Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 Essential Albums by LGBTQ Artists, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Considering that the qualifier “LGBTQ” can often be open to various interpretations, for the purposes of this particular list, we have defined an artist as LGBTQ if he, she or they have ever publicly identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer. Moreover, albums by groups have been included in the list if any of their members fit the aforementioned criteria, even if some members do not.
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INDIGO GIRLS | Indigo Girls
Selected by Mark J. Marraccini
If you’ve been to an Indigo Girls concert (shame on you if you haven’t, you’ve had over 30 years to do so!), then you know it’s one hell of a communal, therapeutic, sing-along experience. That’s exactly the sound that Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers’ second album and major-label debut, introduced to the music world 30 years ago.
The strumming, harmonic “Closer to Fine” (backed by the Irish band Hothouse Flowers) opens this iconic, eponymous collection with an upward gaze and a definitive lyric line, “I’m trying to tell you something about my life,” that sets the stage for an intelligent song cycle of revealing and reflective compositions.
“Secure Yourself” sails along the imagined journey from earthly death to everlasting life, with Ray and Saliers, in unison, asking a departed soul to “Fasten up your earthly burdens / You have just begun.” In “Blood and Fire,” Ray passionately calls out, “I am intense, I am in need, I am in pain, I am in love” to a lover who’s 10,000 miles away. And then R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, in one of his finest vocals ever, joins Ray and Saliers in “Kid Fears,” asking a worn-out adult “What would you give for your / Kid fears?”
It’s crazy to think that this acoustic guitar-led folk album, written and sung by a lesbian duo from Decatur, Georgia, was a hit in 1989 when Madonna, Bobby Brown, Motley Crüe and Debbie Gibson were all topping the charts, along with Milli Vanilli, to whom the Indigo Girls lost the Best New Artist GRAMMY in 1990. But, 30 years later, this collection of siren songs is still as powerful, celebratory and lovingly inclusive as ever.