Electrifying. Bold. Unapologetic. Those are just a few of the words to describe the versatile and iconic artist Slayyyter. With a fusion of nostalgic ’90s and 2000s influences using a modern twist, she creates music that is energetic, and catchy, and often explores themes of love, desire, and self-expression. Her persona embodies confidence and glamour, often pushing boundaries with her lyrics and visuals. All of this is to say: there is no one as exciting in the contemporary pop landscape that is quite like Slayyyter.
When she speaks with Schön!, she joins us from Miami. Although she’s typically based in LA, she is currently on an inspirational trip for her secret new music project. After successfully releasing catchy tunes such as “Daddy AF” and “Plastic” which tapped into the Hollywood lifestyle, she seeks new inspiration in the party spirit of Miami intending to get people dancing. In conversation with Slayyyter, the Queen of hyperpop herself, she talks about her feelings on the relevance of traditional pop music, the Barbie movie, and more.
Your current album Starfucker (Deluxe) is an absolute bop. I was particularly struck by the song “Miss Belladonna” and how you describe the effects of this beautiful and delicious-looking, yet poisonous berry. What are the common themes in this album and what made you come up with this concrete song?
For Starfucker, the throughline is about fame and the weird things that come along with being an artist. It is less about fame, but also about relationships and love. I definitely don’t consider myself to be a famous person, but I am still at a place where I have an audience and a following. For “Miss Belladonna,” in particular, I was watching a lot of femme fatale, 80s erotic thrillers such as Basic Instinct by Paul Verhoeven. I studied the caricature of a woman who uses sex as a power tool to get an advantage over a man. The song is about someone who is toxic and poisonous to be in a relationship with and who loves drama — it is a heightened and dramatic version of the crazy girl in me.
I guess all of us pop lovers have a crazy girl inside of us — some more than others. You have been in the music industry for some time now, if you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
I would change this new culture of social media and content creation. It is a weird time to be an artist. I debuted with my first songs right before TikTok in 2019 before it became the norm and hit off. The landscape of social media and music promotion has radically changed since then. It has become so hard to make thoughtful music and promote it in a way that is cool and true to your aesthetic and artistic sensibilities when everything is flash in the pan. I sound like such a grumpy grandma when I say that I hate that app, but there is more pressure in the music industry right now to be an influencer when this is what I did not sign up for just like many artist friends. It is tough to get your music out there and make it stick with people.
I can feel the pain. You almost feel like a product as you have to be marketable. You are not only the artist creating art, but also the most important communication channel and sales channel at the same time.
It has robbed the industry a little bit of that magic that used to be there — at least with music. In film and television, there are enough people who can’t be bothered to be on TikTok. Streaming is what makes them rise and become household names, but they don’t have to play the game of creating a potentially viral TikTok sequence. It’s really exhausting as there is no right or wrong way to make it go viral. I think a lot of labels put pressure on artists to get something to go viral, but that is not really in the hands of the artists themselves. It is eventually in the hands of the internet — which can be a cool thing too. I’d prefer to put the power rather back into the people than record labels funding promotions for music and that being what makes music hit off.
Maybe with AI we’ll find a recipe to make things go viral, but that’s a whole different story. Is it the same Slayyyter speaking in this album as in your first one and your mix tape Troubled Paradise? How did you musically evolve from those?
I changed a lot. I do love my earlier works, but I was super young when I started and did not really have much artist development in my career, it was rather trying out things and meeting a bunch of different people. As I got older, my taste shifted and I found inspiration in movies and cinema. I would say that I have been elevating myself over the last couple of years. My references have shifted a lot and I got more into fashion. It has still always been me, but this album is a product of me learning so much over the years and elevating my sense of style and taste. I wanted to make something that is more polished, something that felt stylistically razor-sharp while focusing on the visuals and the sound to make things cohesive.
In the past, a lot of my work was more like patchwork in nature — simply because I either did not have the budget or did not have the tools to put something together. My album before was made during COVID times which was of course very restricting. I was not really able to shoot visuals. I did these big music videos and I needed to allocate a budget for COVIDofficers on set. It stunted the growth a little bit and made it hard to get my visuals across and I felt like I did not really nail the visuals that I had in my head. For Starfucker, however, I was so specific with the visuals and styling.
Talking about your styling, your fierce look reminds us of a modern version of Barbie. What inspires your way of dressing and your makeup?
