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Trixie continues forging new musical vistas on third LP ‘Barbara’

‘Drag Race’ alum eschews formula most show vets embrace



Trixie Mattel, trixie barbara, gay news, Washington Blade
Trixie Mattel’s new album ‘Barbara’ continues her musical experimentation far beyond the scope of the usual ‘Drag Race’ album-cum-recording-artist trajectory. (Photo by Albert Sanchez)

For anyone worried that drag has gone too mainstream, RuPaul hosting “Saturday Night Live” last weekend may well be the nail in the coffin. But now that there is a minimum of one drag queen per public library — or so it seems — the queens are also much less constrained by old stereotypes. Trixie Mattel, whose new album “Barbara” is out this week, is at the forefront of pushing the bounds of what drag queens can do in the mainstream.

RuPaul’s pioneering shadow has long set the tone for the kind of songs drag queens produce. Certainly an artist in his own right, RuPaul’s 1992 hit “Supermodel (You Better Work)” paved the way for later drag queens, largely under the guises of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” who have released music, such as Alaska Thunderfuck, Sharon Needles, Shea Cole, Courtney Act and others. The show serves as testing ground through various musical competitions for new performers, as well as publicity for Ru’s own music. The club-ready, joke-heavy music produced by “Drag Race” contestants could almost be classified as its own genre. Trixie Mattel has opted instead to chart her own path.

As a contestant on season seven of “Drag Race” and winner of season three of “Drag Race All Stars,” she has done an excellent job of marketing herself after her apperances, co-hosting the raucous and consistently hilarious Youtube series “UNHhhh” with fellow “Drag Race” alum Katya. Mattel is currently on an international comedy tour. Most expected, however, was the release of her first album,“Two Birds” (2017), a genuine work of country/folk music that carried her appeal far beyond “Drag Race” devotees. The album is a delightful little folk wonder, which even included a clever Bluegrass song about inclusion: “And I knew that I got lucky/In the bluegrass of Kentucky/But bluegrass, you don’t love me after all.” The following year saw the release of her follow-up, “One Stone,” which only solidified the seriousness of Mattel’s musical endeavors. 

Just as “Two Birds” and “One Stone” were two parts of a single whole, she has divided the new album into an A-side and a B-side. And like the last two, the album length runs just under 25 minutes. With “Barbara,” Mattel turns over a new leaf, venturing into pop-rock with a laid-back ’90s feel for the first half of the short record. The delightfully crisp, catchy tunes buzz from beginning to end at lightning pace and before you know it, you’ve listened to the album three times through.

The lead single and opening track “Malibu” is bouncy, light rock anthem — it’s a beach song that glows with warm nostalgia. It’s something akin to the trick mastered by Ben Folds on his 2001 album “Rockin’ the Suburbs.” Not so far off from Folds’ “Zak and Sara,” Mattel conveys nostalgia, but makes it cheery, swirly, great fun. 

Still on the vibrant, up-tempo side-A, “Jesse Jesse” shows how Mattel’s wit as a drag queen and comedian comes into play in her music. It’s a light rock love anthem for handsome and underrated actor Jesse Eisenberg (“Zombieland,” “The Social Network”). But in the chorus, she turns it into a play on Rick Springfield’s 1981 hit (and straight karaoke favorite) “Jesse’s Girl.” It creates a funny, charming effect that doesn’t detract even slightly from the catchy tune: “Jesse, Jesse, take my hand/You can meet me in Zombieland/You know inside every clam’s a pearl/I could be Jesse’s girl.”

Side B presents us with a softer side of Mattel, something more akin to her previous two albums. But it flows seamlessly with the first half. And it is here that Mattel showcases her storytelling abilities. “Gold” is a beautiful, metaphorical country song about love, with a simple, lovely chorus: “Where do you go when the gold is gone, when the old front lawn’s turning gray?/Will you grow from those cold blood wrongs when those old love songs start to play?” Trixie Mattel is at the top of her game with this album and it’s a wonderful thing to hear.


Music & Concerts

Musical icons and newer stars to rock D.C. this spring

Brandi Carlile, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj, and more headed our way



Brandi Carlile plays the Anthem this month.

Bands and solo artists of all different genres are visiting D.C. this spring. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will team up to perform at the Wolf Trap in June, and girl in red will play at the Anthem in April. Some artists and bands aren’t paying a visit until the summer, like Janet Jackson and Usher, but there are still plenty of acts to see as the weather warms up. 


Brandi Carlile plays at the Anthem on March 21; Arlo Parks will perform at 9:30 Club on March 23; Girlschool will take the stage at Blackcat on March 28.


Nicki Minaj stops in D.C. at Capital One Arena as part of her North American tour on April 1; Bad Bunny plays at Capital One Arena on April 9 as part of his Most Wanted tour; girl in red performs at the Anthem on April 20 and 21; Brandy Clark plays at the Birchmere on April 25; Laufey comes to town to play at the Anthem on April 25 and 26. 


Belle and Sebastian play at the Anthem on May 2; Chastity Belt performs at Blackcat on May 4; Madeleine Peyroux stops at the Birchmere on May 5; The Decemberists play at the Anthem on May 10; the rock band Mannequin Pussy performs at the Atlantis on May 17 and 18; Hozier plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 17 as part of the Unreal Unearth tour. 


Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will sing soulful melodies at Wolf Trap on June 8; Joe Jackson performs at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10; the Pixies and Modest Mouse are teaming up to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 14; Maggie Rogers plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 16 as part of The Don’t Forget Me tour; Brittany Howard headlines the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap on June 22; Sarah McLachlan plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 27; Alanis Morissette performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 29 and 30

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Music & Concerts

Grammys: Queer women and their sisters took down the house

Taylor Swift won Album of the Year



When the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, her answer was simple: Nine. She stated: “I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” RBG did not attend the Grammy’s last night, but her spirit sure did. Women, at long last, dominated, ruled and killed the night.

