April Showers bring Gay Flowers. And hopefully ice cream trucks bring us AstraZendaya, Madonna, and Viagra in a banana split. Until then, enjoy the scent of Peaches’ “Pussy Mask” before douching to Leah Allyce Canali x Katya’s “IDFT”. It’ll make Jordan Alexander’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” feel like a breeze.
Toronto-via-Berlin’s Peaches is as juicy as she is dense on “Pussy Mask”. Drenched in pussy metaphors and pussy double entendres, Peaches stretches the meaning of pussy beyond containment. Every line pushes the word pussy till it’s actually spilling. Right from the opening line, ‘My pussy wears a mask, my pussy don’t play,’ she mentions ‘pussy’ twice over a video game sounding synth before a crushing industrial bass undertows her staccato rap. A thrash metal guitar joins in and turns Peaches’ automaton sounding pussy into a monster. When she drops ‘pussy’ three times in one line, ‘Wear my pussy as a pendant (mm), pussy-pussy pandemic,’ she turns pussy into iconography and a pandemic of its own. And she’s right: we’re in a time where even a little taste of pussy can kill (Cum thru COVID fluids). Peaches makes sure we taste a lot!
There is something aquatic and ever-shifting about Toronto’s Sydanie’s “Dats Soft”. The percussive synths that start the track pan from ear to ear like an underwater call-and-response; they have a SONAR-like quality. When Sydanie whispers, ‘Southside,’ she emerges like an awakened sea goddess to let you know, ‘You’re moving like a square, fo’real.’ She’s not afraid to let her addressees know who they are and what they are to her. Whether it’s her competition (‘Couldn’t say shit to me though/But I make music for the kids, so I’m gon’ keep it G tho’), online trolls (‘No miss or diss on the internet/Shit, we live for real life’), or crushes (‘Come talk to me. Come build this. Get this guap/with me. Don’t have a lot of friends. I just/got partners. They all got enemies’), Sydanie remains in control. She’s able to shift into these different perspectives by pushing her syllables past the line break while using internal rhyme so she stays sounding smooth. It’s an incredible move for her even as the production peels back at the end and reveals the sounds of her hood emerging.
The drum n bass feel of Toronto’s Chippy Nonstop’s “To Myself” feels weightless. Chippy’s singing voice is able to cut through the washed out synths with a brightness that feels honest. When she asks, ‘If I needed you, if I wanted you, would you come for me,’ there’s a vulnerability mixed in with a knowingness that feels real. It’s a bit of a surprise given her previous tracks “Straight to Hell” and “Breaking Your Heart” showed Chippy sounding both playful and domineering. “To Myself” feels not afraid of its girliness while invoking a rave-like nostalgia after a night out rinsing. It’s a tender moment that even if not fully real, still feels like it exists in a rave-lover’s forever.
More than just editing clothes, Holt Renfrew has an edit of Toronto’s Jordan Alexander’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. The singer-songwriter-actress is ushered in with a bass and guitar duo before a slight swell of strings comes from underneath. Jordan starts off with a question, ‘Don’t the hours grow shorter as the days go by?’ While that’s a question to ask after the summer solstice, Jordan is perhaps already in anticipation of the summer lovers who will have to ask each other this question in July. Or maybe even sooner. The Phil Collins-esque drum break at 0:43 makes reason for pause before the subtle drop into the hook. Jordan Alexander sings, “Lovers in a dangerous time,” with an electronic pulse reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s “My Love”. There are birdlike synths on the high end that respond to Jordan’s phrases giving the song an almost Bjorkian feel re: Utopia. That’s thanks to the work of Haviah Mighty who produced the track. It’s different hearing Haviah produce a commercial pop song, but with Jordan’s nostalgic-meets-doomsday writing, there are shades of Haviah throughout.
Somber yet playful, the Toronto model/singer Brent Williams uses as few words as possible to show a complicated relationship on “Honest”. He drops little hints about his own stakes in a weighty tenor, ‘So complacent/I was down from the start/Should’ve waited.’ The guitar tip-toes around his vocal adding notes of drama and contemplation along with the stuttering trap drums. The production recalls early 2000s neosoul as Brent embarks on a confession that stands to break him. In the second verse, he manages to be more honest detailing, ‘In your place when he’s away/And I’m not faced with breaking someone’s heart.’ His affair is brought to light as he is the cheatee with a cheater. It makes the final verse all the more captivating as the guitar becomes more watery with reverb. The line, ‘Regardless, if I’m honest, you’ll say I’m godless in this simple little frame,’ splashes with a murky sense of morality before the feeling of self-betrayal sinks in.
If you never check your voicemail, check out this one. Leah Canali’s “IDFT” starts out with Drag Race legend Katya on a voicemail recalling farting out douche water after being stood up! And that’s why the acronym for “I Douched For This?” is appropriate. Canali brilliantly adlibs responses to Katya’s monologue before bursting into whistle notes. The whole thing screams theatre of the mind. And this mind is absurd! Over 90s house synths, Leah sings lines that are wilder than an orgy, ‘I flushed your demons preparing them, my gate’s open/I should’ve saved my insides from drowning out.” With Tafari Anthony as co-writer and backup vocalist, you can hear both Tafari’s and Leah’s minds, voices, and whatever else melt together. At some points, they sound like they’re in a bathroom stall trying to get out of douche hell. But stick around. We at YOHOMO think that this song should be the song they play after Ru says, “Sashay away.”
