equality factor: lightheartedly celebrating LGBTQ+ culture and femininity
origin: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
label: Producer Entertainment Group
With her third album "Barbara", American drag performer and comedy queen Trixie Mattel releases a record that celebrates femininity and queer culture through the lens of a 60's-inspired Americana version of the girl next door. While not necessarily a political statement, for us, the record is an ode to the playfulness and genderlessness of music, for anyone to enjoy.
On this album, a queer Native American makes the Malibu Barbie lifestyle his own, showing us that through music, anyone can be anything.
"Barbara", titled after the original name of the popular fashion doll Barbie, feels perfectly in line with the witty and sarcastic, yet playful and feminine character of Brian Michael Firkus' drag persona Trixie Mattel. Beyond both the album's and artists' names referring to the iconic persona of Barbie, "Barbara" reflects on both the deeply American references and girly pastel-colored fantasy and the underlying hints of uncensored humor that are found in Trixie Mattel and her drag performances. For instance, on the upbeat electro-folk version of "Call Me Maybe", "Girl Next Door", she seamlessly transitions from the innocent lines of "I just moved in, I'm the girl next door" to the sexually implicating "I'd like to have you on my hardwood floor". The practice of casually combining a lighthearted, innocent-sound with the occasional dirty joke is an ongoing theme of the album's first four tracks. Trixie reaches her comedic peak on "Jesse Jesse", the last song of the first part of the record, a starstruck love song dedicated to Zombieland-actor Jesse Heisenberg. Here, the acoustic guitar-heavy, rhythmic electro-funk sounds of the song are overshadowed by the singer's casual mentioning of offering to get Heisenberg's magazine pages "stuck together, whenever".
While the first half of "Barbara" is filled with surf-pop and electro-folk vibes that inspire us to drive down the coast of Malibu, strut down the hallways of an all-American mall with a cool girl clique and flip back our bleach blond up-dos, the four tracks that mark the second half of the album are rather stripped down beachy ballads."The album is buzzy and fuzzy and happy and hand-Clapp y. It's designed to sort of be like AM radio at the beach in 1969.", as Trixie described it herself, perfectly hitting the nail on the head when it comes to the first part of the record. With the first notes of "Gold", however, Trixie has fully transitioned to a more familiar sound of hers, reminiscing of classic Americana-stylings. "I Don't Have A Broken Heart", "I Do Like You", and the Lavender Country cover "Stranger" are nostalgic songs to sing along to while sitting around the bonfire at a beach. Lyrically, Trixie addresses matters of the heart - falling out of love, the imperfections, and the beauty of relationships.
Overall, "Barbara" is the musical embodiment of a girl-next-door Malibu barbie character:
Glitzing with girliness, all-American beach vibes, sing-along, and hand-clapping folk enthusiasm and glamorous heartbreak. Superficially, it's 60's inspired sound and unpolitical lyrics make the album seem like anything but equality-empowering - but we won't judge an album by its cover. The art of drag itself - and Trixie Mattel's character in particular - is based on living one's truth, being one's most unapologetic fabulous self. By choosing the first name "Trixie", Brian Michael Firkus took the word his abusive stepfather mockingly called him for acting "too feminine", and turned it into art - and a successful career. With "Barbara", the drag performer again puts an empowering twist on the concept of the perfect Malibu beach girl Barbie. On this album, a queer Native American makes the lifestyle that used to be exclusively accessible to white upper-class women his own, showing us that through music, anyone can be anything they want - regardless of their gender, background, sexuality, or ethnicity.