February in Michigan means lots of cold, gray days, but these rising Michigan-based queer musicians are pumping out new tunes sure to warm and brighten the season.
Each artist has an important story to share through their music. And while our list represents a range of genres, from pop to soul to the undefinable, they are united through their unique experience of not just love, loss and wrestling with identity but being an out queer musician in a field that doesn’t always feel welcoming.
So pop open our Spotify playlist, linked above, and read on to learn more about seven Michigan-connected queer musicians doing what they were born to do.
“Do It to You” (out now)
In the two years since he released his first full-length project, “Moods,” Cory Shorter has been doing big things, making boss moves and living the dream.
Last year, Shorter performed in the Tony Award-winning Broadway show “Kinky Boots” for Norwegian Cruise Lines. He’s appeared in commercials for automobile makers Ford and Cadillac. Now, there’s “Dusk,” the first of a two-part album, now available on all streaming services (“Before Dusk,” the second installment, is out this spring).
Shorter, who wrote all the tracks on both albums, says the material is “definitely a journey and very relatable.” For his favorite song “Do It to You,” he stacked the harmonies himself and worked closely with producer Vin Ace.
On the albums, which exhibit his growth as an artist, Shorter’s catchy and accessible lyrics are paired with high-energy production.
“I am an actor, as well, so I’m able to put myself in many other people’s shoes and tap into feelings that way,” he said. “I write a lot based on personal experiences. All of ‘Dusk’ were things I’ve gone through.”
“Get My Life Back (I’m Ready)” (out now)
Mikee’ Anthony, the self-proclaimed “King of Detroit R&B” raised in Detroit and Sterling Heights, got his start in music as a member of the Macomb Community College show choir. During college, he also recorded for rap group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s Mo Thugs’ record label.
“The inspiration behind my music is a mix of my testimony about the last four years and how I struggled with addiction and came out of it,” Anthony said. “I also wanted to inspire anyone else struggling with anything that they, too, can overcome anything troubling them.”
“Get My Life Back (I’m Ready),” his new album, “came from my raw emotions,” he said. “I wrote about how I was feeling and built the song off of that.”
Anthony’s inspirational sound, influenced by artists like Beyoncé, Usher and Mary J. Blige, is a combination of contemporary R&B and soul. He describes himself as “a vocalist that likes to use harmony as colors.”
“I believe singing music is art, like a perfect painting,” he added. “Everything goes together.”
“Debut” (out now)
A 20-year-old self-produced artist with a solid — and growing — social following, Michigan-based Yulia Duzy seems poised to break through to the mainstream. With a big, gorgeous voice that belies her young age and songwriting chops on par with many well-established singer-songwriters, it seems inevitable.
Duzy has been producing music since she was 16 and writing her own songs since the tender age of 10. The artist says she created her Yulia Duzy persona after struggling with identity and how to find authenticity in not only her music, but herself, as well. Working under a stage name allowed her to explore totally new ways of using music.
“As a queer young woman, I think the persona I’ve created has almost become a more authentic version of myself,” Duzy said, adding, “I like to play with topics that are very coming of age, I think. I write about things I genuinely am struggling with or feel the need to release — I have released this new music without the need for people to necessarily like it, which was a pretty freeing experience that I think resonated with a lot of people.”
“A lot” is an understatement. Duzy’s first release is approaching a million streams and the artist has been added to more than 3,000 playlists, which, Duzy said, is “so cool.”
“Break It Down, Fuck It Up, Throw It Back” (out now)
Pontiac singer-songwriter Matty P., a finalist in the 2022 Detroit singing competition AMPLIFY, has been performing since age 4. His music is rooted in R&B but includes elements of pop, dance, rap and hip-hop.
A frequent performer all around Metro Detroit, Matty P. released his first full-length album, “Single AF,” in 2019 and has been featured on numerous independent albums with hip-hop artists across the country.
“Yellow,” Matty P.’s sophomore album, comes out this spring. “Singing and songwriting has always been my passion and it’s important to me to share my experiences as a gay Black man through my music,” Matty P. said.
The new single “Break It Down, Fuck It Up, Throw It Back,”he said, was inspired by “Black gay club culture. I have always wanted to write a club banger that feels real and natural, and this song is one of the most fun songs I’ve written.”
“Drag Queens” (out now)
Like many of the best urban vocalists, Golden O’Hara-Polo got her start in the church. Today, she’s the current Little Miss Woodward and a popular Detroit-based drag queen.
O’Hara-Polo released her first EP, “Elusive,” in 2022. “It gave a transparent look into my struggles with falling in love with me,” she said of the project. The musician said she always knew she would one day become an entertainer, but she had no idea she’d become the “glamorous drag queen” she is today.
“I have so many songs written that I’ve collected since I was about 10 or 11,” she said. “It’s one thing to sing a song, but to also be the writer of the music is a whole other battle. I was so worried about showing this vulnerable side of myself. But in the end — and over 4,000 streams later — I knew I was on to something.”
O’Hara-Pola said “Drag Queens,” the second single from her debut album, is a chance “to shed some layers of Golden and introduce a new era of me. I’m here, and I have something to say.”
“Floozy” (due in late February)
Saginaw native Siena Liggins is based in Atlanta these days, but her Michigan roots shine through on bass-thumping, earnest tracks that often explore Liggins’ love life from a distinctly queer lens.
In 2018, Liggins released “Flowerbomb,” based on her real life experiences with women. As Billboard wrote at the time, “The lyrics to debut single ‘Flowerbomb’ are dripping with swagger: ‘I know that she ain’t doing her job/So when she slip up/I pick the shift up/And put in work overtime.’ Siena Liggins will steal your girl, no question.”
Next up is the single “Floozy,” due for release in late February. “The process of creating ‘Floozy’ was a regenerative out-with-the-old-and-in-with (so much) new energy when I had so little to spare,” Liggins told Pride Source. “2022 was a year of breakups, pushing me to find myself in a way I had never done before. It forced me to cope by weaving through unearthed affections. And on the other side of my challenges, I animated those feelings into a series of undeniable bops that I cannot wait for people to find themselves within, as well.
“Ride For You” (out soon)
It’s not every artist who gets the mayor of Ferndale twerking during their performance. But that kind of thing is bound to happen at a J. Santino show.
The queer Michigan singer’s latest, “Ride For You,” follows last summer’s “Gemini,” an enthusiastically received track that “was more sultry in the vocal.” “Ride For You,” Santino said, hits different — it’s “very vibey.”
When Santino heard the “Ride For You” demo, co-written by Sin Mavi, he knew it was something he wanted to do. “I was going through a tough time in a relationship, and I wanted to talk about how you can be confused in a relationship and yet still be so enamored with a person that you can overlook the red flags in front of you.”
Though he’s a proud Detroiter, Santino said his music has “such a different vibe than what’s locally here. Pop music and LGBTQ+ music artists are such a niche market here in Detroit and in Michigan as a whole.”