Every few bars, Blew Velvet builds or releases tension on the delicate pop song “A Mountain on Me”. The Montrealer-turned-New Yorker adds small percussive fills until the first chorus. As if revealing a late-night secret, they sing in a hushed tone, ‘You always gotta touch on something tough for me/Gotta give it up/Can’t have it all at once.’ The song sounds almost like a confession to one’s self that they need to change as the spaces around them change as well. It’s what makes the pull back on the production so cool when they sing, ‘I left the guilt behind this time/And burnt the loose ends that I kept/It’s all changed like I have.’ When they break into the hook the second time, they skip the pre-chorus and let these toylike skeletal synths pop and crackle after. Blew Velvet sounds like the master of their change embodying it more and more. Processing, becoming.
With techno stabs, Syana’s “Trade POV” is eerie from the start. The song sounds like something that could’ve crawled out of Kim Petras’ Halloween album. The Montreal rapper-DJ steps into her femme fatale when she raps, ‘You know I’m crazy, but that’s just how you like me, baby.’ There’s something fun and unhinged about the way she lands in the pocket on the last word “baby”. She has control! She’s the driver of her romantic encounter, even if from the passenger seat. Regardless of the danger it might cause, she’s down to secure the bag. After saying this man drives her around in a Mercedes, she urges, ‘Let’s have some hood love/both get our bread up.’ Syana has a full vision of what she wants and is driving the techno beat to get it.
If you thought moaning in the intro ended after Megan Thee Stallion’s “Body”, think again! For the first 15 seconds, an anonymous woman (probably named Anonymous) moans until TyriqueOrDie raps, ‘Weak in the knees/She getting weak in the knees.’ The Montreal rapper lands in the pocket at the end of every line adding a sexual emphasis that reinforces the moan, ‘She wanna fit in my jeans/Sex in the day. She weak, mm/Think she can barely speak, oo/She loves the S-dub-V.’ He employs the popular Migos triplet flow to do this. What’s really cool is a sample of Coko, the lead singer of SWV, can be heard singing the pre-chorus from the original SWV song “Weak,” ‘Cause my heart starts beating triple time/With thoughts of loving you on my mind.’ Her voice adds a layer of familiarity and 90s nostalgia giving the song a more loungey after hours feel. You can imagine hearing this at an after-party and feeling suddenly at home with the people around you. But stick around for the last 5 seconds of the track. Something happens that has us at Yohomo wondering.
A haunting piano. A sense of ambiance. A gnawing feeling of contemplation. The stage is set for Yarro to ask off the top, ‘What’s with all this talk,’ in a voice reminiscent of Charli XCX using autotune. There’s an honesty and sense of urgency in the Toronto singer’s questioning and observation, ‘Snow all around me, oh/And no action/I’m tired of all these distractions.” In an interview with Industry Unveiled, Yarro reveals the song recalls an unrequited love that turns toxic. That’s evident when her voice becomes warped at the 1:19 mark after layering into different floating harmonies over an accordion-sounding synth and all she can repeat is, “Poison, poison, poison.” The producer, Pushka, plays with the tenderness of Yarro’s sweet voice to unveil these emotional layers in a way that recalls Imogen Heap or even Cecile Believe. Check out the drop at 3:13: Yarro and Pushka inhabit a space that feels like James Blake singing on a Zero 7 track. The key changes to something dark as Yarro sings, ‘Let it snow.’ She embraces the harshness of reckless abandon.
It’s wild to think it’s been 4 months since the passing of Sophie. The Scottish-born producer died in Athens on January 30th, 2021, after falling from a balcony trying to see more of the moon. While this is tragic, there is something mythological about it. It is as if she was Icarus with wax-wings flying up to the moon. In her life, she embodied that. She pushed noise music and pop music into a place where it sounded serrated, jarring, and like the construction on Eglinton. Her sound inhabited both the places of dreams and nightmares recalling party balloons, PVC latex, and loud machine sounds that ripped you out of your sleep. It made the everyday sound alien in a way pop music sometimes does, but rarely accomplishes due to its attempt to try and satiate everyone. But Sophie knew her audience and was willing to try and push beyond the limits of pop and play with the limits themselves. It was meta pop.
I’ll admit when I first heard of Sophie, I was skeptical. My longtime friend Bliptor sold her to me as this kind of performance artist. She notoriously didn’t show up to a corporate DJ set and sent someone else as her; she was believed to be somewhere in the crowd. She sold the song “Lemonade” to McDonald’s as an underground artist as a critique on pop music’s relationship with material consumerism. Even her EP Product was thought to be a further critique on postwar consumerism among teens and how pop music is fed to them (perhaps not exactly in those words, but a similar sentiment). With little sense as to who she was physically, Sophie was herself critiqued for appropriating femininity while occupying a gay male body. It’s partially why when she released “It’s Okay To Cry” championing her breasts over a kaleidoscope sky, she was celebrated for being trans.
While many folks will point to her work with Madonna, Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Kim Petras, and more as her big feat, I now see Sophie as someone who herself was a kind of the antithesis of gendered pop. Pop music has always disrupted the binary. Little Richard wore makeup subverting the tropes of black masculinity; Madonna told interviewers she had penis envy while wearing 80s power suits; Prince sang about wishing he was his love interest’s girlfriend, Camille. But there was still an essentialist idea to pop: you can play with gender as long as you still identify within the gender binary. In other words, as long as the public knows what bathroom you go into at the end of the day, we know how to sell you. Sophie erupted this and said, “No, I know how to sell myself. I’m a pop star.”
By removing gender from the pop machine equation, Sophie emerged just as herself. Even as I write herself, I’m not even sure if that’s the right pronoun or if there is any proper pronoun to properly define who Sophie is and what she’s done. But perhaps going back to the noise of Product and ethereal pop masterpiece, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides, we can find our own answers. That’s something worth marching for.
Published:Apr 28, 2021 at 12:00 PM