The ‘Drag Race’ star is pushing the boundaries of drag in the best way
Thanks to the astronomical sensation that is the empire of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag stars have become household names over the years. Every season of all of the drag competition’s numerous iterations brings forth a crop of Ru’s girls for *the culture* to feast on. Many drag performers, who otherwise would have existed in obscurity or been pigeonholed into regional drag circuits, have had their careers enlivened by their time on the show. It takes a certain star factor, though. Not every queen who graces the show leaves with endorsement deals, millions of social media followers and national tours. You still have to stand out amongst the glittery fray. And no queen has sissy’d that walk quite like Trixie Mattel.
One of the many scourges of show business is trying to nail the ephemeral goal of staying power. It gets harder and harder as our digital world opens up more portals to become the next big thing. Yet somehow, Trixie Mattel has managed — despite massive competition in the field and new drag stars popping up every day to be the new gag of tomorrow, sis — to not just endure, but evolve into her own kind of drag superstar. After competing on the seventh season of Drag Race and winning the even more coveted crown on the third season of All Stars, Mattel began something not many drag queens can claim: an earnest singing career.
Trixie grabbed on tightly to the rocketship of her own fame after winning All Stars, and quickly established herself as more than just a drag artist. With her iconic contour and 1960’s-era Dolly Parton silhouette and wigs, Mattel saw an opening to insert herself into the niche country folk genre with her first studio album Two Birds in 2017. The subsequent One Stone in 2018 was a sonic sister album, and both charted at no. 16 on the Billboard folk charts. 2020’s Barbara saw Mattel turn to a more Nancy Sinatra sort of retro vibe, and embrace pop while coming off of the hype of the 2019 documentary Moving Parts, which showcased Mattel’s triumphs in unlikely arenas of success as a crossover musician.
Now, on her new single “Hello, Hello,” Mattel seems to be once again transcending the boxes she’s been placed in. The song is reminiscent of the kind of grunge, meets garage, meets surf rock that ruled alternative stations in the early aughts. Bands like Jet, OK Go, Caesars and The Strokes all come to mind — somewhat ironically — when listening to it. Speaking on her new Go Go-esque vibe, Mattel told Esquire, “"I was very inspired by Fosse’s Sweet Charity, Gwen Verdon in Mexican Breakfast, and the TV show Hullabaloo." The video was choreographed by fellow Drag Race alum, Laganja Estranja. "I wanted to spend all my time and money on the dancing so the styling and shooting was all very clean and minimal to feature the movement,” she continued.
But the minimalism also allows for the song to stand out. Part of the audio appeal of “Hello, Hello” is that Mattel is letting her more tenor voice contrast a bouncy new wave accompaniment. This new era of Trixie Mattel seems to see the artist truly stepping into her own sound, without having to adorn any trivial campiness just because she’s also a drag queen. It’s an exciting new flavor from an artist we’d grown to only expect a certain sound and aesthetic from — and this is perhaps a jumping off point for Mattel to sonically enter a new stratosphere and compete alongside bigger musical heavy weights on the charts. After all, competition is where it all began for Trixie Mattel in the first place, and this new single proves she’s far from one-note.