2014 has been hailed the year of the woman when it comes to music. From newcomer Iggy Azaela becoming a household name to Taylor Swift‘s official entrance into pop, to Meghan Trainor‘s “All About That Bass”, to the hit that is “Bang Bang” from three women on the same track (Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, in case you didn’t know), the past 12 months have been ripe with female energy on the radio, award shows and the world wide web. And, for the most part, queer women have been a part of the same female-fever. In a time when women are becoming more respected for their artistry instead of simply for their assets (although those are celebrated by many, as well), out songwriters and performers like Sia and Mary Lambert have made some great achievements in the name of mainstream visibility, while others like Brandy Clark and Angel Haze are breaking barriers in their respective genres.
Here’s what we saw from the music industry this year: The good, the bad and the WTF?
Bisexual singer/songwriter Sia Furler has continued to build momentum over the last decade, but her single “Chandelier” and album 1000 Forms of Fear really raised her profile. A video for the single, featuring Dance Moms star Maddie Zeigler, went viral and led to performances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Dancing with the Stars. The song itself broke through the Billboard Top 10 and peaked at #8 and has sold close to 1.7 million copies. What was most interesting about Sia’s success is that most of her performances were done with Sia facing away from the audience, as the singer was intent on not elevating her personal profile and taking attention away from her work.
Outside of her solo efforts, Sia has continued to collaborate on other projects, including writing several songs for the new Annie adaptation (which she had a bit part in) and wrote two tracks on the new Kylie Minogue album. In 2015, we’ll hear her work on new records from Shakira and out artist Kate Pierson.
Sia was married this year to documentary filmmaker Erik Anders Lang.
Coming off a Grammy nomination and banner year for her performance on Macklemore‘s “Same Love,” Mary Lambert released her major label debut, Heart on My Sleeve, which made it to number 29 on the Billboard Charts and produced the hit single “Secrets,” a song about self-acceptance. The album also included Mary’s cover of Rick Springfield‘s “Jessie’s Girl,” and Mary has kept busy touring with high-profile performances throughout the year.
In her personal life, Mary moved from Seattle to Massachusetts to be closer to her partner, Michelle Chamuel, who is readying an album for release in February 2015.
Rapper Angel Haze was lent her vocals to a Mary Lambert track, and having released her own album two days before 2014, spent most of her year performing tracks from Dirty Gold. Her song with Sia, “Battle Cry,” was nominated for a Video Music Award (Best Video with a Social Message) and she collaborated with Ludacris on the theme song for the film 22 Jump Street.
Angel, who identifies as pansexual, is in a relationship with model Ireland Baldwin and has spoken in interviews and on social media about how the press covers her interracial same-sex relationship. To say that she’s an atypical MC in the hip-hop arena would be an understatement.
St. Vincent is one of 2014’s most celebrated musicians, her self-titled fifth album both critically acclaimed and hitting the #12 position on the Billboard charts this fall. Although she’d never spoken publicly about her sexuality before, St. Vincent (nee Annie Clark) told Rolling Stone that she “doesn’t identify as anything … I think you can fall in love with anybody.” She later told the Sunday Times she “engages in the spectrum.”
St. Vincent has made a splash on several best of 2014 lists, including Pitchfork, NPR, BBC Radio and The Guardian. She’s also up for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album. While it seems as though Annie is most likely to keep her private life under wraps, it’s fantastic to see she’s comfortable enough to let fans know she should not be assumed straight. Her musical prowress is admired by many, and so her coming out is celebrated.
Country music has been one of the most difficult genres for gay visibility, but times, they are a changing. Out lesbian singer/songwriter Brandy Clark took home several awards in 2014 for her work on Kacey Musgraves‘ “Follow Your Arrow,” including Song of the Year at the Country Music Awards. Her own album, 12 Stories, is nominated for Best Country Album at the Grammys and Brandy is also up for Best New Artist. At its highest, it reached #23 on the US Billboard charts.
This past year, Brandy penned tracks for Toby Keith and Ray Scott, and released two videos: “Get High” and “His Hands.”