“It's the most powerful piece of music I've ever been a part of,” Sam Smith told Apple Music about “Unholy,” their record-smashing collaboration with Kim Petras. “It’s like an exorcism.” For a time, it was impossible to not hear the intoxicatingly transgressive track everywhere you went—it spent months topping charts, being remixed, and dominating radio stations and playlists across the globe. It was, crucially, the first time a song by a nonbinary and trans artist had achieved such heights—and it marked a completely different sound and style for Smith, who rose to international stardom on the shoulders of tender ballads and heartfelt love songs. The cherry on top? A Grammy win in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category—the first time trans artists had won in a major category, which Petras mentioned in her speech on the night. “Everyone in the room was really confused, they didn’t know if they liked it or not,” Smith said of writing the song in Jamaica. “I had someone on my mind who was pissing me off and I just had to get it out.” There is, for Smith, an unprecedented level of campy, queer sexuality exuding from the song’s lyrics, which tell the story of a guy who sneaks out to cheat on his wife. “There’s a certain humor that only a queer person can understand because we’ve been through it and we live it,” they said of Petras’ verse in particular. “We needed to tease the man, we needed to make him a ‘Balenciaga daddy.’” It’s that sly humor—not to mention the endlessly earworm-y chorus—that makes the track so much fun, not to mention so queer. “Unholy” might be the first song by artists who aren’t cisgender to reach that level of success, but it won’t be the last—and the songs in this playlist prove how much more there is to come. Thrive, which features music entirely by gender-diverse artists, is a showcase of where we’ve come from and where we’re going. In her Grammy acceptance speech, Petras acknowledged “the incredible transgender legends before me who kicked these doors open for me so I could be here tonight.” You’ll find many of those here, including SOPHIE, Teddy Geiger, Arca, Honey Dijon, and Mykki Blanco. You’ll also hear music from a burgeoning generation of artists like G Flip, Laura Les, MUNA, and Cavetown, whose identities and personal experiences inform and enhance their output in ways that are reaching more listeners than ever. From soul-baring pop to aggressive, character-driven hip-hop and raw, confessional punk, these songs are as diverse as the artists who made them—and their spotlight is only growing brighter.

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