3. Frankie Simone (53 pts.)
SOUNDS LIKE: That moment in the movie when the hero decides to stop taking the world's bullshit and dance the hate away.
NOTABLE VOTES: Tender Loving Empire founder Jared Mees, rapper Rasheed Jamal, singer Reva Devito, Chanti Darling's Chanticleer Tru.
If loving oneself is an act of political warfare, then Frankie Simone is leading the way into battle.
The journey toward self-love and acceptance is always a hard one, and the energy Simone brings to her music comes from a place of both individual and shared suffering. As bright and confident as her brand of dance pop is, much of it is inspired by the pain she felt while coming out and learning about the history of hate directed at the LGBTQ community—and experiencing it for herself.
For Simone, that pain is why learning to love herself, and accepting both the good and bad as part of the human experience, is vital for keeping her resilient in the face of oppression. She draws hope from the belief that if her music can help even one person, then she has accomplished what she set out to do.
"I feel like this is my purpose in life," she says. "This is my vehicle to share my voice in this way."
Simone is originally from San Clemente, Calif., and grew up singing disco hits with her mother and dancing to Celia Cruz, Hector Lavoe and Donna Summer. She's always been a songwriter: As a child, she'd come up with little jingles and melodies, eventually expanding them into full songs using a loop pedal and keyboards and making beats with her voice. She also kept notebooks full of poems and lyrics that, years later, she would develop into songs for her upcoming debut EP, LOVE//WARRIOR.
"Finally making what has been lingering around in notebooks into actual, full-on tangible songs is life-changing," she says. "I feel like it's been a long time coming for me, and I feel like I have a lot to say." Simone still writes music constantly, and she tends to get a majority of her ideas at night while lying in bed, oftentimes waking her partner, dancer Che Che Luna, when she gets up to record a riff or a hook on her phone. "If I lose it," she says with a laugh, "that could be the next song."
While the music that Simone has released thus far is what she describes as "shinier pop"—see the gorgeous and sunny "Living It Up in the Summer"—LOVE//WARRIOR promises to make some hard-hitting statements while at the same time setting dance floors on fire. If the EP's lead single, "War Paint," is any indication, in Simone's world, any sound can make a beat, whether it's simple hand-clapping, horn riffs or heavy breathing. Simone can sing over it all, saving the minimalist interludes for disarming LGBTQ stereotypes by juxtaposing them with bold statements of self-acceptance.
"All the songs are different," Simone says, "but they are stemming from this core belief that if we can find self-love, then we can heal the world around us, and heal our communities, and that just keeps expanding."
Simone is particularly excited to be releasing her first official music at a time when so many artists are out and unafraid to be who they are, citing Kehlani, SZA and Hayley Kiyoko as specific influences. While there have always been queer musicians, people are expressing themselves now in a way that lights a fire inside her, she says.
Simone also finds inspiration in Portland. She moved here in 2014, after passing through on tour with the experimental dance group One Sea. Pop singers with radio-ready aspirations aren't exactly what the city is known for. But Simone relishes being a unicorn in a community of creative people. And regardless of where her music takes her, she considers Portland home.
"I feel like people are really real and honest about who they are," she says. "That makes me want to stay."
NEXT SHOW: March 17 at Mississippi Studios for WW's Best New Band Showcase.
Best New Band Intro | No. 1: Sávila | No 2: Black Belt Eagle Scout | No. 3: Frankie Simone | No. 4: Amenta Abioto | No. 5: Maarquii | No. 6: Brown Calculus | No 7: Sunbathe | No 8: Blackwater Holylight | No. 9: Autonomics | No. 10 (tie): Public Eye and Wynne | Who's Got Next? No. 11-20 | The Complete Ballots