Out Loud: Local critics pick 9 queer musicians to watch in 2020
Say what you will about the historically insular nature of Minnesota’s music scene, but its supportive positivity and intensely collaborative nature have allowed some incredible new artists to grow and thrive in the last couple of years. And as the scene continues to flourish and expand in its representation, a diverse array of LGBTQ+ artists have emerged into the local and national spotlight as pioneers of sound and style, forging uncharted paths to create music that often transcends conventional genre.
We asked some local music writers to name some homegrown LGBTQ+ artists and musicians that they’ve got their well-informed eye on, both veterans of the industry and the new(er) kids on the block. Inspired by everything from punk to R&B to cabaret, these are the artists that you should by no means be sleeping on—through their bold explorations of identity and sound, they’re driving our music scene in some strange and awesome new directions.
Twin Cities-based musician Dua Saleh is an in-demand artist known for their work as a singer, activist, and poet. Born in Sudan, Dua Saleh spent much of their childhood in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood, where they were influenced by generations of black musicians. They’re inspired by jazz, R&B, hip-hop, and dancehall, but their music makes its own statement. This past year they released their latest album “Nur,” which means “light” in Arabic. Saleh’s voice is a powerful light, drawing attention to their individuality. Their sound is fluid and soulful, and reflects a self-preserving fight to identify just as they are. –Simone Cazares
Vocalist and producer Booboo is black, trans, queer, and proud to be so. Among the Twin Cities music scene, she works to put a spotlight on other queer and black artists to help elevate community voices. As an artist, Booboo has her own eclectic, futuristic sound that is making waves in the Twin Cities hip-hop scene. Her latest EP “I Don’t Want to Wait” was released earlier this year, and she was selected as a 2019 finalist for Best New Local Artist in the annual Pick to Click readers’ poll in City Pages. But Booboo’s is just getting started—she’s helping to pave the way for more queer artists of color while continuing to make a growing mark of her own. –SC
Dizzy Fae is on a roll. Just this year alone, she performed at the World Pride festival in New York City, released her second mixtape “NO GMO,” and toured internationally. Trained as a classical singer at the Saint Paul Conservatory For Performing Artists, Dizzy Fae incorporates R&B, dance music, and hip-hop into her sound. But she refuses to put a label on her music. She constantly changes her image as an artist—how she looks and how she performs on stage. For Fae, that’s empowering; when she performs, her voice is soft but powerful. She draws on her life experiences, describing her newfound independence, the importance of self-care, and the exploration of her queer identity. Needless to say, she isn’t afraid to speak her truths. -SC
The most steadfast thing about Haley is her ever-changing form. That’s the way she wants it, though. Haley has recreated herself many times over the years—in an intentional effort to buck patriarchal norms, she recently adopted her mother’s name of McCallum and rebranded professionally to go simply by her given name. She’s also evolved in her sound, moving from the folk realm into more of an electronically driven energy in recent work—yet all these iterations contain the essence that is Haley. The singer can break your heart in a solo set with just her voice and accompanying guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker, or she is the life of a party in her band Gramma’s Boyfriend.
To find a way to create sustainable art, Haley has taken to Patreon to fund her work. Her supporters can get exclusive access to new music, and possibly a random box of gifts she’ll send to you. –Youa Vang
Sometimes people who champion and uplift others forget that they themselves need championing. Doc embodies this truth, and music is a consistent refuge that they turn to when reaching for sources of light. The singer-songwriter performs under the moniker theyself and has spent years working on their solo musical project.
Outside of their art, they stage-manage for multiple music festivals along with promoting new material from fellow musicians through their work at KFAI. So when it’s time to focus on their own work, listeners can find a collection of sharp sound snippets that have miraculously strung together into a perfect geometric form, but it’s actually an intensely careful sonic contraption. The sounds ebb and flow perfectly to create a world that is purely Doc. –YV
Holly Hansen has been a key player in the local music scene for the past decade, but this year the multi-instrumentalist, event curator, and audio engineer has stepped from behind the scenes and into the spotlight. In April, she released the EP “Naïve Enough” as Zoo Animal—the first project released under Zoo Animal since the original group disbanded in 2015. Hansen also hosts the weekly series T.E.E. (short for “Tuesday, Early Evening”) at the 331 Club, which showcases different local musicians. Now, Hansen is opening her own recording studio called Salon, which will begin taking clients in 2020. –Colleen Cowie
A Timisarocker concert delivers more than just the music—singer Tim Dooley brings bejeweled outfits, high kicks, and infectious energy to every stage. The St. Paul punks have infused retro influences with a modern twist since 2014. Dooley is a vocal advocate for diversity in rock, and in February, Timisarocker spearheaded and performed at the first Black Rock Matters show at the Turf Club, which showcased performers of color in the local rock scene. In June, the band performed at the Twin Cities Pride Festival for the fourth year in a row. This December, the band is stepping into the studio to record their third full-length album, which they plan to release in 2020. –CC
4th Curtis writes indie-pop songs with stark honesty and witty banter that can only come from Lex Noens, Ty Gale, and Maddie Morley’s deep-seated friendship. In 2017, 4th Curtis released their debut album, “I Won the Pageant,” and after taking time to focus on their mental health and to write new songs, the band is returning with the EP “Invisible Ax” on November 29, with an album release show that evening at the Fallout Arts Center. On “Invisible Ax,” the Twin Cities’ premier all-trans band explores the themes of bodies, personhood, sex, and sexuality. 4th Curtis is planning for the release of their next full-length album and in 2020 the band will travel around the Midwest on their first-ever tour. –CC
Xochi de la Luna
Xochi de la Luna is more than just a performer—the artist, organizer, and event curator is a dedicated advocate for marginalized voices in the local arts scene. In August, de la Luna celebrated the two-year anniversary of Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories, a variety show that highlights artists of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. de la Luna was chosen as one of the first-ever Emerging Curators Institute fellows and in spring 2020 will produce the Twin Cities’ first all-BIPOC Horror Festival, where black, brown, and indigenous artists will craft their own stories through the genre of horror in a multi-media collaborative installation. –CC