by Allison Harris
There’s a scene in Disney Channel’s 2008 movie Camp Rock where mean girl Tess Tyler sings a song called “Too Cool”. In the scene, Demi Lovato’s character can be seen grimacing at the so-called shallowness of the lyrics and the over-the-top performance of the song, an obvious homage to the hooky pop music of the early aughts.
In a lot of ways, St. Louis artist Slayyyter’s self-titled debut mixtape is reminiscent of “Too Cool”. It’s slick, it’s choreographed, it’s auto-tuned and bleach-blonde, snarling in your face that it’s “too cool” for you. Instead of letting it be defined as cheesy or one-note, Slayyyter captures and celebrates this particular sound, giving it the credit it deserves through the references and production of her music. She leads the charge towards a new “retro” sound, for a group of fans just as obsessed with early 2000’s visuals and music as she is.
The mixtape is a tight 41 minutes, with Slayyyter offering the listener no time to breathe as she packs punch after punch of synthy, electronic beats, and sugary auto-tuned vocals. It’s grimy, sexy pop music, evoking Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” and Britney’s “Freakshow”. The production from Ayesha Erotica, Robokid, and Boy Sim - underground pop icons in their own right - really shines, building a hyperreal world for Slayyyter to sing and dance in.
“BFF”, produced by and featuring Ayesha Erotica, is Slayyyter’s oldest release on the album but fits in effortlessly, proving she had a vision for her sound from the beginning of her rise to standom fame. Slayyyter is the kind of artist that could have only really come from Twitter, achieving success through a culty underground pop scene. With only a few songs out, a snippet of the undeniably catchy “Oh me, oh my” hook for her single “Mine” went viral the week of Valentine’s Day 2019, and suddenly she was being shouted out by artists like Charli XCX and Kim Petras. She attracted an obsessed following of her own, giving her the ability to work on music full-time, and even go on a “Mini Tour” with an impressive 11 shows.
Some of the most standout tracks from Slayyyter come from the tape’s strong back half. On “Motorcycle”, Slayyyter growls over a pulsing, screeching beat that she wants to “give head in your car while you’re doing donuts”. “Tattoo”, potentially the best track on the mixtape, is a sweet summertime anthem that truly sounds like something off the Top 40 in 2009.
“E-boy" feat. That Kid -a followup to their previous collaboration “Dial Tone” - includes punchy references to online culture and cybersex. That Kid’s feature, one of only two on the tape, is wonderfully catchy and playful. Because the rap feature was so integral to the pop hits of the early aughts, it is surprising that there are so few features on the tape, and That Kid’s outstanding performance leaves the listener yearning for more.
Slayyyter does have its missteps, as a debut project often does. So many of the tracks are in the same upbeat dance-pop vein that there is little variation and the listener can get burned out by the end. Slayyyter and her producers often get so caught up re-inventing a 2000s sound that her voice and original sound get lost sometimes. However, it is a mixtape, after all, not an album, so cohesion is less important to the project than having fun flexing her style for the first time.
Slayyyter presents a strong, newly-retro sound, and is one of the most interesting projects of the year, offering a unique alternative to the sometimes monotonous pop mainstream. As a debut project, it serves as an excellent launching point for Slayyyter’s career, and shows both devoted fans and new listeners just what she can do.