Culture Music

Incels, gamers, and gay pride – a review of My Agenda by Dorian Electra

CW: explicit discussion of sex and sexual themes, homophobia

Late on a spring night, I was on a usual early-hours YouTube perusing session when the music video for ‘Flamboyant’ by Dorian Electra appeared in my recommended feed. Drawn in by the thumbnail, I proceeded to watch the video, and I remember crying about halfway through.

This was a time when I was coming to terms with my own sexuality, and seeing Electra dressed up in various ‘flamboyant’ and gender-crushing outfits whilst proudly declaring “I’m flamboyant/I go all the way” played a not-insignificant part in cementing my own queer identity.

It is therefore safe to say that Electra holds a special place in my heart, and their 2019 album Flamboyant was hugely important to me. Their production is perhaps reflective of Electra’s own gender identity: their vocal manipulation which changes the gender presentation of their voice reflects the fluidity of their own gender, as explored by Max Schaffer in depth here.

Thematically, Electra’s debut album is a ruthless deconstruction of modern masculinity, exploring everything from the homoeroticism of fighting in ‘Man to Man’ to sugar daddies in ‘Daddy Like’. It is no surprise that they continue exploring these themes on My Agenda, but in a far more cynical manner.

Whereas Flamboyant is more coy with its wordplay, My Agenda is unashamedly queer and cynical of masculinity. The album opens with ‘F The World’, an expression of frustration with society at large which dances around various genres: from trance and hip-hop to dubstep and jungle.

This is followed by the pride anthem ‘My Agenda’ featuring giants of gay music: Pussy Riot and The Village People. The title track is a mocking of the homophobic idea of “the gay agenda”, embodying this conspiracy theory to mock it. Electra makes a clear nod to Alex Jones’ homophobic conspiracy theories with the closing line “we’re out here turning frogs homosexual”.

From this point on, the album shifts focus from the queer experience to an in-depth look into gamer and incel (so-called ‘involuntary celibates’) culture, with the tracks ‘Gentleman’and ‘M’Lady’. For those not in the know, incels are straight men who have trouble finding a woman to date, and blame this problem on society and women as a group, leading to a misogynistic worldview.

In the first, Electra rips to pieces the incel’s notion of a “gentleman”, an honourable man deserving of a relationship and sex with a woman. With the comedic MIDI saxophone, and the hilarious music video featuring Electra donning a fedora and sword, they make a laughingstock of these “nice guys”.

The follow-up, ‘M’Lady’, continues this exploration through looking at the fictional woman. Electra attacks this misogynistic idealising with lines such as “M’lady has style/And a very small waist”, and notes the internal contradictions: “M’lady is chaste/M’lady’s a whore”. They explicitly state this is merely a fantasy with the line “M’lady can’t find her/M’lady’s not real.” These songs are a necessary, aggressive satire of the resurging incel culture prevalent among gamers, which Electra acknowledges with Mountain Dew, Doritos and games consoles in the music video for ‘M’Lady’.

The track ‘Edgelord’ continues this, looking at how incels behave online by getting joy from offending others, and attacking women that refuse to date them. It also features the unlikely Rebecca Black, whose verse is possibly a retaliation against the interactions she had with critics of her well-known song ‘Friday’.

Electra follows these up with a few other tracks that, in their exploration of masculinity, could have fit equally well in the tracklist of Flamboyant. The songs ‘Give Great Thanks’and ‘Barbie Boy’ are a description of the experience of a masculine “sub” in BDSM play, with some arguing the former could also be read as submission to an authoritative state.

‘Sorry Bro (I Love You)’ is an adorable track exploring similar themes to ‘Man to Man’. It could be read as a genuine confession of love between two male friends, or as a commentary on how men are not “allowed” to express friend-like love for fear of being seen as gay. Electra acknowledges this in the line, “That’s why I’m singing man ‘cos I want you to know, bro, no homo”. The cutesy lyrics are matched by the upbeat production of Dylan Brady.

This album is, in the great tradition of hyperpop and PC music, a huge collection of genres, not to mention of artists. This album includes, among others: trans rapper Quay Dash, The Village People, Pussy Riot, and the antifascist black metal band Gaylord.

Nowhere is this put to greater effect than in the penultimate track, ‘Ram It Down’, which features hardcore and gabber producer Lil Texas, and vocalist Lil Mariko, whom you might remember from the meme song, ‘Where’s My Juul?’ The song is an extended metaphor: Electra examines the classic homophobic line, “Hey, man, love who you want/But just don’t ram it down my throat”, commonly used to bat away accusations of homophobia but indicating bigotry. Electra uses this phrase and takes it to mean something very different. Through this genius innuendo, they create a character who is outwardly homophobic, but has internal repressed homosexual desires. These seep through in lines such as, “Shove it/I love it/I want it/Please ram it down!” Throughout the song, the lyrics constantly switch between the character not wanting “rainbows in my face”, and desperately “[wanting] it”.

My Agenda is a continuation of the themes explored in Flamboyant, looking specifically at the dangerous fantasies of incels and doubling down on angry LGBTQ+ pride. Its production communicates the messages in the songs, and often used to great comedic effect, as done previously in their track ‘Musical Genius’. The album puts queer sex and love at the foreground and asserts these are beautiful things that should be out in the open.

In just over twenty minutes, Dorian Electra packs in a large amount of societal commentary and varied genre exploration. This album, entirely a product of lockdown and social distancing, is highly exciting for the rest of their career.