Queer music artists have always been influential. However, many have gone under appreciated throughout history. When it comes to award shows, queer artists have also been very much present, despite society’s homophobia and transphobia. So to celebrate Pride month, here are 10 music-related queer award show moments worth remembering. For 10 others, check here.
Angela Morley becomes the first openly trans person to earn an Academy Award nomination
The first trans person to be nominated for an Oscar contended for music. The great Angela Morley achieved this in 1974 as one of the four composers for the film “The Little Prince.” Morley’s nomination was a huge step forward in LGBTQ+ history, and it’s rare even to this day, with the number of trans individuals nominated for the Oscar still being very small.
R.E.M. wins two Grammys and six VMAs for “Losing My Religion”
Alternative band R.E.M., led by queer artist Michael Stipe, first rose to Grammy prominence with their classic song “Losing My Religion.” It was up for four Grammys, taking home Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Music Video. That video was also a huge sensation, taking home six MTV Video Music Awards, including the top prize, Video of the Year. In doing so, Stipe made history as one of the few queer artists to win the coveted Video of the Year award, as well as one of the few queer artists to win a pop field Grammy.
Elton John wins first Oscar
John made queer history when he took home the Oscar for Best Original Song for the iconic “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” from “The Lion King.” While John was not the first (or second, or third) gay man to win the award, he was arguably the most widely known openly gay man at the time to do so. John later became the second gay man to win the category twice when he took home another Oscar for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from his own biopic, “Rocketman.”
Sam Smith wins the Oscar for Best Original Song
While Sam Smith’s Oscar speech became infamous for incorrectly claiming they were the first gay person to win the award, Smith still made a lot of history. They became yet another gay person to take home the Original Song award, and Smith is also the only nonbinary person to win the award, though Smith wasn’t out as nonbinary at the time — they revealed their gender identity in 2019. Smith won the award for their James Bond theme, “Writing’s on the Wall.”
St. Vincent and Dua Lipa perform “New Rules”/”Masseduction”
Grammy winners St. Vincent and Dua Lipa shut down the awards ceremony with their medley of their respective hits “Masseduction” and “New Rules.” The performance quickly went viral for their onstage chemistry and queer seduction. While Dua Lipa has not spoken on her sexuality, St. Vincent, whose real name is Annie Clark, is a publicly queer woman. St. Vincent has won three Grammys, including one that night for Best Rock Song for “Masseduction,” which made her the first openly queer woman to win the award.
Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” wins Video of the Year at the VMAs
Singer and rapper Lil Nas X has become a gay icon over these past few years, and arguably one of the biggest queer artists in music history at this rate. While he rose to prominence with hits like “Panini” and the Grammy-winning, diamond-certified “Old Town Road,” it was his 2021 era “Montero” that really solidified him as a superstar and not just a flash in the pan. The album’s lead single, “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” debuted atop the Billboard Hot 100, and achieved viral popularity due to its controversial video, where Nas is seen falling from heaven and lap-dancing on Satan himself. The video was acclaimed for its themes of gay awakening and Christian symbolism, and it won Nas the coveted MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year. “Montero” also was nominated for three Grammys, including Best Music Video.
Brothers Osborne win Grammy
Sibling duo Brothers Osborne has been a much-loved country act since the 2010s. As such, it was big news when lead singer TJ Osborne came out as gay in early 2021. He was mostly met with support from the country community, and the outpouring of love was also evident at award shows. The duo took home the CMA Award for Vocal Duo of the Year, then later won their first Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for the heartfelt “Younger Me,” a song that tackles TJ’s upbringing as a gay kid. The duo are consistent Grammy favorites, having been nominated in the category every year since 2016.
Billy Porter at the 2022 BET Awards
Emmy, Tony, and Grammy winner Billy Porter sure knows how to put on a show. At the 2022 BET Awards, he brought queer extravaganza to the main stage in a big performance to honor ballroom culture. The performance was fitting given that Porter’s show “Pose,” which was set in the ballroom community, won the star the Emmy for Best Drama Actor. The fact that Porter performed at the BET Awards at all was a big step since the hip-hop community is often criticized for its lack of inclusivity. It was thus a moment to give Black, queer artists more visibility, especially given how Black queerness has always been at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights.
Kim Petras and Sam Smith becomes the first trans artists to win a pop field Grammy
“Unholy,” the number-one hit by Kim Petras and Sam Smith, has been huge for queer music. The artists, both of whom fall under the trans umbrella, made history when the song reached the top of the chart, making them the first transgender and nonbinary artist, respectively, to peak atop the chart. The song later made even more history when it won the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. That made Petras the first openly transgender artist to win a Grammy in the pop field. It also made Smith the first openly nonbinary artist to win in the field.
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