Queer artists have always been powerful and emotive additions to our playlists as they sing about everything from bashing heteronormativity, discovering their sexualities through a first kiss or sexual encounter, or getting their hearts broken. Within the queer music scene, their contributions are many; artists such as Hayley Kiyoko and Girl in Red have introduced a new generation to sapphic pop in recent years, while artists such as Bitch have been catering to queer audiences for decades. Throughout time, we credit these artists for the ways they represent the queer experience through music – always truthful, important, and unwavering in emotion. So, this Valentine’s Day, it’s worth remembering that we always need more displays of queer love– particularly love between women – in the music we listen to. To begin to fill that need, here are eleven songs that touch on joys and complications of being a queer woman in love.
Scroll down to read about each song, or just listen to the Spotify playlist:
1. “we fell in love in october,” Girl in Red (World in Red, AWAL Recordings LTD)
“My girl, my girl, my girl / You will be my girl,” Girl in Red sings on “we fell in love in october,” a soft indie-pop jam that pays tribute to the senses of comfort and hope that come along with falling in love. Originally released as a double single with Girl in Red’s track “forget her,” “we fell in love in october” brings to mind a night sky full of stars, underneath which you can clearly imagine lying beside the woman of your dreams, ready to take on the world together.
Norwegian singer Girl in Red, Marie Ulven, has a reputation for being an artist who creates music for women who love women – NPR pointed out that within Gen Z culture, asking a girl “do you listen to girl in red” is, in fact, a coded way to ask them if they’re queer. Her debut studio album, If I Could Make It Go Quiet, was released in 2021.
Listen to this: On a long drive with the woman you love. Holding hands, of course.
2. “Samantha,” Chloe Moriondo (Elektra Records)
“Samantha,” the tenth track off Chloe Moriondo’s sophomore album Blood Bunny, is young love in its purest form. An alt-rock track written by now-nineteen-year-old singer/songwriter Chloe Moriondo for her girlfriend Samantha, she sings, “I think I've been yours since 4th grade…/ Samantha, I’m in love with you,” her tone demonstrative of how powerful and lasting young love can be. This song resonates with anyone who’s ever fallen in love with their best friend.
Listen to this: While professing your longtime love for your best friend.
3. “She,” dodie (Doddleoddle)
Bisexual singer and writer dodie (she/they) started her career on YouTube, uploading videos of her singing both original songs and covers. With lyrics like “she tastes like birthday cake and storytime and fall / But to her I taste of nothing at all,” “She,” the fifth track on her EP Human, could be called a classic story of unrequited love. The acoustic song is almost cinematic in the way the violins swell and the cello strings are plucked, which demonstrates how majestic (and heart-wrenching) such a love can be – so when dodie says “She means everything to me,” we can feel exactly how much it hurts.
Listen to this if: You’re spending Valentine’s Day crying and eating chocolates in the bathtub.
4. “Girls Like Girls,” Hayley Kiyoko (Steel Wool Records)
Hayley Kiyoko is an unshakeable icon in today’s queer music scene. Unlike other artists who have come out as queer after establishing their careers, Kiyoko entered the music scene as a fully realized lesbian, her music unapologetic in the way it showcases the experience of not only loving, but existing, as a queer woman. Her song “Girls Like Girls,” is not only Kiyoko’s deeply-felt answer to the question of “What would you say if you were fearless [to be who you are]?” but is also a full-bodied reminder for all audiences that women have always been loving other women just as deeply and enthusiastically as men have – as Kiyoko says, it’s “nothing new.”
Listen to this: Before, during, and after coming out.
5. “1950,” King Princess (Zelig Records)
In a review of King Princess’s 2019 concert at New York’s Terminal 5, BUST writer Lydia Wang wrote that “[King Princess’s] songs are as vulnerable as they are snarky, and her voice is silk-smooth and seductive” – and 1950 is no exception. She embodies feelings of wistfulness and longing on “1950,” the first single from her 2018 bedroom pop EP Make My Bed; she speaks to an experience that many a queer woman will eventually have sometime in their life: waiting on someone you love to love you back. “I will keep on waiting for your love,” she sings, against an effortless backdrop of 808 drums and piano, “For you, I’ll wait.”
Listen to this: while daydreaming about the girl you’ll never have.
