This Pride Month, RSL wants to celebrate all the incredible LQBTQ+ artists that are representing their community across our syllabi. Whether they're a huge gay icon like Gaga, or quietly queer like Kaki King, we want to showcase all the fantastic talent that makes up our inimitable grade books.

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga has been an icon of the LGBTQ+ community for over 10 years now, and she shows no signs of slowing down in her fervent advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights. Elton John dubbed her smash hit ‘Born This Way’ the new “I Will Survive’, calling it a “gay anthem” for the 21st century. This song spawned the Born This Way Foundation, an organisation Gaga founded with her mother to help support young people and create a better, more empathetic world.

She has certainly not been afraid to use her platform to make a stand against homophobia, even when threatened with a hefty fine and arrest when touring Russia. Gaga was defiant, expressing her rage on social media when Russia introduced a law banning public displays of affection among LGBTQ+ couples. She also stood her ground after a deal with Target fell through because of their lack of commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community. Gaga walked away only a month after signing the deal, making the point loud and clear that homophobia or even a lack of overt support for the queer community would not be tolerated.

‘Born This Way’ isn’t the only Gaga song to speak about queerness. ‘Poker Face’ is a song about her bisexuality and one of the biggest records from her hugely successful first album, The Fame. When it triumphed over stiff competition from Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies’ for Canada’s MuchMusic Video Awards, Gaga dedicated her win “to the gays”. We’re proud that it takes a place on our Vocals grade 2 syllabus. Gaga, we salute you!

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David Bowie

David Bowie never ceased to break creative boundaries in his work, and he challenged gender norms and expectations regularly through his distinctly performative style. Indeed, his death in 2016 resounded so deeply with so many people because of his strong connection with the LGBTQ+ community.

Not only did the various personas he adopted throughout his career entertain, they also instigated conversations around identity and fitting in, showing that binary gender and outdated stereotypes were out, and fluidity, androgyny, and being different were in. More than that, Bowie showed they weren’t just fashionable phases for people to dip in and out of; Bowie’s performances brought queer culture into the mainstream. He was not explicitly an activist or campaigner for the LGBTQ+ community, but his artistry complemented the movement perfectly.

Bowie's creative output was constant throughout his life, but he did spend less time in the public eye as he grew older. This didn't diminish his star power, though, as proved by his headline set at Glastonbury 2000. Just as rapturous crowds followed his early days as he toured across the UK, America, and beyond, his later performances were met with a similar sense of awe and enrapture.

If the frock coat in this clip isn't enough effortless cool for you, then the eerie reimagining of the introduction to one of his biggest hits, 'Let's Dance', might just be enough to convince you of Bowie's star power. Available on BBC iPlayer at the time of writing, it's definitely one of the all-time classic Glasto performances. 'Let's Dance' can be found on our grade 4 drums syllabus with the iconic hits and big snare sound making it a hugely fun piece to play for drummers of all ages!

Sam Smith

Arguably the most high profile nonbinary artist in the UK, their modern classic ‘Stay With Me’ is a fantastic track for the novice guitarist and is available on our Debut Guitar syllabus.

Since the release of this incredible smash hit that fuses gospel with pop, Sam Smith’s career has gone from strength to strength, seeing them enjoy dizzying career highs that include performing the James Bond theme tune for Spectre, receiving multiple BRIT nominations, and releasing their long-awaited third album, ‘Love Goes’ in 2020 following an initial pandemic-related delay.

In 2019 Sam Smith announced via an Instagram post that they were using “they/them” pronouns after “a lifetime of being at war with their gender”.

"I’m so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision, but I’ve been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think. I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you."

Sam Smith’s high profile and the level of fame they have achieved has given them a huge platform to raise awareness of the non-binary community and start conversations that otherwise may not have taken place.

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Will Young

Cast your minds back to 2002 when Will Young became a household name after becoming the first winner of ITV talent competition, Pop Idol.

Will has been an advocate for many things, including his experiences with abuse and PTSD, but his openness about being gay has been something that has continued to help queer folk everywhere.

From his podcast described as “Women’s Hour for LGBT people”, to his book “To Be a Gay Man”, Will has consistently been a loud voice for the LGBT+ community. He first came out to the public after winning Pop Idol in 2002, pre-empting what he expected would be revealed in the newspapers anyway. That being said, he has always maintained that he has never hidden his sexuality, and has always been comfortable in his orientation.

He is very vocal on the topic of gay shame, and how being raised in a heteronormative and patriarchal society has affected the way he shows up in the world. He also talks about how he has navigated his way through to a place where shame isn’t such a big part of his life.

We love Will Young for being such a strong voice for the community, and we’re honoured to have included his song “Jealousy” in our Vocals Grade 6 syllabus.

Stay tuned as we continue the conversation around LGBTQ+ artists this month and beyond! Next time we'll be looking at the likes of Demi Lovato, Prince, Elton John and Kaki King!