Honestly, I like every kind of Barbie comparison. As a child, I always loved dolls, dramatic makeup, and loved kitsch just as much as the colour pink. When it comes to my style and make-up specifically, I was really inspired by 90s Thierry Mugler and his couture shows — so camp and theatrical. It was a very femme fatale woman on the runway and the models did not just walk; they had an attitude — almost like actresses. This super tiny waist-silhouetted doll-like figure inspires my style a lot. Before, I simply wore what I felt was sick and very internet-y, maybe Y2K inspired.
I can see that fashion credibility coming together – you surely made that Lucovic de Saint Sernin dress pop for the album visuals! The New Yorker described 2023 as ‘”The Year of The Doll,” in particular due to influential films such as Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla. How would you explain the hype around these narratives?
I think people simply love the pink, blonde and kitschy aesthetic. It taps into something nostalgic for them. When I saw the Barbie movie with all the pink and with the Chanel necklaces and hair choices, I liked that it did not take itself too seriously. Some people find it juvenile when women wear pink or want to be super feminine, but I personally think it’s so much fun. It is so much more interesting than the modern Balenciaga fashion that is very popular. Barbie is simply iconic, it is a timeless classic — there is something about the surrealness of that doll look and the big eyes, pink lips, and powder blue eyeshadow.
You are particularly adored, loved and celebrated by the Queer community. How would you explain your wide popularity and success among the gays?
When I was in high school, I was part of the gay pop stans freaking out about Lady Gaga’s Artpop. My friends and I would only listen to this kind of music and we were not really interested in what was cool at the moment. I loved pop stars and they have always been super championed in queer spaces. It must be due to the escapism that pop entails. It gets you out of your head and gets you out of a situation where you are not really accepted or do not feel happy. I feel super grateful that this is where my music has landed. It is nice to have a sense of community coming along with my music and it is not simply random listeners on the internet.
‘Slay’ is literally part of your artist name and probably also most people’s reaction to your music — “she definitely slays!” Are you worried about the term being used in an inflationary way at this point?
My fanbase is so largely queer that a lot of people think that my artist name has to do with the word “slay,” but that’s not why I chose it. I got my artist name from this character in Dazed and Confused named Slater. My artist name was originally “Slater” but I could not find the Twitter or Instagram handles for that as everything was taken by 2017. So, I added one y and that was taken. I added two y’s but that felt too uneven, but then three felt right. I had people call me up before and say that I am appropriating the term, but that is not at all what my artist name means.
Let’s face it, the genre of pop had greater times — think of the Christinas and the Gagas a decade ago. Listening to your music makes me almost nostalgic and gives me hope that we can connect back to those times. What does pop music need these days to stay relevant?
People need to stop looking at it as something silly or tacky. As someone who makes pop music, I feel like I am not taken seriously for my work. My music is not considered avant-garde or experimental. When I was growing up, my favourite pop music was Teenage Dream by Katy Perry. I don’t think everything needs to be so left of field and wild. When hyperpop reached it’s peak, suddenly everyone became so experimental that artists shied away from traditional pop music which I love.
Culture is always shifting and changing; also trends are cyclical — it’s coming back! “Greedy” by Tate McRae is a really good example of a pure pop song with a crazy music video choreography. To me, that’s inherently what pop music is and what people respond to. Pop is going to become the new experimental and the kind of cool new thing rather than the highbrow music that critics love. At the end of the day, I am going to hit replay on “Toxic” by Britney Spears throughout my lifetime. I don’t think that pop music will be viewed as that silly in a year or two.
As an alternative to “The Year of The Doll,” The New Yorker could have also titled it “The Year of Taylor Swift.” I notice a shift in pop towards more authenticity and realism which is a contrast to your approach. Do you share my observations?
During the pandemic, when everyone was so depressed, it became very normal in music to be super poetic, real and grounded. I appreciate all kinds of music and what it is and does for people. However, I have personally always loved escapist pop music.
Is there anything in music that you have not done yet, but would love to experience?
I am starting my next project right now and I am in a very dancy head space. As soon as people think one thing is where I am at, I want to switch things up tapping into a new visual universe. I want to do something that is a little more self-referential. I am really excited, I feel like my new music is hard as fuck and splitting beats that make people want to party.
Slayyyter’s new album STARFUCKER (Deluxe) is out now.
photography. Dylan Perlot @ Exclusive Artists
fashion. Malcolm Baron Smith
hair. Antoine Martinez @ PARADIS AGENCY using Oribe
make up. Kelby Adam
production. Clara La Rosa
photography assistant. Jesse Zapatero
location. Hype Studios, LA
interview. Benjamin Schiffer