Slayyyter is a pop star who gets it. We’re still a few months away from the release of her widely-anticipated debut album, Troubled Paradise, yet the independent artist has been – in the words of one fan – “feeding the gays” and “saving the music industry” with the vibrant campaign, releasing music video after music video and expanding on her signature “bimbo” aesthetic that garnered her a loyal following with her self-titled 2019 mixtape. She’s giving us the full pop era experience in a time where music videos are a dying breed due to the increasingly popular nature of streaming services and, of course, TikTok, where a (half-assed) dance craze can catapult a song to the top of the charts. “I just always looked up to the full package when it came to artists, people who visually have such an identity,” says Slayyyyter. “I get bummed out because I’m like, ‘Oh my god, was Lady Gaga the last great artist that we’re ever gonna have?’ There’s less raw talent forming cool, artistic projects that get me excited. I feel like that is getting lost now because everything’s like, ‘What’s the next quick song that we can push?’ That makes me sound like an old, bitter hater!”
The star, birth name Catherine Slater, is the antithesis of the aforementioned pop artists who release one or two music videos per “era”, or, none at all. So far, she’s released four clips, each of which boast their own unique identity. In the red-tinted video for Self-Destruct (featuring Wuki), Slayyyter embraces her inner she-devil, horns included, and performs the track with a hand-held camera over a grainy filter to match the experimental track’s chaotic energy. The video for the title track, to us, feels like her first major pop-star clip. Set against a colourful, jungle-esque background, Slayyyter busts out choreo with backup dancers in matching tiger-print catsuits. It’s a pop moment. Clouds see the star escape to the skies, as well as some Wonderland and Oz-inspired locations, while Cowboys follows her on horseback in the desert, complete with high-fashion western ensembles.
Like the tracks on her mixtape, each of these singles are energetic, up-tempo numbers with breathy vocals and glossy production. Slayyyter’s genre of music has been referred to as hyperpop, a rising movement characterised as a maximalist take on pop music, which has been popularised in recent years by artists such as 100 Gecs, Charli XCX and SOPHIE. When we ask Slayyyter if this is the style of music that she’s always wanted to create, she responds: “I’ve always loved experimental, fast-sounding pop. SOPHIE was always a big influence on my music, and I think a lot of early Gaga stuff was borderline hyperpop. People look at hyperpop as such a dirty word, like a cringe thing, but I don’t mind it. I wouldn’t say all of my songs are in the hyperpop category, but there is definitely some influence in there with the experimental production. It’s not straightforward pop, but it has an edge to it.”
While hyperpop is yet to make a considerable dent in the charts, the genre’s fanbase, which largely consists of LGBTQ+ listeners, are passionate. You can often see these fans on Twitter in the comments section of PopCrave and ChartData’s posts, where they’ll tell other fanbases that their “fave” outsold or received more critical acclaim from metrics such as Metacritic. As we discuss the pros (and cons) of Stan Twitter, Slayyyter’s face lights up. As a pop music fanatic and prominent Twitter user, she enjoys the interactions between the Swifties, the Monsters, the Barbz and the Beyhive (honestly, we could go on), due to their hilarious quips and comebacks, as well as their loyalty. “People will come to your shows. They want to hear from you. They’re actually interested in what you’re doing! They want to buy your merch. It’s not just like, ‘Oh, this is an artist on my Spotify playlist.’ They want to hear from me and they care about how I’m doing,” she says.
But like we said above, there are cons. There are a select few fans who cross the line and become personal, from attacking the appearance or weight of a pop star they’re not fond of, or even sending death threats. “I feel like some people cross the boundaries of privacy,” she says, as the conversation turns slightly more serious. “I’ve gotten weird DMs that include information about my family, their addresses and other stuff they shouldn’t know about. It gets past the borderline of what makes me comfortable sometimes. I tried to use a fake last name because I didn’t want people to find my mom and sister, but it gets to a certain point where there’s nothing you can do.”
She explains further: “I think people now feel more entitled to the music and artists they stan. They look at us like Barbie dolls and less than human. It’s in the culture now. ‘Your fave is a flop, they had a fucked up haircut this month and yours gained weight, blah blah blah.’ It gets really nasty and makes you feel bad about yourself. I’ve definitely struggled with body image because of the things people say about my body or face. It’s over the top, more so than it used to be. But, I feel like it’s just the price you pay for putting yourself out there on the internet. At the end of the day, music is my job. So, all the hate and negativity that comes with that, I have to just bite the bullet and make my way.”
