So much has happened in LGBTQ+ music since Adam Lambert released his previous studio album “Velvet” in 2020; namely Lil Nas X. Sure, Lambert deserves credit for being among those who paved the way for LNX, but that means he still has to find his own way to remain relevant in 2023. Lambert’s aptly named new album “High Drama” (BMG) certainly deserves an E for effort. He doesn’t get off to a great start with the first couple of interpretations – “Holding Out For A Hero” (originally performed by Tina Turner) and Sia’s “Chandelier” – as he doesn’t really add anything new or remarkable to the songs.
Thankfully, that changes with Lambert’s reading of Duran Duran’s usually dull “Ordinary World” as he infuses it with, well, higher drama. His takes on Billie Eilish’s “Getting Older” and P!nk’s “My Attic” feel personal and loaded with gravitas. Someone on the production team deserves credit for maintaining the bare bones rawness of Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” complete with an organ that provides a nod to the Hi Records original. The Queened-up rendition of Lana Del Rey’s “West Coast” feels like a misstep, and Lambert’s version of Culture Club’s “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” sounds like it can’t make up its mind about what it wants to be. He redeems himself with Kings of Leon’s “Sex Is On Fire” which sizzles like a tea dance banger.
The aforementioned P!nk, whose commitment to being an LGBTQ+ ally remains one of her greatest strengths, is back with her first album of the 2020s, “Trustfall” (RCA). Readers of liner notes may notice an interesting change in the songwriting credits for the songs co-written by P!nk as they are credited to her birth name Alecia Moore. Additionally, and fittingly for an album of songs that she said would be “very honest,” much of the music is of an acoustic nature, including “Kids in Love” (featuring First Aid Kit), “Long Way to Go” (featuring The Lumineers), “Feel Something,” Lost Cause,” and “Just Say I’m Sorry” (featuring Chris Stapleton, who also appeared on P!nk’s 2019 album “Hurts 2B Human”). Fear not, devoted fans, P!nk has not abandoned her dance pop side as you can hear on the title number, “Never Not Gonna Dance Again,” “Runaway,” and “Hate Me.”
A column about LGBTQ+ music would feel incomplete without a cast recording, wouldn’t it? Winner of two 2022 Tony Awards, as well as the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, “A Strange Loop” ended its Broadway run in January 2023, but you can still take it home with you via the “A Strange Loop: Original Broadway Cast Recording” (Yellow Sound/Ghostlight). Best summed up as the musical tale of a queer Black man named Usher (played by Jaquel Spivey) writing a musical about a queer Black man writing a musical. With respectful nods to Liz Phair (the show’s title as well as the song “Exile in Gayville”) and heaps of shade cast in the direction of Tyler Perry and the Black church, “A Strange Loop” is as delightful as it is devastating. Through song and story, Usher shows us “what it’s like to travel the world in a fat, black, queer body.” The show, which won the 2022 Tony Award for Best Musical, is heading to London’s West End in June.
Since her 2018 post-Mount Moriah solo debut album, H.C. McEntire has been upholding the tradition of queer Southern rock alongside contemporaries such as Melissa Carper, Jamie Wyatt, and, of course, Indigo Girls. In fact, Amy Ray of Indigo Girls is one of McEntire’s guest vocalists on her new album “Every Acre” (Merge). Ray joins McEntire on the song “Turpentine,” while S. G. Goodman, another queer artist with Southern roots, can be heard on the song “Shadows.” Traversing geographical and emotional landscapes, the songs on “Every Acre,” including “Dovetail,” “Gospel of a Certain Kind,” and the electrified “Soft Crook” and “Big Love,” linger long after the music has ended.
Trans British singer/songwriter Cavetown (aka Robin Daniel Skinner) imbues their acoustic pop with electronic flourishes on their latest album “Worm Food” (Sire). Imagine a queer Badly Drawn Boy, if you will. Songs such as “Frog,” “Kill U,” “Better,” “Grey Space” (featuring Chloe Moriondo), and “Heart Attack,” are where Cavetown puts that practice to best use. “Fall in Love With a Girl,” featuring bi artist Beabadoobee, is also a knockout. The album follows their 2021 EP “Man’s Best Friend.”
If you didn’t know better, you might think that queer Brattleboro, Vermont trio Thus Love hailed from the UK. In the early 1980s! Maybe they just listened to a lot of Echo and the Bunnymen during their formative years. Whatever the case, Thus Love’s debut album “Memorial” (Captured Tracks) is as thrilling as it is nostalgia-inducing. Notable cuts include “Inamorato,” “Family Man,” “Friend,” “Anathema,” and “In Tandem.” The trio worked on the album together in a one-bedroom apartment, where they lived during the Covid lockdown.