By Eli Enis
The place to start? There’s the surprising collaborations: My Agenda, the second album from experimental pop maximalist Dorian Electra, options disco legends the Village Individuals proudly owning the hook of a tune describing homosexual frogs. They share house with the viral celebrity Rebecca Black, who croons about changing fuckboys into simps. Then there’s the sound: a dizzying hodge-podge of dubstep thumps, black metallic shrieks, and baroque keys, with surprisingly radio-ready lyrics satirizing far-right ideologies culled from the online’s darkest corners with an enigmatic mix of earnestness and absurdist humor.
And, in fact, there’s the artist themself. The 28-year-old musician grew up in Houston and ran with a crew that practiced martial arts on the playground and performed Dungeons & Dragons — the sort of teen who went all out for his or her steampunk promenade theme. A superfan of the English post-punk band The Horrors since highschool (in a phenomenal full-circle second, frontman Faris Badwan is featured on the monitor “Iron Fist”), Electra first obtained consideration for his or her music when, as a senior, they launched a lo-fi love tune penned to the classical liberal economist Friedrich Hayek.
It was in 2017 that Electra obtained a significant sign increase with a characteristic on Charli XCX’s “Femmebot,” adopted by the long-awaited launch of their debut album, Flamboyant, two years later. That includes manufacturing by Dylan Brady of 100 gecs, the report was comprised of eccentric digital music that established Electra as a fixture within the budding hyperpop scene. The sound grew extra playful, however Electra by no means deserted their educational method to lyricism. Thematically, Flamboyant was devoted to exploring and critiquing aspirational male archetypes: the overachieving finance bro, the macho boxer, and the sleazy Hugh Hefner knockoff.
My Agenda, conversely, is written from the angle of male outcasts: conventionally unattractive or awkward nerds and, notably, incels, an web subculture referring to individuals who think about themselves “involuntarily celibate.” There are songs about feeling indignant on the world for feeling undesirable and unloved (“F The World,” “Edgelord”), fantasies about incomes the right girl with gentlemanly prowess (“M’Woman”), and tracks that think about the delicate homoeroticism between straight mates (“Sorry Bro (I Love You)”). There are lyrical references to fedoras and winking quotes from The Joker, playful gateways to discover the true points that plague the web incel group: violent rhetoric and open suicidal ideation, in addition to rampant homophobia and sexism.
“I used to be attempting to critique these views but in addition empathize with them,” Electra tells MTV Information. “Particularly with meme tradition, it’s really easy to name any person a neckbeard or a fedora-tipper simply because they provide to carry the door open. If you sit with the fabric, really take heed to it, after which folks see it within the context of the remainder of the venture, they get the deeper that means and deeper connection to this entire disaster in masculinity and tradition wars.”
Electra’s impetus for diving into this material got here from seeing how the alt-right (a meme-driven taste of white nationalism that’s generally adjoining to incel communities) grew to become so popular with the rise of Donald Trump. And on condition that Electra emerged from a distinctly internet-born musical subculture, they have been already primed with fluency in memes, irony, and oversharing that’s required to really make sense of this intrinsically net-based life-style. Nevertheless, as fascinated as they have been by the social illnesses of the edgelord psyche, Electra was equally drawn to its cultural aesthetics, like fedoras and swords. They counsel that it displays an antiquated model of masculinity rooted in chivalry and warrior-like honor “that actually form the worldview and self-image of the folks in a few of these subcultures.”
That imagery is dispersed all through Electra’s music movies, which operate like supplementary texts. An epic, digital rendering of Electra wielding a blade atop an enormous pile of skulls begins the two-part visible for “Gentleman” and “M’Woman,” earlier than they flip on a cap that floats down from the heavens. It cuts to lo-fi footage of the singer donning a trench coat and lumbering round a dirty condo stuffed with video video games and fast-food wrappers. It’s deliberately ridiculous and ironic, nevertheless it additionally strikes an odd steadiness between poking enjoyable on the oft-memed getup and making it appear to be an outlandish style assertion.
