To some, she’s the season 3 winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.” To others, she’s a renowned makeup-brand owner. Still, to others, she’s a YouTube and podcast personality, a folk songwriter and a motel owner — and the list goes on. It would be easier to name the titles beloved drag superstar and renaissance woman Trixie Mattel has yet to claim.
Skyrocketing in endlessly growing popularity since her “RuPaul’s Drag Race” debut, Mattel has become one of the most — if not the most — notable names of the 21st-century drag scene. Funny, talented and (most importantly) authentic, Mattel has paved a path to success marked by countless quirks, whether it be her extreme makeup or country music stylings. With Mattel’s fanbase sprawling across the globe, the announcement of her third –– and fourth –– records, The Blonde & Pink Albums, was met with tangible excitement from millions.
Broken up into two sections, the double LP carries a vast range of moods and themes, from nostalgia and heartache to infatuation and touring. The blonde half holds much more upbeat tracks, whereas the pink half takes on a much slower, serious tone. All heavily steeped in a ‘60s-inspired production style consisting of shimmering guitars and crystal-clear vocals, Mattel’s musicality shines brighter than ever before.
The blonde album starts off strong with “Goner,” a track about losing pieces of home as one rises in commercial success. The song immediately grabs listeners’ attention with a thumping bassline, strong drum pattern and unexpected melodic shifts. Singing, “Hey, anyway/ She got the key to the city today/ Hey, hey, there goes a parade/ She’s a goner now, puts on her crown and waves,” Mattel evokes fun, pageant imagery in her somewhat depressing story of losing touch with her old town.
“C’mon Loretta” is by far the highlight of this first half, with its enticing narrative surrounding the strength and grief found within Lorretta Lynn’s abusive relationship. Once again marrying undeniably sad lyrics with upbeat, dancy instrumentals, Mattel shows off her songwriting mastery while producing a work that is fun to listen to. Paired with a complex rhyme scheme, the lyrics flawlessly paint a transparent yet sorrowful image of Lynn’s troubled love: “She married at fifteen/ He was a good man, sometimes/ ‘Til he came ’round a-drinking,” Mattel sings.
Opening with “White Rabbit” that features Michelle Branch of early 2000s pop-rock fame, the pink album starts off strong. Backed by a distorted guitar riff, Mattel’s vocals are spotlighted throughout the track, and for good reason. The two singers join in near-perfect harmony throughout the song — an unambiguous complement to the otherwise understated instrumentation. A song about wanting to run away and start anew, “White Rabbit” showcases incredibly emotive performances and unquestionably well-written lyrics.
Closing with a folksy, acoustic cover of The Go-Go’s “Vacation,” Mattel ends the double album on a profusely high note. A much more vapid but nonetheless heartfelt song in comparison to the LP’s other tracks, “Vacation” allows Mattel’s audience a breath of fresh, happy air. Trading The Go-Go’s electric guitars and punk style for soft vocalization and delayed, fingerpicked guitars, the song experiences total reinvention through a folk lens. “Vacation, all I ever wanted/ Vacation, had to get away,” Mattel sings, her light cover making for a somewhat humorous yet completely fitting end to the record.
The Blonde & Pink Albums are some of Mattel’s best musical works to date. Filled with folk-rock perfection, the dual album makes it extremely clear that the musician has found her songwriting sweet spot. With heavy ‘60s inspiration, Mattel utilizes her own interests and muses to produce songs that are 100% unique and easy to digest. Both of the records hold extraordinarily impressive tracks and are unequivocally worth the listen.
Contact Ian Fredrickson at [email protected].