to go through what I did.”
9. Beyoncé blessed the gays with the Renaissance World Tour.
If Beyoncé’s 2022 album Renaissance –– a disco and house-inspired joyride through ballroom and club culture, –– was a love letter to the LGBTQ+ community, then its respective world tour was a full-blown dissertation. When Queen Bey kicked off her global jaunt in Sweden this past May, fans were gagged to discover the spectacle show was just as gay as its namesake record… starting with the Progress Pride Flag that colored the stage.
Throughout the nearly three-hour concert, Bey paid tribute to pioneers of Black queer culture, sampled Madonna’s “Vogue,” showcased famed ball commentator Kevin JZ Prodigy alongside rising stars like Honey Balenciaga, and even instituted gender-neutral bathrooms across stadiums. As mirrorball-dressed queer teens and scantily-clad adults decked in gold made the trek to experience it IRL, there’s no doubt she made her late gay uncle Johnny (who died from AIDS complications when she was a teen and inspired the project) proud.
Thankfully, the tour’s intoxicating energy and safe environment was memorialized in concert documentary Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé, now in theaters.
10. Two words… “Padam. Padam.”
We can’t discuss 2023 without mentioning Mother Minogue. With synths and an onomatopoeia for a heartbeat, Kylie Minogue sent Gay
And there’s no doubt the dance-pop anthem will remain a staple in coming years. We will hear it, and we’ll know.