Slayyyter: How the pop music superfan became the pop music idol
Pop’s brightest star Slayyyter talks to PinkNews about Hollywood’s influence on her new album, growing up as a queer music stan, and the downfall of the modern day pop artist.
Pop singer Slayyyter is in a “really weird place” right now. Physically, that’s because she’s living in Los Angeles, where she moved three years ago from a small suburb of St. Louis, Missouri.
The 27-year-old is in the land of glamour and debauchery now, a place where – as she describes on “I Love Hollywood!”, the opening track of her new, sophomore album STARF*CKER – people profess to having “never done drugs before”, while snorting cocaine.
She’s in the City of Angels, where people barely blink at seeing someone strut naked down Hollywood Boulevard, like she recently did for her “Erotic Electronic” music video.
Really though, she’s talking about the “weird place” she currently finds herself in as a pop artist. Ask any mid-20s twink with a Twitter account, and they’ll tell you all about Slayyyter: she’s the self-styled Y2K pop princess, a blend of early career Britney Spears, Desperate Housewives’ Edie Britt, and Paris Hilton.
She’s the mastermind behind one of the years’ best singles, the dark, pulsating “Out of Time”, and a frequenter of celebrity parties and Fashion Week events.
Yet, to the rest of the world, she could be anyone. “I’m not famous,” she tells PinkNews casually, calling on Zoom from her one bedroom LA apartment. She’s warm, frequently hilarious, and endearingly self aware.
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“When I go to the grocery store, nothing stops. No one knows who I am. It’s a funny thing where I do have fans and I sell out shows and people come to meet me … but I’m also a very regular person, almost like [I’m] at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain.”
Her position on the periphery of celebrity has enabled her to be a fly-on-the-wall at the “circus” that is the entertainment world. “I love it, like I’m obsessed with it,” she laughs. “I feel like I’m addicted to this kind of world, this lifestyle.”
The glossy sleaze of the industry and her position in it has fascinated her since the start of her career. On “Celebrity”, an aptly-titled song from her debut mixtape, 2019’s Slayyyter, she purrs: “I’m Hollywood’s new mistress, I’ve made it onto the D-list.” A month after she released it, she tweeted: “Since I’m famous now I’m thinking about joining scientology <3.”
Four years later, and the lifestyle she has one foot in, one foot out of, has inspired the entirety of STARF*CKER. The title, for example: “I feel like I’m either the one who’s starf*cking, or I’m the one that’s getting starf*cked,” she says. “That was the baseline of what I wanted to say about fame and money and vanity.”
While it finds its roots in Slayyyter’s newfound LA life and the heartbreak and hedonism that’s come with it, the album is also half character play. “Miss Belladonna” for example, the record’s second single, is inspired by the women encountered in “erotic thrillers” like Body Double and Basic Instinct.
You know the types: “Seductive femme fatales who use men to their advantage and they’re seen as kind of evil,” she says, “but the fashion is really, like, c*nt”.
The album’s aesthetic is David Lynch’s Blue Velvet meets a “really dramatised version of my own bedroom”, she explains, pointing out her collection of ’80s deco furniture in the background of her screen. “I was like, I want to do the mauve carpet and just be in a slinky gown, smoking a cigarette.”
Slayyyter is a very good pop artist because she is a very studious consumer of popular culture. Born in 1996, she came of age in the Tumblr era. At the time, musicians who were seen to embody glamorous caricatures of Americana – Marina & The Diamonds, Lana Del Rey – flooded the platform, while the hunger for the lurid aesthetic of 80s and 90s film was evident.
At the same time, massive pop stars like Lady Gaga, Madonna and Rihanna were just that – massive pop stars. Each of their eras felt more defined by award show performances and music videos than they do in today’s influencer culture, in which a pop star’s merit is often measured by how accessible they are on TikTok. This is particularly true for newer artists.
Slayyyter, meanwhile, inhaled all those influences as she grew up. On STARF*CKER, she’s drizzled them with irony, chewed them up, and spat them out.
“I love when albums have a thesis,” she says, referencing Marina’s Electra Heart as one of her favourite records. “I definitely kind of went in with the intention of doing that with this project.”
As a young pop fan, she was invested in the “mystique” of huge, female pop artists. “I didn’t really care to know what they had for breakfast,” she says of how the landscape has changed. It’s a topic she talks about fervently.
As one Billboard article questioned in August: “Why aren’t more pop stars being born?”
One answer is that newer artists aren’t given the budget or time to prep whole albums campaigns, complete with striking visuals or maximalist videos. Instead, success rests on a song’s ability to go viral on social media. If that doesn’t work, well, it’s onto the next single.
“It gets a little disheartening as an artist just because I love to sing, I love to make visuals, I love photoshoots, I love making art,” she explains. “I didn’t get into this game to sit down in front of a camera and be like: ‘OK, so get ready with me!’. That’s just not my vibe.”
From the sensual thrum of “Tear Me Open”, the first song she wrote for the record, to the propulsive, ’00s beat of crying-in-the-club banger “Memories Of You”, STARF*CKER has all the ingredients that, at one point in pop history, would’ve made it a juggernaut success.
In reality, Slayyyter is an artist who would’ve blown up around the Katy Perry Teenage Dream era. “I feel like if I debuted as an artist like 10 years ago, I would have a totally different trajectory and a totally different story,” she says. “But it’s not even worth getting in your head about that.”
She adds: “Part of me would love to have that mainstream success, would love to have a huge breakthrough, but culture is just different now.”
The fanbase she does have is a committed one. It’s full circle, too: her fans are largely young, queer pop fanatics. It reflects the person she was and the queer friends she grew up around as a young, bisexual teenager with a pop music obsession.
“It’s been funny to become the artist with that following,” she smiles. “My favourite music is pop that’s adored in queer spaces. I love that now, as an artist, I’m the one who is making music in those spaces. It just feels right.
“At the end of the day, I’m always going to be the Kylie Minogue, Madonna-loving girl.”
While she’s spoken before about how social anxiety prevents her from collaborating with other musicians, fellow queer artists are a safe space.
“There’s an unspoken language and cultural reference points that are shared,” she says. “It’s hard to bestie up with people who don’t really get it and who [don’t] have the freaky brain like me where I’m like … 2003 Britney Spears VMA performance!”
Those cultural influences have served her well. Whether or not she’ll ever get the recognition her fans feel she deserves – “she has all the potential to become the next superstar” is the routine type of comment that crops up on her YouTube channel – she’s creating some of the best synthpop around. Her fans will keep on streaming.
“I’m grateful to have what I even have now, you know what I mean?” she says. “If I die in this one bedroom apartment in LA, like, I’ll be happy.”
STARF*CKER is out 22 September.
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