6. “Silk Chiffon,” MUNA feat Phoebe Bridgers (Saddest Factory Records)
Electro-pop band MUNA - made up of singer Katie Gavin (she/they), Josette Maskin (she/they), and Naomi McPherson (they/them) - are opening themselves up to joy with their 2021 single “Silk Chiffon,” an alt-pop collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers. Bustle has called the track “a queer anthem celebrating the soft, often silly side of being in love for the first time,” while MUNA guitarist Naomi McPherson has described it as “a song for kids to have their first gay kiss to.” The song is bubbly and bright, and with lyrics like “Life’s so fun, life’s so fun / don’t need to worry about no one / she said that I’ve got her if I want / she’s so soft like silk chiffon,” the collective power of MUNA and Phoebe Bridgers will have you believing that life is, indeed, so fun.
Listen to this: on a first date with a girl you really like :)
7. “Enough of You,” Gia Woods (Snafu Records)
Sometimes you just need a shot of good dance pop running through your veins. Gia’s queer bop “Enough of You” checks all of the boxes – it’s fun, it’s energetic, and it’s definitely relatable. In a 2021 interview with BUST contributor Leah Overstreet, Gia said, “I really wanted to write a song about how you can be addicted to a person, but it also goes in so many ways… [when] I feel like I have this strong pull towards something, I really feel like I'm obsessed with it. I can't get enough of it.” Well, we can’t get enough of Gia.
Listen to this: while pregaming before hitting your friendly neighborhood gay bar!
8. “Pynk,” Janelle Monáe feat. Grimes (Atlantic Records)
Described as “a brash celebration of creation, self love, sexuality, and pussy power,” “Pynk” recognizes female power as a kind of self-love that isn’t limited to the vagina but actually appears everywhere – from “where all of it starts…” to “the halls of your heart.” “Pynk” encourages women not only to love all of themselves, but also all of other women – their bodies, their minds, their energies – which is what makes it a total queer jam. As Monáe said in the video’s description, “PYNK is the color that unites us all.”
Monáe herself is pansexual, meaning she feels attraction that is unrestrained by a person’s gender identity; in an interview with Rolling Stone about her album, Dirty Computer, Monáe said “I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you…this album is for you. Be proud.”
Listen to this: Anytime you need a jolt of confidence and self-love.
9. “And Then She Kissed Me,” St. Vincent (Legacy Recordings)
Though there’s no shortage of excellent, emotive queer music being written and performed by queer artists, sometimes it’s cathartic to reimagine old songs with heterosexual intentions into gay anthems. That’s exactly what St. Vincent did with “And Then She Kissed Me,” a cover of the 1963 track “Then He Kissed Me” by The Crystals, for the Universal Love: Wedding Songs Reimagined EP. In addition to changing the pronouns, St. Vincent also updated the track by giving it an indie-rock twist, adding synth and guitar solos for more bite – a fitting change, considering St. Vincent’s repertoire. For more about St. Vincent, see our Fall 2021 interview between her and Carrie Brownstein.
Listen to this: while dancing at your wedding!
10. “Serial Lover,” Kehlani (Atlantic Records)
“I got bodies that I’ll take to the grave / I got girls I wanna give my last name,” Kehlani sings amongst synths and pulsing beats on “Serial Lover,” the tenth track on her 2020 R&B album It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. Kehlani, an out lesbian who uses she/they pronouns, explores the dynamics within multilayered romantic relationships on the album; in “Serial Lover,” they sing and rap about feeling addicted to love and having the best intentions in a relationship, even when it doesn’t work out.
Listen to this: If you’re feeling disillusioned with the experience of being in love.
11. “Pages,” Bitch (Kill Rock Stars)
Laden with both electric violins and perceptive commentary about moving on after heartbreak, “Pages,” the fourth track off Bitch’s new album Bitchcraft is a lesson in both moving on and finding self-redemption; Bitch sings “I'm halfway down the road of my life / You're a story I couldn't hold, I couldn't write / And every day, I'm one day older, am I right? / And every day, you were fucking cold and that's life.” Throughout the album, Bitch shows exactly why she’s branded as a legendary queer icon – she cuts right to the root of the queer experience and shares her own in a way that’s both accessible and artful. For more on Bitch and Bitchcraft, find her interview with BUST Digital Editor Niesha Davis here.
Listen to this: if you’re feeling hopeful about the future.
Header Image: Screenshot from Youtube
Kerry-Anne holds a BA in English from Saint Mary's College of California and an MFA in Creative Writing: Nonfiction from Eastern Washington University. She lives in Spokane, Washington with her cat, Charlie. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kaloughman.