Mainstream country music still isn't nearly as inclusive as it should be, but that hasn't stopped artists from speaking their truths. LGBTQ+ storytelling has largely only been found on the fringes of the genre, and thankfully, the age of streaming and digital spaces have allowed for more diverse voices to be heard and find a loyal audience.
In celebration of Pride Month, we compiled a list of 20 essential country songs, including offerings from Allison Russell, Amythyst Kiah, Brooke Eden and Jessye DeSilva. To get a complete picture of what it means to be LGBTQ+ (both the sorrows and the joys), our list spans the somber to the anthemic. Whether you'll be marching in a parade or barbequing on the lake, this playlist is perfect for any Pride occasion.
"Blueneck" by Chris Housman
Author Samantha Leigh Allen details the prevalence of queer people in red states in Real Queer America. There's no more apt country song to accompany the book than Chris Housman's "Blueneck," an anthem that celebrates small town life as much as it does living out and proud in the sticks. "I think y'all means all," he sings.
"Boys" by Cameron Hawthorn
Cameron Hawthorn's "Boys" gives The Judds' "Girls Night Out" a run for its money. Pinned with a blues giddy up, the Hawthorn track is primed for Friday night honky tonkin' on a hay-strewn dance floor. Hawthorn beacons through the neon haze, "Boys, throwing gas on a fire / Boys, watch the flames getting higher."
"Joyful Motherfuckers" by Allison Russell
"Show 'em what you got in your heart," urges Allison Russell. Over prickly acoustic guitar, Russell searches far and wide for all the "Joyful Motherfuckers," while imparting sage bits of wisdom amidst what feels like a relentless downpour. She later sings, "Grandma always told me love will conquer hate."
"Younger Me" by Brothers Osborne
Last year, It was a monumental moment for mainstream country when T.J. Osborne, one-half of hit-making duo Brothers Osborne, came out. With the deeply-profound "Younger Me," T.J. mulls over his life story, from struggle to triumph. "Didn't know that being different really wouldn't be the end," he admits.
"Family Tree" by Jessye DeSilva
Chosen family is a vital part of the LGBTQ+ experience. With many youth being disowned by their families, finding other LGBTQ+ people can be literal life or death. Jessye DeSilva cherishes their own chosen family with "Family Tree," in which they construct a new vision of family "with borrowed branches, the best and worst of me."
"Exactly Where We Are" by Crys Matthews
Packed with harmonica, "Exactly Where We Are" chugs along as all good travelin' tunes do. "What I found town after town is folks getting right back up when life knocks 'em down," sings musician Crys Matthews. Musing on her many travels, she celebrates the goodness she's uncovered at the heart of humanity.
"Ride Me Cowboy" by Paisley Fields
Paisley Fields lassos a sex-positive romp with "Ride Me Cowboy." The singer-songwriter stacks sexual innuendos atop twinkling piano and a percussive gallop. No one is immune to its hypnotic powers. Each lyric is as tantalizing as the next. He entices the listener, "Show me what you got goin' on under that hood."
"Got No Choice" by Brooke Eden
As they say, the heart wants what the heart wants. Two months after coming out, Brooke Eden dished up the breezy, lovesick anthem "Got No Choice," accompanied with a video depicting her real-life romance with Hilary Hoover. "Two months ago, you had me hooked at hello," she smooth talks.
"Sunday" by Joy Oladokun
A striking, rhythmic piece, Joy Oladokun's "Sunday" combs the inner turmoil around growing up in a religious home and reconciling one's true identity. "I feel like I'm stuck in the wrong skin," she aches. Pain drips hot off her tongue and splashes across the piano keys, leaving a deep imprint.
"Rattlesnake Girl" by Jaime Wyatt
Jaime Wyatt shimmies inside the sequin-studded melody of her song "Rattlesnake Girl." In celebrating those who came before, she also learns to love herself and who she really is. "I see my sweet friends out on the weekend / They all look happy and gay," she sings. A song about coming out could not be gayer.
"Spirits of the Revolution" by Holly Miranda
Holly Miranda delivers delicate defiance with "Spirits of the Revolution," almost feeling like a fire-forged lullaby. "We whose radiance is a wonder in life / We will not fit in / We will not give in," she chirps. The arrangement's fragility contrasts to her commanding conviction and resilience. A tremendous performance.
"Love Yourself" by Joy Clark
"Love Yourself" unravels with unmistakable yearning, finding Joy Clark traipsing through her life to the moment of personal transformation. "If I could go back in time, I'd look her in the eye and tell her, 'You are so perfect'," she offers. Aided with guitar and light percussion, Clark's voice is absolutely penetrating.
"Girls, Girls, Girls" by Ana Egge
Ana Egge captures the exhilaration of wandering Chelsea Street in NYC and eyeing all the girls walking by. "Girls, Girls, Girls" could very well soundtrack an indie rom-com about life, love and gay stuff. "I've been all around the world / Tell you what makes the world go 'round...girls, girls, girls," she sings.
"Black Myself" by Amythyst Kiah
There's an intersectionality that gets lost when discussing LGBTQ+ art. With "Black Myself," powerhouse Amythyst Kiah shares her journey as a gay, Black woman living in America. "I wanna sweep that gal right off her feet, but I'm Black myself," she sings on a rearranged solo version. The song first appeared on an Our Native Daughters record.
"I Like Ya Like That" by Harper Grae
Harper Grae heard what Sam Hunt sang in "Body Like a Back Road" and decided to flip it and reverse it. "I LIke Ya Like That" sizzles with a ferociously lustful purr. "You got that backroad body blowin my mind," she snarls. "I'll take you to every party, show you off all the time."
"Nora Jane" by Gina Venier
The biggest fear for any LGBTQ+ person is those you love not loving you anymore. Gina Venier details her coming out story with "Nora Jane," a tale in which she brings home her girlfriend for the first time. "My mom gave me a hug when I told her you're the one I love," she reveals.
"Thirty More Years and a Day" by Paula Boggs Band
On the supple "Thirty More Years and a Day," Paula Boggs celebrates her 30-year relationship and looks ahead to what the next 30 years may bring. Boggs sings with intoxicating warmth, "Love reflects like neon from your emerald eyes / If this is act three of our miracle play, let's make the most of it."
"Cast Iron Pansexual" by Adeem the Artist
Adeem the Artist flies with fluttering musical wings, a banjo in tow. "Cast Iron Pansexual" is an electrifying declaration about identity and the long overdue need to dismantle racist, bigoted power structures. Early on, Adeem sets up their lyrical sharpness, singing, "I'm an interdimensional pansexual, and I don't need repair."
"Back Seat" by Chastity Brown
Ever the genre-bender, Chastity Brown slides between folk and pulsating blues music with "Back Seat." Her voice soothes as much as it jolts you awake. "I never felt so free," she heaves, as drums swell in the arrangement. It's a rollicking, smokey number ripe for late summer nights.
"Cosmic Colors" by Trixie Mattel & Ash Gordon
Stepping out from The Blah Blah Blahs, Ash Gordon hooks up with Trixie Mattel on the kaleidoscopic queer theme song "Cosmic Colors." Beachy and fun, this is true joy bottled into a song. "We can spend a holiday on Saturn's rings / Chase another rainbow while we do our thing," sings Mattel.
READ MORE: 20 Openly Gay Country Singers You Should Be Listening To
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