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Rob Halford & Shane McAnally : 25 of music’s most underrated trailblazers across the queer spectrum

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Rob Halford

Less a rock singer than a majestic, motorcycle-riding lord of the mosh pit, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford carried the British band to unprecedented levels of international superstardom from 1969 onward. His theatrical scream-singing, macho stage presence, and all-around badassery (best showcased on iconic records like 1980’s British Steel and 1982’s Screaming for Vengeance) prompted many fans to call him “Metal God:” a traditionally masculine trope Halford boldly upended in February 1998, when he came out as gay in an MTV News interview. As the earliest show of queer solidarity from a prominent metal musician, Halford’s admission proved vital in reshaping the public perception of heavy metal, reposting an earsplitting, heteronormative boys’ club as a safe space where headbangers of all types could be themselves, sheltered in the flailing arms of not just a benevolent (and openly gay) God, but the scene writ large. Zoe Camp

Shane McAnally

Country music may not be the first place one goes looking for LGBTQ representation, though there have
been a handful of instances over the years. In the present moment, perhaps no single person has had a greater impact on the sound than songwriter-producer Shane McAnally, a native of tiny Mineral Wells, Texas. In the last decade, McAnally has penned hits such as Miranda Lambert’s deliciously campy drama-fest “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Brothers Osborne’s sensual “Stay a Little Longer” and Midland’s sly Urban Cowboy nod “Drinkin’ Problem.”

He also helped define a new, multi-faceted idea of country masculinity as a producer on Sam Hunt’s blockbuster Montevallo, for which he co-wrote the hits “Take Your Time” and “Leave the Night On” (he also co-wrote Hunt’s record-breaking “Body Like a Back Road”). Notably, he injected a no-big-deal kind of queerness into the mainstream by co-writing and co-producing Kacey Musgraves’ CMA Award-winning “Follow Your Arrow” in 2013, with the casual suggestion to “kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of
girls, if that’s what you’re into.” When superstar Luke Bryan reached Number One in 2018 by singing, “I believe you love who you love, ain’t nothin’ you should ever be ashamed of in “Most People Are Good,” the path had already been cleared for him. –Jon Freeman


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