Pride started as a rebellion, so let’s riot! We’ve curated a list of bangers to add to any Pride playlist. Our playlist, featuring LGBTQ+ artists with roots from Japan to Iran, is sure to get the party bumping. Take a listen and discover the amazing musical talent within the queer Asian Pacific Islander diaspora.
No matter your music taste, from hyperpop to indie rock, we’ve got something for you to jam to.
1.“Legend ” – Alice Longyu Gao & Alice Glass
Starting this playlist off with a wild one! Chinese artist Alice Longyu Gao is the latest hyperpop sensation shaking up the music scene. Gao’s musical style is chaotic though self-assured. On “Legend,” she raps over production reminiscent of the trap stylings of the last decade with the postmodern metallic influence of the future. Her lyrics are brash, angry, and unapologetic. “Fuck you if you insecure/Bitch I’m fucking Alice/ I know, you talking shit you embarrassed/I know, you mad ’cause I’m the raddest,” she yells with fiery swagger. Gao reclaims the narrative of the submissive Asian woman with her unabashed and captivating musical persona, a subversion that is powerfully camp and intrinsically queer.
2. “Say It” – Sasami
Korean-Japanese-American indie rocker Sasami flexes her musical muscles, creating edgy gothic rock in her sophomore album “Squeeze.” Her single “Say It” is a venomous standout from that 2022 album. The song begins with aggressive drums and furious guitar. Sasami’s voice enters distorted like a demon speaking through the fog. “Say it, say it/Another day lost/Why won’t you let it out,” the singer begs through gritted teeth. She’s fighting for a relationship. One can imagine Sasami pleading with a lover or a friend to open up. Raw emotion runs through the song, electrifying audiences. The production stays angry, yet never erupts. It effectively builds tension that captures listeners as they mosh their pain away.
3. “One Bad Night” – Hayley Kiyoko
No Pride playlist would be complete without AAPI queer icon Hayley Kiyoko. Mother has been dropping bangers left and right since “Lemonade Mouth.” Though her discography is saturated with danceable bops, one of this author’s absolute favorites is from her 2016 EP “Citrine.” The song opens with a dramatic hook that evolves into a bombastic chorus. Kiyoko’s lyrics ooze sensuality. “Talk with your fingertips/Don’t stop the car, let’s drive/Suck on your amber lips/Just give me one bad night,” Kiyoko sings as powerful percussion flirts with sparkling electric guitar in the background. It’s moody, exhilarating, and delicious. It’s pop perfection.
4. “Love It If We Made It” (The 1975 cover) – Rina Sawayama
Japanese-British pop star Rina Sawayama douses the 1975’s smash hit “Love It If We Made It” with a million gallons of glitter for her 2020 album “Sawayama.” She replaces the brooding classic rock instrumentals of the original with the glistening synths and grandiose vocals of a pop chart-topper. Still, Sawayama maintains all the qualities that made the original song such an earworm. She sings with an earnest yearning for a world on the brink of extinction. The bridge, still all chaos like words slipping out from between a drunk man’s lips, dives into auditory minimalism before the song comes up for air in a splash of magical chimes before the final chorus. In upping the danceability while preserving the integrity of the 1975’s original work, Sawayama intensifies the contrast between the upbeat production and the song’s melancholy themes. She effectively navigates a space positioned perfectly between opposite poles. Sawayama’s effort reinvigorates the song for an audience hyper-aware of the world’s tragedies, yet still longs for joyful escape. She effectively reaches a younger and queerer audience.
5. “Killer Queen” – Mad Tsai
Up-and-coming Gen Z sensation Mad Tsai started out on TikTok, sharing songs with a growing follower base. Now three years later, the singer is on the verge of blowing up with his name in Rolling Stone, Teen Vogue, and Out Magazine and racking up over one million monthly listeners on Spotify. The openly bisexual singer, with roots in Taiwan and Peru, creates music with relatable lyrics and infectious production. “Killer Queen” capitalizes on the recent pop-punk trend to utmost success. The song is absolute fun. He reconfigures the high school “mean girl” trope by singing about this archetype as a killer. Tsai’s lyrics, “A beauty in a blood-stained dress/She’ll fill your heart with kerosene/And light you up ’til you can’t breathe/If you break her heart you just might lose your head,” evoke the iconography of it-girl horror. It gives ‘Jennifer’s Body’ in all its delectable camp and fright. For fans of Olivia Rodrigo and Conan Gray with a touch more darkness in their hearts, this song is perfect for you to dance the night away.
