Review Summary: Sounds like a tailor-made playlist for an awesome night and using whatever handheld object that’s around as a makeshift microphone
Much can be and probably has been said about the precarious nature of pop at the turn of the decade entering the 2010’s. The economic collapse of the housing crisis had sent millions spiraling into debt and dreams that were once thought to be just within reach with a little bit of elbow grease and determination were now impossibly out of reach. Instead of causing the nation to sulk into a grim mirror, most of the media at the time had become neon escapism full of shutter shades and leopard print to become the drink that was so desperately needed. All that to say, it tipped the pop stars at the time to become emblematic of a glittery kayfabe wherein all the talk of fast cars and nights-we-won’t-remember-with-the-people-we-won’t-forget posturing was met with a sorta knowing wink and nudge to distract from the shrinking bank accounts and uncertain future. Lady Gaga was perfect for the moment, holding the nation’s attention hostage with elaborate costuming and an enigmatic persona that never allowed you to see the whole picture but also never allowed you to look away. She had an acute understanding of what it took to get the people talking and listening, turning the vapid and vacant headlines from a magazine you’d find next to the grocery checkout and turning it into a Matrix-esque marketing campaign with the hooks and vision to make every music video or awards show appearance. Kesha, FKA Ke$ha, similarly took this go-ahead opportunity to play the most cartoonish version of the drunk and ditzy blonde one could imagine and then some, and with hooks as sticky as the frat basements they soundtracked.
As the decade progressed, this vision of what pop could and should be has all but faded. Gaga herself became so rattled at the lack of personal and critical success that Artpop
garnered that she has spent the better part of the last decade putting the outrageous makeup away in effort to convince the world she is an artiste and has the sort of talent and chops that we all already knew she had. Kesha took the dollar sign out of her name and went kind-of-pop-country after going public with her harrowing tale of abuse. Katy Perry put out Witness
. The pop starlets that took their place -your Arianas, Taylor Swifts, Olivia Rodrigos- they are all great and have put out their share of classic songs and paradigm-shifting records. But all of them have leaned into the spotlight to make the conversation about them, with the music, great as it is, being globbed on as a marketing opportunity. Carly Rae Jepsen is about as close as we’ve gotten to someone who is a student of the game and knows how to effortlessly craft a masterful hook, but her aims and lyrics are far too tame to really provoke. Who, then, can take on the mantle of sounding dangerous
Slayyyter -with three y’s, thank you very much- has spent the last few years making small waves with a handful of viral songs that have ranged from pure bubblegum pop to dark and grimy electrotrash that will make even the most adventurous blush. While these were enough to raise eyebrows and have a handful of tracks added to whatever gay, slutty, clubby playlist one can muster, it’s not until her latest, Starfucker
, that her true talent and power level has been revealed as one of the most intriguing and best voices in the popshpere today.
is bright, loud, dark, mysterious, theatrical, and grimy as hell -one of the most fun half-hours you’re gonna have this year.
There’s a brazen confidence here that has been sorely lacking, wherein Slayyyter sings a lot about sex and money and drugs, but crucially nothing is said of her personal life so as to make these themes surface-level universal than a thinly-veiled biography. Well, that’s aside from the dizzying “Plastic” wherein she brags about how great of a job her doctor did with her boobs and lips -”I can’t stop staring at my own reflection” is one hell of a hook. Most of the album skirts the line between 80’s cheese that borders on outrun-core. “Out of Time” makes me want to don some Cool Guy sunglasses and a studded leather jacket to venture off into the night. “Purr” is on the shortlist for most ridiculous songs of the year as literal cat purring interjects the obscene hook of “DRUGS MAKE THIS KITTY GO PURR” with rolled r’s. It's just as ridiculous as that sounds. It's awesome.
That’s not to say the album is an entirely R-rated affair, as Slayyyter knows when to dial things back. “Memories of You” sounds like the song that Kim Petras could never make with a nice hypnotic hook that is reminiscent of “Better Off Alone.” “Girl Like Me” shockingly takes notes from Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Psychedelic Switch” and allows a warmy, shiny bassline to take as many laps around the roller-rink as it damn well pleases. “Tear Me Open” is begging for someone to make a fanmade video spliced over scenes from Drive
isn’t really an album to wax poetic about it, it’s an album that is meant to be listened to and danced to. There’s no juicy gossip to wring information out of. There’s no sweeping statement to be made out of the state of our existence or bombshell, self-realizations. It’s an album about how dope it is to fall in love, have sex, and do drugs and it hits all the notes intended with the universal sincerity that all great pop should. It’s an album that sounds like a tailor-made playlist for an awesome night and using whatever handheld object that’s around as a makeshift microphone. Slayyyter may never grow to be as big as the icons she so clearly draws inspiration from, but she absolutely deserves to be. She is carrying their torch with a keen and careful eye to make pop just as fun and as dangerous as it has ever been. Starfucker
is a triumph.