Frankie Simone, "Queer"
Nearly everything Simone has dropped in her brief career as Portland's great pop hopeful has been dedicated to battling back against homophobia with defiant self-love, but her first single is her most direct statement of purpose. "We fell in love and want to say it loud/It's OK to be queer and proud," the Puerto Rican transplant sings over a thunderingly upbeat boom-clap beat that somehow splits the difference between Demi Lovato and Tune-Yards. Love//Warrior, her debut solo EP, just came out last month, but don't be surprised to hear it bumping somewhere in the distance all over town this week.
Chanti Darling, "Stars"
Chanticleer Tru's throwback R&B project has taken its sweet time getting new music out since rising to local prominence a few years ago, though that hasn't really been a big deal: When your live show is that good, who needs the studio? But the group—which also features producers Natasha Kmeto and Damon Boucher—is finally teasing their Tender Loving Empire debut, and from the sounds of it, their graceful blend of funk, disco and house should translate from stage to record without any problem. "Stars" is actually an older joint, one of a handful already available on SoundCloud, but its nocturnal synths, plush grooves and Tru's levitating vocal performance give you the full Chanti Darling experience in one luxurious package.
Maarquii & Jvnitor, "Wirecutters"
Singer-rapper Maarquii is strident when it comes to not being marginalized as a "queer hip-hop artist," but the former drag performer and Chanti Darling dancer also wants their music to be reflective of the queer experience as they've lived it. It's part of the reason they hooked up with avant-garde producers Jvnitor: "I come from this underground scene of queer culture, and partying in basements and abandoned warehouses," Maarquii told WW earlier this year, "and there was something so reminiscent of that scene, that gives me so much life, in the music they were playing for me." On "Wirecutters," the duo laces Maarquii with a clattering, percussive beat, giving the rapper plenty of room to show out. "London, Paris, Tokyo, Japan/Anywhere I go, Maarquii take your man," they growl. No matter your predilections, you believe them.
If punk rock is about making normies uncomfortable, then Cockeye's two-minute bruiser is literally punk as fuck: "Whip your dick out/'Cause it's time to play/Jerk your load/Blow your cum on my face," goes the chorus. Taking cues from Portland queercore heroes Team Dresch, the duo of Blake Martinez and Joel Lopez have no problem mixing the personal with the political or the heartfelt with the goofy. As Martinez told The Portland Mercury, "We always have this joke we say onstage where he's like, 'This song's about dicks,' and I'm like, 'This song's about feelings.' [But] like, they're all about both!"
Natasha Kmeto, "I Thought You Had a Boyfriend"
Natasha Kmeto has a ton of bangers in her arsenal of futuristic electro-soul, but "I Thought You Had a Boyfriend" is one of her softer, sultrier offerings. With buzzing synths that crest in slow, blissful waves, it's the sound of the dance floor parting when you lock eyes with that other person on the other side of the room, when the edge of your vision starts to blur and a feeling of euphoric nausea swells in your stomach. As the centerpiece of the singer-producer's 2015 album, Inevitable—described in the press materials as "the self-actualization of her own queer identity"—it's the moment on the record when Kmeto stops tiptoeing around with ambiguous pronouns and makes her desires clear. Few songs distill the feeling of newfound romantic possibility so well.
The Last Artful Dodgr, "Oofda"
Similar to "I Thought You Had a Boyfriend," this slowly undulating track from the buzzing rapper's 2017 breakout, Bone Music, comes wrapped in a dreamlike shimmer, but the sense of euphoria that accompanies a first hookup is replaced by the longing that comes around after you've long since come down from the rush. Make no mistake, this is definitely a sex jam: "Spoil ya baby/Explore your cravings/Think it's love/Drive you wild, out your blouse/Show yourself," Dodgr raps in her signature melodic rasp. But the chorus gives away the desperation: "Oofda for me like you used to/Got me out here feeling useless." It's the "used to" that hurts the most. That might not be the mood you want to cultivate for Pride, but it's a good reminder to enjoy the heat of the moment while it's still hot.
Bomb Ass Pussy, "Pussy Reign"
Before the likes of Dodgr and Maarquii were pushing LGBTQ perspectives to the forefront of Portland's hip-hop scene, Bomb Ass Pussy was making raw, raunchy club destroyers that you definitely don't want to Google at work. "Pussy Reign" is a gloriously trashy example, with grimy electroclash production, appropriated Beyoncé lyrics and a chorus that's easy to shout along to no matter how many shots you've had. No one is going to confuse the trio for Wu-Tang Clan—they all sort of rap like variations of Anthony Kiedis in the early Chili Peppers days—but mic skills are sort of beside the point.
Sweeping Exits, "Bigotry & Barbecue"
Pulling out any single song from the context of the glam-punk band's grandly orchestrated universe is probably unfair to the world-building that frontwoman Mira Glitterhound has put into Sweeping Exits, but if you've only got space for one track, it might as well be the one with the lyric, "You taste like hate marinated in a lack of education." Glitter & Blood, the band's 2017 opus, is a vampire coming-of-age tale rendered in the sound of the Cramps doing Rocky Horror Picture Show. As hilarious, kitschy and outrageously bloody as it is, Glitterhound has said it's a reaction to the very real hate and harassment she's faced as a transgender woman, some of which has made the news: After being accosted by a security guard at Roseland Theater last year, her public complaints led the venue to change several policies, including instituting a gender-neutral restroom. And she didn't even have to eat anybody to make it happen!