Cher, in song a decade ago, declared that “this is a woman’s world,” but there was little evidence that was true, Grammy, and entertainment awards, speaking. In 2018, the Grammys were heavily criticized for lack of female representation across all categories and organizers’ response was for women to “step up.”

Be careful what you wish for boys.

The biggest star of the 2024 Grammys was the collective power of women. They made history, they claimed legacy and they danced and lip sang to each other’s work. Standing victorious was Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA (the most nominated person of the year), Lainey Wilson, Karol G, boygenius, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Monét. Oh, yes, and powerhouse Taylor Swift, the superstar from whom Fox News cowers in fear, made history to become the first performer of any gender to win four Best Album of the Year trophies.

In the throng of these powerful women stand a number of both LGBTQ advocates and queer identifying artists. Cyrus has identified as pansexual, SZA has said lesbian rumors “ain’t wrong,” Phoebe Bridgers (winner of four trophies during the night, most of any artist) is lesbian, Monét is bi and Eilish likes women but doesn’t want to talk about it. Plus, ask any queer person about Swift or Minogue and you are likely to get a love-gush.

Women power was not just owned by the lady award winners. There were the ladies and then there were the Legends. The first Legend to appear was a surprise. Country singer Luke Combs has a cross-generational hit this year with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” When originally released, the song was embraced as a lesbian anthem. When performing “Fast Car,” surprise, there was Chapman herself, singing the duet with Combs. The rendition was stunning, sentimental and historic.

Chapman, like many of the night’s female dignitaries, has not been public with her sexuality. Author Alice Walker has spoken of the two of them being lovers, however.

The legend among legends of the night, however, was the one and only Joni Mitchell. Not gay herself, she embodies the concept of an LGBTQ icon, and was accompanied by the very out Brandi Carlile on stage. On her website, Mitchell’s statement to the LGBTQ community reads, “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”

Mitchell performed her longtime classic “Both Sides Now.” The emotion, insight and delivery from the now 80-year old artist, survivor of an aneurism, was nothing short of profound. (To fully appreciate the nuance time can bring, check out the YouTube video of a Swift lookalike Mitchell singing the same song to Mama Cass and Mary Travers in 1969.) In this latest rendition, Mitchell clearly had an impact on Meryl Streep who was sitting in the audience. Talk about the arc of female talent and power.

That arc extended from a today’s lady, Cyrus, to legend Celine Dion as well. Cyrus declared Dion as one of her icons and inspirations early in the evening. Dion appeared, graceful and looking healthy, to present the final, and historic, award of the night at the end of the show.

Legends did not even need to be living to have had an effect on the night. Tributes to Tina Turner and Sinead O’Conner by Oprah, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Annie Lennox respectively, proved that not even death could stop these women. As Lennox has musically and famously put it, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

Even the content of performances by today’s legends-in-the-making spoke to feminine power. Eilish was honored for, and performed “What Was I Made For?,” a haunting and searching song that speaks to the soul of womanhood and redefinition in today’s fight for gender rights and expression, while Dua Lipa laid down the gauntlet for mind blowing performance with her rendition of “Houdini” at the top of the show, Cyrus asserted the power of her anthem “Flowers” and pretty much stole the show.

Cyrus had not performed the song on television before, and only three times publicly. She declared in her intro that she was thrilled over the business numbers the song garnered, but she refused to let them define her. As she sang the hit, she scolded the audience, “you guys act like you don’t know the words to this song.” Soon the woman power of the room was singing along with her, from Swift to Oprah.

They can buy themselves flowers from now on. They don’t need anyone else. Cyrus made that point with the mic drop to cap all mic drops, “And I just won my first Grammy!” she declared as she danced off stage.

Even the squirmiest moment of the night still did not diminish the light of women power, and in fact, underscored it. During his acceptance of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z had a bone to pick with the Grammy voters. He called out the irony that his wife Beyoncé had won more Grammys than any other human, but had never won the Best Album of the Year. Yeah, what’s with that?

But then, it brought additional context ultimately to the fact that the winner of the most Grammys individually … is a woman. And to the fact that the winner of the most Best Album of the Year awards … is a woman.

Hopefully this was the night that the Grammys “got it.” Women are the epicenter of The Creative Force.

Will the other entertainment awards get it soon as well? We can hope.

Most importantly, in a political world where women’s healthcare is under siege. Will the American voters get it?

A little known band named Little Mix put it this way in their 2019 song “A Woman’s World.”

“If you can’t see that it’s gotta change
Only want the body but not the brains
If you really think that’s the way it works
You ain’t lived in a woman’s world

Just look at how far that we’ve got
And don’t think that we’ll ever stop…”

From Grammy’s mouth to the world’s ear.

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson returning to D.C, Baltimore

‘Together Again Tour’ comes to Capital One Arena, CFG Bank Arena



Janet Jackson is coming back to D.C. this summer.

Pop icon Janet Jackson announced this week an extension of her 2023 “Together Again Tour.” A new leg of the tour will bring Jackson back to the area for two shows, one at D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Friday, July 12 and another at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on Saturday, July 13.  

Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster. LiveNation announced the 2023 leg of the tour consisted of 36 shows, each of which was sold out. The 2024 leg has 35 stops planned so far; R&B star Nelly will open for Jackson on the new leg. 

Jackson made the tour announcement Tuesday on social media: “Hey u guys! By popular demand, we’re bringing the Together Again Tour back to North America this summer with special guest Nelly! It’ll be so much fun!”

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