Romance songs oversaturate the music industry, but homoromantic music is greatly underrepresented. LGBTQ+ artists are pressing further into the mainstream, but finding songs that are bluntly queer can be difficult unless one is actively searching for them. As International Lesbian Day was October 8, I, a nonbinary lesbian, have curated a selection of 15 songs made by sapphics for sapphics. My goal with this list was to discover new music and recommend lesser known songs created by more established artists. As such, this article includes artists of diverse background, race, sexuality and gender identity. The songs are from a variety of genres and express different aspects of sapphic love and sexuality. I have arranged these songs to be listened to in order, as if this is a playlist.
“Valentine” – Snail Mail
Snail Mail has been creating indie-rock since the singer-songwriter and guitarist Lindsey Jordan was 15. Her most recent album, “Valentine”, is one of my all-time favorites for its emotional weight and alternative sound. I chose the title track to start out this list, being the first in a string of queer heartbreaks Jordan explores on the album. The synth that starts the song compliments the naïve lyrics about a dreamlike relationship. The chorus is accompanied by a surge in guitars as Jordan screams over her lover leaving her behind, “So why’d you wanna erase me? / Darling, valentine.”
“Sleepover” –Hayley Kiyoko
Hayley Kiyoko has a large discography of explicitly sapphic songs, contradicting the common narrative of lesbian tragedy and queer baiting. As such, Kiyoko has been nicknamed ‘Lesbian Jesus.’ “Sleepover” encapsulates a special kind of pining: Being so close but still too far from that girl you’re crushing on. Kiyoko sings “You wanna be friends forever? I can think of something better.” “In this pop song, Kiyoko has sleepovers with her crush, but can only get as intimate as she wants in her imagination.
“Girls Make Me Wanna Die” – The Aces
This upbeat, alternative pop song describes adolescent queer love for all its unrequited glory. All four of the members of the girl group were raised Mormon and three of the members are queer. This song calls back to how they were painfully in love with their best friends, but the exhilaration is underpinned by the pain of being held to secrecy. As someone who was also raised Mormon and is queer, I relate heavily to the emotions and experiences that make up “Girls Make Me Wanna Die.”
“bad idea!” – girl in red
In my opinion, girl in red is the keystone lesbian artist. Her music was probably one of the first I heard, and I’m talking about long before I knew I was gay. Famously, girl in red sang, “We fell in love in October / That’s why, I love fall.” However, I chose to include my favorite indie rock song of hers: “bad idea!” Girl in red repeatedly sings about being consumed by a casual sexual relationship. The song starts small, but the drums and guitars get more intense with every chorus, becoming an explosion of energy.
“Naked in Manhattan” – Chappell Roan
A person’s first love and first sexual experience are key moments in their life, and unfortunately, LGBTQ+ depictions are often overlooked if not tragic. Roan defies this trend by describing her first queer experience in “Naked in Manhattan.” This synthpop bop has moments of Roan unabashedly chanting and shyly singing in falsetto, “Touch me!”, sweetly encapsulating her young lesbian romance. The song also has many pop culture references, with one line describing how Roan and her lover “both have a crush on Regina George.”
“religion (u can lay your hands on me)” – Shura
I am a huge fan of religious imagery being used in gay metaphors, and this song is chock-full of it. A highlight includes “I wanna consecrate your body, turn the water to wine,” delivered sultrily by Shura’s dreamy vocals. This song is lots of fun with its innuendo and groovy synthpop beat. It has had a place in my personal master playlist for years.
“Make Me Feel” – Janelle Monáe
It was with this song and accompanying music video that Janelle Monâe boldly expressed herself as pansexual and nonbinary. In the video, she is lit with bisexual lighting and finds themself caught between two potential lovers. “Make Me Feel” takes strong influence from Prince, whom Monâe was friends with. This results in a swanky, sexually charged R&B number; Monâe expressing that they are down for anything and anyone.
