Some live for love, but Slayyyter lives for drama. Her sophomore album “STARFUCKER” is a Hollywood epic that explores the city’s past, present and future through intoxicating electro and synth pop.
Behind the “starfucker” persona is Cathy Garner, a 27-year-old St. Louis- nativeexport who always dreamt of making it to Hollywood. Her self-titled 2019 mixtape introduced the world to a caricatured, tabloid-obsessed version of herself, and her 2021 debut studio album “Troubled Paradise,” explored themes beyond “tasting like candy,” and offered bubblier explorations of self doubt and love.
Now, Slayyyter is ready to serve pure opulence as she reflects on her venture to the City of Angels.
The question one may have upon reading the album’s title is, “What exactly is a ‘STARFUCKER?’” This question is answered in a minute-long album trailer that preludes the record. “She’s a glamorous dame, Marlboro Gold in hand, running through Hollywood’s streets in search of notoriety and rendezvous with the famous,” explains an anonymous male narrator. Slayyyter can be seen partaking in all of the things a “starfucker” presumably fills her day with: running up and down Hollywood Boulevard while licking an ice cream cone, sipping a martini on a hotel balcony and smoking a cigarette in front of the Hollywood sign. The trailer concludes with a prescient line that perfectly leads the listener into the album: “love comes and goes, but fame is forever.”
Beginning with a distant clamor of thudding bass, “I Love Hollywood!” opens the album with a vow of undying love for the city. “Oh, thank God I sold my soul/Glitter, smoke and rock and roll,” she sings in her signature vocal fry. She admits that “I wanna die at the Chateau,” but not because the Chateau Marmont screams ideal final resting place, but because of the infamy such a place grants. Whether or not Slayyyter survives the perils of the city, she wants to be remembered forever.
“STARFUCKER’s” aesthetics fall somewhat outside of a specific setting, and rather simultaneously nods to the golden age of Hollywood, the grimy party days of the early aughts and a kind of 1980’s metropolitan futurism. Collectively, these images and aesthetics construct a story arc that follows a Midwestern girl who is both trapped by, but also embraces, the clutches of pursuing fame. Her all-consuming dedication to achieving notoriety (both as “STARFUCKER’s” character and presumably in Garner’s own life) has come at the cost of personal relationships, and ultimately leaves her alone in her self-described narcissistic tendencies.
But underneath the iridescent gleam of the album lies a surprising amount of thoughtful rumination. The second single, “Miss Belladonna,” expands on the aforementioned destructive self-absorption through lush, operatic, neo-noir despair. Slayyyter adopts the song’s title as her name tag, both in its etymology of “beautiful lady” and as “deadly nightshade.” Beware, if you get too close you might just be stung with her poison that will leave you in anguish.
She sings from the perspective of “Miss Belladonna” for much of the album, which exquisitely illustrates all of her star-fucking propensities. She’s unashamed to admit she’ll make you “surrender your heart” then flee just as quickly once she gets what she desires. The song is the album’s most vocally ambitious — and well executed, as she stretches her voice further than ever before over the dark synth pulse.
A quick listen to any of the songs on “STARFUCKER” demonstrates just how hard Slayyyter studied at the school of pop, and how aware she is of its capabilities to be both extremely pointed and personal as well as deliciously mindless at times.
Her femme fatale state of mind follows, especially on the impressive three track run of “Erotic Electronic,” “Purrr” and “Plastic.” All three sound quintessentially Slayyyter — but slightly more polished — with a gravelly, metallic sound to each. “Purrr,” in particular, sounds like a “Blackout” era Britney Spears reincarnated — but with even harsher synth shrieks, pulses and clangs in support of boasts like “Pussy pop in the club/Boys wanna fuck with a bitch like us.”
Immediately following the gritty club numbers is “Girl Like Me,” an ‘80s-inspired bounce complete with glimmering synth, thudding bass and finger snaps that construct a retro yet modern-sounding chant. The song is simple and straightforward, telling the classic story of mysterious infatuation with a stranger. Slayyyter sings of Martinis at the bar, cherry ice cream and kissing in cars before posing the question that circles her mind: “Are you lookin’ for a girl like me tonight?”
In a contemporary pop landscape seemingly obsessed with chopping and screwing sounds of old into cheaply made, loosely nostalgic reworks, Slayyyter seems uninterested in directly reviving anything from mainstream music’s graveyard. Sure, she’s far from the first to make her kind of pop, and the album is not void of samples, but by steering clear of overly obvious interpolations, her work shines even brighter.
“Out of Time” ticks with a rapid pulse as Slayyyter assumes the position of narrator to close the album. “No one notices, makeup runs from her eyes,” she sings with zeal. “She hates herself but if they all love her then she don’t mind/Better hurry up, I’m out, out, out of time.” Thick bass and skating synthesizers craft a cinematic-sounding last minute attempt to escape the perils of Hollywood. But as our narrator informs us, it may already be too late. The naive girl who landed at LAX has grown icy — still reveling in any level of infamy she can achieve, but hyper-aware of its consequences. In the end, she recognizes that she’s ventured too far into the abyss of stardom, “out of time” and prepared to “kiss it all goodbye.”
Slayyyter’s “underground” status as a pop provocateur is somewhat perplexing considering her undeniable knack for penning pop earworms. But in some ways, her fringe status as electro-pop’s esteemed enchantress aids her work even more. She possesses undeniable mainstream potential, but her current position grants her agency to make the kind of booming, eccentric music she does best.
By finding the right balance between pointed storytelling and roaring, dance-worthy bangers (she could release every song as a single, as Cara Cunningham would say), “STARFUCKER” earns the all too overused title of “instant classic” in every sense.