Slayyyter is speaking to us from the confines of her bed in LA. She keeps insisting that she doesn’t look “too great” or enough like a popstar, but she still looks immaculate. It’s a vulnerable side that we don’t often see from the star, who accompanies her uptempo – yes, we’re gonna say it again – hyperpop sound with a fierce and sexually-liberated aesthetic. When we ask if there’s any separation between her industry persona and Catherine, she hesitates before responding. “Urm, I would say there is… a bit. I think every artist puts on a persona to make music, and Slayyyter is fully done up with makeup and is more of a sexual, bimbo character. There’s pieces of both personalities that kind of overlap.” With this aesthetic, which she says was inspired by reality stars turned musicians such as Heidi Montag and Paris Hilton, Slayyyter earned legions of fans across the world who celebrated her image, rather than slut-shame her. Daddy AF, from her mixtape, features lyrics such as “He wanna get in my guts, lickin’ my clut ‘til I nut,” while she sings on Candy, “Want you to taste it, cause it’s tasty baby, make it drip. I’m gonna scream your name ‘til all your neighbours hear it. My pussy tastes sweet like candy.”
If you just take a look at the comments section on YouTube, you’ll see fans praise her artistry with hilarious quips such as “the boobyography is everything” to “my hymen is healed back to virginity after this magic has entered my ears.” Slayyter, who identifies as bisexual, says: “I feel like that’s the reason why I feel so at home with having an audience within the LGBTQ+ community. Sexuality is so embraced in a way that I still don’t see embraced anywhere else in culture and society. Female artists are empowered to be liberated in their sexuality, and championed by the LGBTQ+ community to be sexual in nature. I feel like everyone else is still playing catch-up with it now. Honestly, it’s 2021 and people need to get with the times.”
Conversation quickly turns to the recent music videos of Cardi B and Lil Nas X. The former’s clip (and lyrics) for WAP with Megan Thee Stallion was widely criticised by conservative pundit trolls, one of which had the audacity to say that it will “hurt your children”. This commentator was a man. Lil Nas X’s video for Montero (Call Me By Your Name), which sees the rapper pole-dance his way into hell with thigh-high stiletto boots, before he slays Satan with a lap dance, was also criticised for “corrupting” younger listeners, as well as evoking a Satanic panic. “What is this, like the 90s?” retorts Slayyyter. “Haven’t we seen every inch of women’s bodies in pop culture? If you’re outraged by things that are sexual, you’re the problem. There’s something wrong with you. I thought we’d gotten past that, shifted as a society to think sex is okay. But no, there’s still people who really hate women’s bodies and boobs and butts. It would be so boring to consume imagery and music that’s prim and proper.” Slayyyter is especially dumbfounded and ‘frustrated’ when the criticism around women’s bodies comes from women. “No one’s saying that every woman has to look, talk and act like a bimbo sex doll. It’s up to me. It’s my decision. It’s really frustrating when women say I’m setting feminism back because it’s like, ‘No, you are because you’re trying to put constraints on me and what I do with my body and how I present myself to the world.”
While this specific aspect of her artistry is still prevalent within her image, it’s taken somewhat of a backseat within the lyrics of Trouble Paradise. Slayyyter’s mixtape was primarily focused around sex and celebrity culture from the 00s, she explains, as well people who weren’t necessarily about her. With this record, especially as it’s her official debut studio album, Slayyyter had the “itch” to open up more and share more of herself with the world. Since the release of the mixtape, Slayyyter has experienced a break-up and other “personal hardships” that greatly impacted her mental health. Lockdown didn’t help, either. But, she’s torn over these feelings of insecurity as she’s living her dream as the popstar she always wanted to be. The best way she can describe her mindframe at the time was – spoiler alert! – a troubled paradise. “I started to struggle with depression because I felt so lonely, and those two words, as silly as it sounds, summed up where I was in my life. And, I feel like I can get over my emotions by writing music. Because of the artist that I am, I still want people to dance to it and have a good time, even if the lyrics are kind of twisted!”
This is evident in Clouds, where she exclaims that she’s “unhappier than she’s ever been” and feels like she’d be “better off dead” over an infectious dance-pop beat. Serial Killer, track nine, is reminiscent of No Doubt’s early work and showcases Slayyyter’s abilities as a storyteller as she wonders if her lover is about to off her. The album closes with one of her most tender moments to date, Letters; a mid-tempo guitar ballad that describes the beginning of a new relationship before transforming into a slice of electropop euphoria. “You came along and turned the night into day,” she croons in the chorus. “I’ve been waiting all my life for you.” Troubled Paradise is two months away from release, yet Slayyyter teases: “I feel like I have a very love song heavy album coming probably after this one because that’s where I am now!”
As the conversation comes to a close, we ask Slayyyter what she’s learned as an artist in between the releases of her mixtape and debut. “I feel like I really just found my sound,” she excitedly tells us. “It’s really me shining through, and less me trying to emulate artists I used to look up to. I feel like I have more character in the music. The mixtape was really special, and I love that project for sure, but it was important for me, as an artist, to find my sound. I feel like that’s what I did.” In the months leading up to the release of Troubled Paradise, Slayyyter plans to release more singles and videos. She even has a storyline in mind for Serial Killer. “I wanted it to have a 1960s housewife, scary movie kind of feel where this woman finds blood on her husband’s clothes, but she’s the one who’s killed all his mistresses and gets him sent to jail.” As one of the most exciting pop stars around right now, whatever she does next, she’s bound to slayyy.
Slayyyter’s debut studio album, Troubled Paradise, is due for release 11 June.