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Dorian Electra: My Agenda Review

Different genres of music are defined in different ways, most may be determined by instrumentation or tempo, but often only in the short term. A truer definition of what could be considered a particular genre is in the aesthetic attitude, and in what sorts of feelings and ideas are being pushed. The sub-genre of Queercore arose out of the pop landscape, yet has resulted in some of the most infamously challenging music of the modern day. Combining aspects of camp and glamour with a legitimately avant-garde experimentation of synthetic hyper pop and bubblegum bass, the genre has found what might be argued as its leading exponent in Dorian Electra, a genderfluid Texan who rose to popular acclaim through a series of singles released throughout the 2010s. Dorian’s moment finally arrived in 2019 with the release of their debut album Flamboyant, a frequently stunning record that combined a coy challenge to traditional gender roles with catchy and seductive pop song-writing, on defining tracks like “Man to Man”, and “Career Boy”.

Although I loved Flamboyant, the album did leave me wanting more, and this more arrived earlier in 2020 with the deluxe version, adding terrific tracks like “Tool For You” and “Guyliner, pt. 2”. Finally, after the second leg of Dorian’s tour was cancelled (due to…well, you know) they began releasing teaser singles for a sophomore album. The first of these singles “Sorry Bro (I Love You)”, is still one of my favourite singles of the year. A mere minute and a half long, the track is supported by extraordinarily catchy vocal melodies on the verses and some of Count Baldor’s best ever production with the instrumental punctured by glittering synth percussion and fuzzy bass whirrs.

The next single, and the closing track to the album “Give Great Thanks”, is a gently crooning and more accessible version of many of the same sounds used throughout the album. That is, it would be, were it not for the hilariously explicit lyrics, which make “WAP” (which is amazing BTW, no Cardi slander here) sound like something you’d listen to in the car with your mum. As sexy as it is funny, he instrumental playfully wriggles and shimmers as Dorian whispers and howls gratitude for his punishment: “…as you f—k my face, at a rapid pace, I’m a lifeless hole for youuuuuuuu”.

This combination of humour and flagrant disregard for societal gender norms is the defining lyrical trait of Electra’s music, further showcased on the pair of equally short tracks released together: “Gentleman” and “M’Lady”, in which Dorian paints a pair of character portraits of a mangled version of societal narratives around gender roles. This is a tactic employed frequently throughout the record, with Dorian portraying themself at several points as either the ultimate affront to cis-hetero-society or its ironic defender, poking fun at the idea of provocation and offence in general, as on “Edgelord”. The composition and production on these tracks are as brilliantly warped as their messaging. The asthmatically wheezing medieval melody on “Gentleman” is the strangest sound I’ve heard on record all year, although it’s closely followed in those stakes by the heavy-breathing and grunting drop of “M’Lady”.

The combination of influences found on My Agenda is perhaps nowhere better expressed than on the feature list, for which Dorian recruited viral sensation of last decade, Rebecca Black, Russian punk group Pussy Riot and The Village People. These latter two appearing together on the album’s title track, a raging rock crossover, ironically playing the narrative that queer people are out to take over the world. The Village People roaring out the lyrics “my agenda, might offend ya. Out here flexing in my rainbow suspenders” over a thrashing guitar riff might be the single most glorious moment of the year.

Although the album tracks don’t quite measure up to the finest moments of the singles, there are still some boisterous highlights, like the screamo outro to “Ram It Down” and the opening posse cut “F The World”. Throughout, My Agenda is a rambunctious and fabulous display of queer punk creative energy, never taking itself too seriously, nor anything else for that matter. Despite being ten minutes shorter than Flamboyant was, My Agenda still feels like a more satisfyingly complete and consistent experience. The tight tracklist never notably stumbles anywhere, and the highlights are some of the most exciting songs of the year.

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Written by Hal Kitchen

Primarily a reviewer of music and films, Hal Kitchen studied at the University of Kent where he graduated with distinction in both Liberal Arts BA and Film MA, specializing in film, gender theory and cultural studies. Whilst at Kent he was the Film & TV sub-editor and later Culture Editor of the campus newspaper InQuire and runs a public blog on my Letterboxd account. Hal joined 25YearsLaterSite as a volunteer writer in May 2020 and resumed his current role of assistant film editor in November 2020.

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