“Ripe” – FLAVIA
Chanting a pop melody at the chorus and singing over trap beats in the verses, FLAVIA brags about her endless woman partners. She charismatically describes how she satisfies her lovers using plenty of innuendo. In the bridge, FLAVIA alluringly orders her partner to “Back it up to my room, I’ll make you flower make you bloom.” “Ripe” is an erotic, energizing, explicitly lesbian song. In my opinion, this one’s for the doms.
“Girls Just Wanna Have Sex” – mazie
This song is a trippy, fast-paced, pop-punk banger. Mazie very excitedly describes having a one-night stand with a girl who is totally out of her league. The lyrics are explicit and brash, where intentions and sexuality are unapologetic. One line I find particularly entertaining for its content and delivery is “Oh, f*ck, she’s eating me out / I’m trying not to scream on her parents’ couch.” This song just scratches an itch for me, ya know?
“Feel It” – Gia Woods
Gia Woods is known for how she came out as lesbian in her song “Only a Girl.” After coming out, her discography more thoroughly explored her sexuality. In “Feel It,” Woods seductively describes her instinctual desire for her lover. The pop song coolly floats along as Woods breathily sings “I feel it for you / like honey when your lips press against mine.” The feelings expressed are raw and all-encompassing but are delivered in a misty dream.
“Fast Car” – Syd
This contemporary R&B song describes Syd and her girlfriend getting intimate in her fast car. Syd’s voice is gentle, like she’s whispering into your ear. Sensually, she instructs her partner to “Help me take my seatbelt off / And put it in park, babe.” The car and surroundings are described in the song, but the car also functions as a double entendre for the sexual encounter. The song ends with a passionate guitar solo and fades into a piano melody.
“Honey” – Kehlani
Kehlani once identified as bisexual, but came out in 2017 saying she only dates women and non-binary people. Shortly after, she released “Honey,” presumably about her girlfriend. The song is a very pared-down number, exclusively vocals and acoustic guitar. This allows Kehlani to demonstrate her beautiful, dexterous voice. I find the opening lyrics interesting, as she compares the women she likes to honey and money: “sweet / A little selfish” and “green / A little jealous.” Her love of these women encapsulates their strengths and flaws, a nuanced take rather than an objectifying one. She continues in the song to admit her own faults and troubled past, but ends the song reassuring her and her partner singing “Isn’t love all we need?”
“Love Between…” – Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis is an acclaimed R&B singer and has collaborated with many other musicians. “Love Between…” slowly lulls the listener into Uchis’ loving embrace. This song borrows from the song “Love… Can Be So Wonderful” by The Tempress in 1972, which says “Love between a boy and girl can be so wonderful.” As Kali Uchis is openly bisexual, she changed the lyric to “Love between two human beings can be so wonderful,” making the romance in this song open to any gender.
“If She Ever Leaves Me” – The Highwomen
A country song?! About loving your girlfriend?? I was so shocked when I found “If She Ever Leaves Me,” as country music tends to be polarizing for queer people. The song is a slow americana melody of the lead singer, backed up by beautiful harmonies telling off a cowboy for eyeing up her girlfriend. She is not aggressively possessive though, admitting, “If she ever leaves it’s gonna be for a woman with more time / Who’s not afraid to let her dreams come true.”
“Strawberry Blonde” – chloe moriondo
In “Strawberry Blonde,” moriondo sings about the loving and supportive relationship she is in with her girlfriend. This indie song’s folksy instrumentation grounds the whimsical relationship, and the lyrics embrace the mundane along with the adoration. The way moriondo describes her girlfriend, “Cause my girl’s made of peaches and soft grass and the moonlight,” is very evocative without being gratuitous. “Strawberry Blonde” makes me sappy for my relationship with my own girlfriend.
I hope you discovered a song or artist that resonated with you. I genuinely recommend all of these songs, and a number of these have been added to my own playlist. Go support LGBTQ+ artists!