Sad13: master of Twitter, paper dolls and pop music
Erin McAuliffe | Thursday, November 17, 2016
Gold glitter. Rainbow crayons. Paper dolls. Pasted collages.
The scene evokes childhood memories of messy bedrooms. It also embodies the aesthetic of Sadie Dupuis’ first solo DIY pop album, “Slugger,” released on Nov. 11 under her moniker/Twitter handle Sad13. The album’s cover art incorporates Dupuis front and center as a Crayola-hued paper doll, surrounded by a wardrobe of eclectic two-dimensional ensembles.
The album, like a young child assembling paper dolls, plays with identity and gender norms. But Dupuis, lead singer of Speedy Ortiz, brings subconscious thoughts and actions to the forefront and demands you recognize, respond and “pay [her] what you owe [her].”
“Marbles, baubles, crystals and clay, so that’s what I’m working with,” a memorable lyric off record opener “<2” embodies Dupuis’s sparkly, bedroom-recording process as she croons over fuzzy gongs and space zaps. This is the first album Dupuis has released under Sad13; however, she already has over 20,000 tweets under the name and the single’s emoji-esque title harkens back to Dupuis’s digital charm. The song’s music video stars Dupuis in a surreal “make-up tutorial” video featuring trends like “hair stenciling,” “poisonous lips” and “blood facials for the crew.” She clearly “gets” the Internet.
The different looks tried out in the music video carry over to the album’s artwork in two dimensions. Dupuis’s crayon-filled paper doll sketches allow her illustrated likeness to transform into Sailor Moon, a basketball player, an astronaut, a mermaid, a surgeon and a dog. “I want a life where I can be who I like,” she sings on “Coming into Powers.”
Certain cutout characters embody the sounds of the album, personifying Dupuis’s connection to her work. The alien character represents the celestial, and Galaga-fire tones loop throughout the album. Her signature witch costume — possibly embodying the “Speedy Ortiz Warlock” she mentions in her Twitter bio — is what Dupuis must have worn while recording “Fixina;” the title sounds like a hex and, fittingly, its lyrics reference cauldrons. On Twitter Dupuis decribed her songwriting process: “I wrote ‘Slugger’ when I was very optomisitc — writing change and progress into an album felt prescriptive and soothing, like casting a spell.”
One character referenced on the album that doesn’t have a correlating paper outfit is Krampus, the half-goat, half-demon Alpine folklore character who punishes kids on Christmas. “Here we go a-wassling, assaulting what was right,” begins “Krampus (In Love),” referencing mulled drinks alongside mulled social norm intervention — a testament to Dupuis’ creatively poetic lyricism. Such linguistic backflips are no surprise, given that she graduated with an MFA in poetry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
“Slugger” is a personal album with a universal call-to-action. “A lot of these songs are me feeling like I’ve never heard a song specifically about this subject that I’m experiencing in my own life right now,” Dupuis told Fader in a recent interview. “Time for someone to make one, and it’s me.”
“Tell U What” addresses Dupuis’ abusive past relationship (“Your life’s so full of fits / You don’t get to have me in it / You just throw me round like trash when I’m worth every dime you have”) and “Just a Friend” is a direct clap-back to Biz Markie’s 1989 track of the same name (“If you got a girl who’s got a friend, then you should just believe”). “Get a Yes” is a catchy reminder that there are no blurred lines around consent (“I only cross a line if I wanna / If you want to, you’ve gotta get a yes / You’re the one I want if you want me too”) and “Line Up” addresses sexism in the music industry and beyond (“They let in every boy but I’m the only girl in sight / I’m only busting out if I break out of my cellblock / Only passing go if I distribute the wealth”).
The albums’ lyrics are effective, inclusive statements needed in today’s pop music and Dupuis has extended their reach into the physical space by setting up a hotline at her shows to ensure audiences’ safety.
Dupuis produced the entire album herself, experimenting with smooching buzzes and electronic gargles on tracks like the aforementioned “Fixina.” “Fixina” and “Krampus (In Love)” feature her signature self-echo vocal effect, and track “Line Up” channels Speedy Ortiz’s jagged punk stylings, resulting in a wonderfully poignant falsetto cast in conflict against enthralling noise. Overall, Dupuis’ messaging on “Slugger” is clearer than ever — direct statements flow through shiny synths.
The album’s final tracks work in tandem to convene and assemble. “Hype” calls out the rhetoric surrounding “girl drama” and catfights; Dupuis anchors the song with incisive digs like “Claws protracted, but we’re not scratching / We boost each other up / ‘Cause I just wanna hype my best friends, man.” “Coming into Powers” boasts the sole vocal feature on the record, courtesy of female indie rapper Sammus; fittingly, it functions as an equal-pay-demanding, self-acceptance climax.
“I build the me I want,” Dupuis sings in catharsis — effectively cutting out the costumes she illustrated from their paper constraints and passing them out to empower her inclusive crew. Somehow, Dupuis has managed to craft a record with the same spirit as her gender-defiant chain of handholding paper dolls while altogether transcending the two-dimensional.
Tracks: “Fixina,” “Get a Yes,” “Just a Friend”
Artists: Speedy Ortiz, Carly Rae Jepsen, Charli XCX
Label: Carpark Records