Stanning female pop stars is one of my all-time favorite hobbies, and one that I think a lot of other queer folks share. However, we often talk and tweet about the same singers over and over again.
As an attempt to expose gay folks to new languages and genres of music, I’ve put together a little list of talented, badass female performers who perform in a bunch of different languages that I think anyone could get into.
1. Utada Hikaru
Often compared to Britney Spears, Utada Hikaru (or Utada) is one of the biggest 90s pop stars in Japan. Her debut album, First Love, is still the best-selling Japanese language album of all the time. However, most Westerners, especially the gay nerd demographic probably know her from “Simple and Clean,” the theme song to the English release of Kingdom Hearts which is still a jam, let me tell you.
The song I chose for Utada is “Movin’ On Without You” which, when you listen to it, will immediately remind you 90s pop music like TLC or Destiny’s Child. The music video adds to that nostalgia as it has similar tech-inspired sets and palettes to “Say My Name” and “No Scrubs.”
Similar to Utada, Gulsen has been around in Turkey since the 1990s. Despite the fact that she looks around 28 in the music video, Gulsen has been working over the last two decades, with a total of 10 albums under her belt.
She’s received a decent amount of success online, as she’s the most viewed Turkish artist on YouTube and was the first Turkish artist to collect over 200 million views on a single music video. In addition to that achievement, I chose “Bangir Bangir” because it includes everything I look for in a video: shirtless men washing cars, eccentric head wraps, and super cheesy (but also kind of sensual) choreography.
3. Amara La Negra
Amara La Negra has made a lot of headlines this year. First, for being on Love & Hip Hop Miami, which premiered in January. And second, because her appearance on The Breakfast Club went viral when DJ Envy and Charlamagne made some ignorant and colorist comments about her Afro-Latinx identity.
Even before her recent launch into the spotlight, the Dominican performer has been making jams. The “Se Que Soy” music video tells the inspirational and courageous story of a woman who has an affair with a handsome Jon Snow looking man, which like, goals.
4. Nancy Ajram
Nancy Ajram has been producing music since she was 15 and has garnered a tremendous amount of success. In 2010, it was announced that she had been the most popular Middle Eastern female singer from 2000-2009.
Overall, she’s said to be one of the most influential Arab women in the world and labeled the “Britney Spears of the Middle East.” This one is a bit older, but I’m convinced that it’s impossible to not dance to this banger. “Ah W Noss” is a song that I, and basically every other child of a Middle Eastern immigrant, grew up with. It still gets played at basically every party my dad throws.
5. Kero Kero Bonito
Kero Kero Bonito is a unique group who describe their bubbly video game-inspired pop music as “radical positivity.” Sarah Midori Perry, the lead singer, is half-Japanese half-British and sings/raps in both languages.
Related to the PC Music collective, Kero Kero Bonito uses flowery and positive lyrics with soft pop beats. The group has songs about summer break, having lazy days where you don’t leave your house, and even one explaining that flamingos are pink because they eat shrimp. Their song “Sick Beat” which uses some nostalgic Mario sounds is about being a girl who beats everyone at video games which is just a wonderful message, I think.
Yelle has been a gay icon ever since Julie, the lead singer, sang a chorus about wanting to see a dude play with his dick in a porno. Since then though, the French duo has been producing more relaxed, and in some cases stranger, pop music.
The music video for “Complètement fou” seems to be Yelle doubling down on their absurdist net art aesthetics, plus voguing. But I love it.
7. Tiwa Savage
Tiwa Savage is a Nigerian singer who I discovered recently but has been in the background for quite some time. She has written songs for other performers and been backing vocals for Mary J. Blige, Chaka Khan, Kelly Clarkson, and more. She’s also been a host for Nigerian Idol.
Savage, who sings in both Yoruba and English, has also somehow found the time to put out two studio albums and most recently, an EP titled “Sugarcane” which includes a song of the same name. Just do yourself and peep the man in that music video.
Maluca, a performer from Washington Heights, somehow made a video that is basically just of her in a massage chair and still makes it look incredible. The Dominican-American artist actually had her big break while she was singing karaoke and happened to meet Diplo, who produced her first track.
Since then she’s been featured in a Robyn song and put out a few more singles, including “Mala.” I personally can’t wait for Maluca’s debut album, which is hopefully coming soon.
I knew going into this that some homos would want me to include an all-female K-Pop group. Well, I didn’t do that, but I did include another Korean artist! Yaeji is a Brooklyn-based artist who raps in both English and Korean.
Her remix of Drake’s “Passion Fruit” is pretty awesome, but I think her original music is even better. My favorite part about Yaeji is that her talking voice is so soft, but then she has such a commanding and effortless presence in her “Raingurl” video.
10. MzVee ft Yemi Alade
To round out the list, I wanted to end on a lighthearted song. Ghanaian singer MzVee and Yemi Alade, from Nigeria, sing a song about asking a guy to come meet their mother if he wants to be serious about their relationship.
MzVee and Yemi Alade have received international acclaim. For example, both were nominated for Best International Act at the BET Awards. The music video for “Come and See My Moda” features a ton of great dancing and bright colors, so I think it’s impossible to frown while watching it.