6. “Bike Dream” – Rostam
You may know Iranian-American artist Rostam Batmanglij from his involvement in Vampire Weekend or writing and producing for Clairo, HAIM and Maggie Rogers. However, you might be surprised to learn about Rostam’s solo ventures into indie-pop. Rostam’s 2017 album, “Half-Light,” is a dreamy and vulnerable exploration of the multihyphenate’s psyche. The second single from the album, “Bike Dream,” showcases the album at its best. It feels like a lazy summer afternoon spent reminiscing on old adventures. “Two boys, one to love you sweetly/One does so discreetly/Never will he meet me/But I’m sure that you’ll catch your breath/You’ll sleep into the day/To wake up with sunlight across your room,” Rostam sings with a shy lilt. He reflects on a complicated love. Though the lyrics are bittersweet, the production is upbeat. This combination of lyrics and music contributes to a powerful concoction of nostalgia that’s still danceable. This song is for the sensitive sweethearts who are ready to let loose!
7. “The Only Heartbreaker” – Mitski
Mitski, the modern queen of indie rock, bears her heart in this 80s-inspired track from her latest album “Laurel Hell.” She antagonizes herself as the villain in a relationship, pleading with her lover to make a mistake to absolve herself of the guilt for causing her partner so much pain. It’s a refreshing and honest glimpse into the complexity of love. Not many artists aside from Mitski can clearly communicate the tragedy of being self-aware enough to recognize one’s toxic tendencies while still being incapable of changing for the better; thus, one stands helpless as they watch the house of love they built burn around them. Mitski relays this truth with startling clarity over a buoyant beat. This contrast leaves listeners with emotional whiplash. But we don’t mind. It hurts so good.
8. “Everybody Wants To Love You” – Japanese Breakfast
Japanese Breakfast needs no introduction, thanks to their multi-talented frontwoman Michelle Zauner. Since the publication of her New York Times bestseller “Crying in H-Mart” (which is soon to be adapted into a motion picture) and Japanese Breakfast’s Grammy-nominated album “Jubilee,” Zauner is on top of the world. However, we shouldn’t forget that our girl has been slaying the game since her debut album “Psychopomp” in 2016. One of the strongest tracks off that album is the cheery bop “Everybody Wants To Love You.” Zauner sings with palpable excitement. She’s like a teenager infatuated with a new crush. The song is marked by cheeky lyrics like “Can I get your number?/Can I get you into bed?/When we wake up in the morning/Will you give me lots of head?” It’s impossible to resist a smile while listening to Zauner rip across a guitar during the solo before the last chorus. This song is short yet charming. At 2 minutes and 12 seconds, Japanese Breakfast’s classic hit packs a punch that’ll leave you wanting more.
9. “Rush” – Jay Som
Jay Som is an up-and-coming Filipino-American singer, songwriter and producer. She creates introspective dream pop songs that feel light and effortless. Though most of Som’s music exists at a slower tempo (with the exception of her collaboration with Troye Sivan), “Rush” is a danceable gem in Som’s discography. Released in 2016, “Rush” is about defiant patience. The second verse, “If you feel like running, stand your ground/Someone out there feels the same about/Living with no guts, with no crush/Only when you’re broke, you’ll be found,” bleeds bitter-sweet optimism. “Rush” is like an embrace for those needing a hug, comforting and warm. The production is upbeat and bright, culminating in a head-bang-worthy guitar solo. Overall, “Rush” is a fun song sure to please all the indie rock fans out there.
10. “Good Thing” – Kehlani & Zedd
An iconic banger from an iconic artist, Kehlani. The Queen of Cool’s collaboration with Zedd, left everyone shaking their hips back in 2019. 4 years later, the hip-shaking has not ceased. With Kehlani’s smooth vocals excellently blending with Zedd’s fantastic production, this celebration of the single life is the optimal song to blast when you want to feel like an independent boss. The song’s lyrics are delightfully quotable. “Yeah, I already done everything I dream/I’m good by myself, don’t need no one else/Don’t tell me that you got a good thing for me/’Cause I already got a good thing,” sings Kehlani during the chorus. The song is slick with confidence. This is sharpened by the EDM-inspired pop instrumentals, which alone would make for a badass song. Together, Zedd and Kehlani join forces to craft a song that slaps harder than your feet on the dancefloor.
To check out these songs — plus 20 more bops to keep the party going — listen to our Spotify playlist!