The fact that Speedy Ortiz frontdemon Sadie Dupuis has emerged this year as a pastel-trussed popster named Sad13 shouldn’t be much of a shock to anyone. Openly speaking of her Nicki Minaj idolatry, collaborating on a track with Lizzo, and penning Speedy Ortiz’s Kelis moment, the thumping “Puffer”, from last year’s excellent Foil Deer LP, Dupuis has built a discernible bridge to this point over the past year.
Ever the wry paradox, Dupuis’s pop name founds her persona from the ground up. Same as her Twitter and Instagram handles – and, therefore, a deeper manifestation of her identity than a newly christened moniker would be – Sad13 is both a corny, charming stylization of her first name on one hand or (and?) a compounded superstitious Debbie Downer on the other.
In her own words, Dupuis seeks to use Slugger as an affront to the male-originated, wolf-on-the-prowl construct of sexual politics, but also as a reframing of the woman’s perspective of the same in response to the Britney and Xtina-led pop of Dupuis’s formative years. Lead single, “Get A Yes,” is the prime vehicle for Dupuis’s thesis – her and her album’s mission statement where the woman initiates and takes control of a relationship’s sexual progression clearly and fairly piloting the proceedings based on her consent. Relative to Dupuis's Speedy Ortiz lyrical labyrinths, Slugger is refreshingly clear and unambiguous, sure to quell any chotch-thought of women as "confusing" or "mysterious".
Dupuis’s expresses Slugger’s core message of relationship equity (“< 2”, “Devil In U”) and imperative insistence on respecting and listening to (i.e. not simply hearing) women (“Get A Yes”, “Tell U What”) in terms so embarrassingly elementary, it quickly becomes clear that rape culture, misogyny, and chauvinism are hardly down to guys being so lunk-headed and basic that they can’t read a woman properly; it’s because these are messages guys have learned not to want to hear.
Case in point, having spent my music fandom formative years dining on fare dished out from skinny, bell-bottomed white boys seeking to satisfy their sexual hungers with charcuterie plates of groupies, I initially found Slugger’s adamant delivery of its themes heavy-handed and pitifully realized that was fully my problem, not Dupuis’s or Slugger’s. For Yours Truly, it was an illustration of exactly what Dupuis seeks to reverse – the desensitivity that we’ve developed over decades of consuming the destructive views of personal relationships presented to us in song.
It’s certainly a knee-jerk reaction to profess Slugger as a feminist pop album, but even that is illustrative of the problem Dupuis seeks to resolve. The consent-as-mandatory ethos of “Get A Yes” and directive to not falsely assume male and female besties are banging in “Just A Friend” aren’t feminist sense, they’re plain, old common sense. But beyond these ground rules, Dupuis digs into deeper biases – that a woman guarding and guiding her own sexual path in a relationship hardly means she enjoys sex any less (“The Sting”s chorus of “you don’t know / how I like to say ‘yes’”) and “Get A Yes” imagery of “burning every other bridge” leading up to sexual consent to convey the gravity that anyone can grasp when it comes to running the bases of a relationship, not just married Republicans wanting to lock contraceptives down in Fort Knox.
For many a Speedy Ortiz fan (count me as one) that will likely be first to approach Slugger, the album's laptop pop sound may come off as light and intangible compared to Speedy's dense, kinetic energy. While Dupuis’s intention of offering her instructive platter up as a pop dish is admirable, its lo-fi ambience perhaps delivers its topical importance too modestly, though much of this is assuaged by Dupuis’s undeniable knack for hooks and the fact that her singing voice truly surpasses the average pop star. Furthermore, while Dupuis has rightfully asserted that Slugger should serve as a sexually political counterpoint to those infamous blurred lines or as a clear answer to the question, "what do you mean?", one wonders if the rock arena that Speedy Ortiz typically serves isn’t more want for its messages.
Regardless, Dupuis’s credo on Slugger is so simply, yet still colorfully, stated and essential that flash-drive copies of Slugger should accompany all high school freshman Health class textbooks. Yes, even confidence-starved freshmen could use a little "lick my asshole" mindset on top of everything else Slugger has to offer. As cobwebbed as my brain became – and still is – from all the implicit and ill-conceived sexual viewpoints I was fed through puberty and beyond, being a parent myself now has made me far more clear-eyed and vigilant to clear those same cobwebs from my kids’ brain, and I’m happy to have Slugger to help me hammer that home, especially for when I inevitably become too uncool for them to listen to.