Freddie, the Oakland-based musician/activist who won The Daily Californian’s 2021 Best Local Artist Award, is back with a single that promises listeners a hot anarchist summer. Released last Friday, ‘Bashback!’ is a pop/trap anthem that is as catchy as it is politically urgent.
From the song’s intro, Freddie announces that they are “going on the attack.” The first verse describes an incident of gay bashing which serves as the call to Freddie’s response: “Bashback!”
The title of the song is borrowed from the world of queer insurrection. Bash Back! was a network of queer activists known for radical (anarchist) organizing tactics inspired by the Stonewall Riots and the ACT UP protests of the AIDS Epidemic. While only active for a few years between 2007 and 2011, Bash Back! was created to resist what its organizers perceived to be the assimilationist and heteronormative aspirations of the mainstream LGBT movement.
Like its namesake, Freddie’s ‘Bashback!’ takes stronger political stances than are usually found in mainstream queer pop music. The lyrics are an act of resistance against capitalism, queer oppression and the police state. The line “pink bandana bring the system to its knees” conjures up the image of a Bash Back! protestor wearing a pink bandana over their face to conceal their identity.
Freddie’s vocals on the track are both elegant and irreverent, oscillating between the styles of rap and R&B. Their rage is Rihanna-esque. (The line “bring a sledgehammer to the bank” captures a brash extravagance that hits like “Bitch Better Have My Money.”) But there are also moments of playful delivery that point toward lighter influences: The final chorus ends on the word “Bashback!” and instantly devolves into an outro where Freddie sings “La-la-la” in semi-choral rounds).
Banks and sledgehammers aside, Freddie is delightfully economical when it comes to time. Clocking in at a mere minute and 33 seconds, ‘Bashback!’ takes listeners to the far frontiers of the old adage: “Don’t make something longer than it needs to be.” Freddie varies their flow, jumps into lilting pop vocals and harmonizes with themself with a remarkable ear for timing. Fans may be devastated by the song’s brevity, but it is undoubtedly a testament to Freddie’s musicianship.
But what is most exhilarating about the single is hearing Freddie co-opt the trappings of commercial music for their own political purposes. With its pop vocals and trap percussion, Freddie’s sound sits comfortably in the mainstream, but their lyrics subvert the industry at every turn.
‘Bashback!’ is an anthem of anarchy and militant queer insurrection with broad political designs. Many pop artists jab at capitalism in the hopes of curating an edgy aesthetic, but Freddie’s opposition to the police and the capitalist state lies at the very heart of their songwriting. ‘Bashback!’ is a versatile summer single: It’s equally meant for the dance floor and for watching the system burn.