“I truthfully assume that that stuff is badass,” Electra says with fun. “I feel the sword is badass, and the ditch coat and dragon necklace [are cool].” Moreover, as a gender-fluid one who interchangeably presents as female and male, Electra connects with each characters in that video. “I determine as each the neckbeard and the “M’girl,’” they are saying. “I prefer to make myself into this gross, Dorito-crunching, Mountain Dew-chugging individual — which I very a lot am — but in addition this excellent fantasy elf.”
That ambiguity is central to the overarching Dorian Electra venture, whether or not they’re toying with gender expression or smashing the boundaries of style, finest captured by the breakout monitor, “Sorry Bro (I Love You).” With jingling drums, a gooey hook, and witty traces written from the angle of excellent buddies falling in love (“And once I attempt to have a look at you you look away / Generally it’s arduous to search out the phrases I wanna say,”) — properly, possibly. “I wished to create one thing that might actually be a bro anthem, however one thing that may be extra sexual pressure,” they clarify. “One thing that’s hidden romantic pressure, but in addition one thing that might be completely platonic.”
“Sorry Bro (I Love You)” and “Gentleman” are two of the extra lighthearted tracks on My Agenda, however songs like “Edgelord,” a groaning Auto-Tune-heavy monitor which incorporates a verse from the “Friday” singer Rebecca Black, and “F The World” plunge the shadowy id of the incel. The latter is a ten-car pile-up of hardstyle, grindcore, and hip-hop that Electra describes as “the rawest, simple, and literal expression of this type of angst.” Pointing to its aggressively cynical lyrics (“F the world finest I like it / F the world I need to hug it”), they add, “The hatred of the world and desirous to commit violence actually comes from a sense of rejection, a sense of desirous to be cherished, a sense of literal horniness and frustration. To me it’s, ‘I actually need to fuck the world,’ but in addition, ‘Fuck the world!’”
It was necessary to Electra that each tune on My Agenda be written from the first-person perspective. Relatively than viewing their topics as eliminated characters with completely no redeeming qualities, Electra is empathetic of their critiques. “What in right here is sort of universally human and relatable?” they ask themselves. Although they’re cautious to not equate this dangerous rhetoric with the lived experiences of marginalized folks, a method that Dorian was in a position to personally relate to the incel group was via the lens of their queerness, an expertise that always results in emotions of loneliness and incompatibility with cultural magnificence requirements.
“There’s a number of self-hate, feeling such as you don’t belong, feeling like you possibly can’t be engaging to a associate, feeling such as you don’t match into the perfect of romance or courting,” Electra says. “Courting apps will not be going to be good for you as a result of chances are you’ll not slot in on hetero Tinder or Grindr, or that folks would see you and categorize you as this one factor. Like, ‘Oh you’re simply this nerdy, nasty man’ or ‘you’re simply this trans individual.’”
Electra is a figurehead in a scene of pop music that’s extraordinarily queer and femme-centric. Bubbly Auto-Tune and experimental electronics create an affirming house for queer and trans artist to pitch-up their vocals and categorical themselves with instrumentation that challenges heteronormative pop conventions. Subsequently, it may be surprising to listen to Electra singing from the angle of homophobes and misogynists — the very folks their group implicitly stands in opposition to. Electra acknowledges the touchiness of the subject material, however they don’t see it as an prolonged hand to male chauvinist habits. Relatively, through the use of neckbeard aesthetics and interesting with incel ideologies in good religion, they hope to create a welcoming house for folks from all walks of life to productively interact with this masculinity disaster.
“If someway any person coming throughout my music had that sort of impact, I’d really feel like I’d be hopefully contributing one thing constructive,” they are saying. “I feel it’s completely value it placing stuff on the market that has ambiguity to it since you would possibly draw folks in who assume it’s one factor and so they’re shocked by different parts.”