ShadowMANcer: Dorian Electra’s Hyper Pop Pandemonium at El Rey
Dorian Electra has been one of the hottest tickets in town ever since their 2019 album Flamboyant introduced them to the world as a satirical songstress, non-binary clown, voice for voiceless misfits, and hyper pop visionary. Between then and now, the pandemic severed any chance to see them perform live but for a small handful of shows that I kept on missing. Dorian then released My Agenda in 2020 and all bets were off. Dorian was no longer an underground sensation, they were a pop icon in the making. Canoodling with the likes of Charli XCX, The Village People, The Garden, Grimes and Pussy Riot on tracks and live, they sticking to their roots as they ascend the ladder. In other words, if Dorian wins and goes all the way, they’re taking the underground up with them.
For this, the My Agenda Tour, Dorian was playing a parody of a villain that embodied in them the right wing’s biggest boogie man, some kind of hidden puppeteer hellbent on turning the world gay. Dorian, who’s purpose as an artist is to challenge comfort zones and expand boundaries, was ready to wage war.
As a music blogger delving into the many undergrounds of LA, I considered Dorian an essential subject of analysis, not just to understand hyper pop but art in general. What Dorian has done with character and persona is something few other artists have the genius to pull off so brilliantly. Being a non-binary clown is a gimmick, yes but Dorian’s is one of the best executed gimmicks in music. Dorian is hyper pop’s Undertaker. Or perhaps they’d appreciate being likened to another clown, Alice Cooper, more.
Coming from Russian descent, the land of philosopher-clown, Slava Polunin, I have more exposure than most to clowning as poetry (as opposed to schlock). Clowning has helped Dorian invent a persona to make social commentary on social constructs using movement, song, makeup, wardrobe, satire, comedy, and tragedy. A good clown has many dimensions–Dorian’s dark side, their ‘villainy’, the side of them that wields a sword and sings “F the World”, it’s who audiences were introduced to on the “My Agenda” tour. Then as Dorian’s set deepens, climaxes and resolves you see their comic side (their light), uplift an often misunderstood community with humor, joy and sex. Then by the show’s end, you see Dorian’s soft side, Pagliacci’s lament, with a song like “Man to Man”, where vulnerability and love ultimately win the day after the smoke has cleared and all their fighting has exhausted our favorite sword-wielding villain-clown.
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The first act of the night was Death Tour, a heavy trap group with live drums that ripped through the early turnout with a shockingly loud assault on the senses. Every listener released their anger so long as they were present in the moment. Their set was so savage it self-destructed and ended with the drum kit floating around the audience, dismantled by the hungry crowd.
Lil Mariko gave us glitter and growls with catchy songs that caught the El Rey off-guard. She would start a song singing the sweetest trap odes to youth and femininity only to start screaming so hard it made the stage quake. The more savage she was, the more the audience crawled into the palm of her hand, until all the straight guys were singing about glitter and clits.
As the cultural moment slips more and more out of the hands of millennials and the vibe shift makes a full rotation for Gen Z’s art to lead us through these coming dark ages, Dorian will only become a voice people find answers in via their art. You can sense, how this new generation is setting the tone. They’re darker, appreciate subtle humor and they don’t need giant, out of touch media platforms to get their message everywhere. DIY psychology has never been more ingrained into people’s minds.
Embracing their Jungian shadow, all the dark and brooding energy inside Dorian Electra gets released in sonic waves of bombastic hyper pop noise and strobes. From subverting gender roles and furry play to BDSM ballads about showing gratitude for your punishment, Dorian is a generation’s spirit animal for the Euphoria-age. And yet, like a master director of opera or cinema, Dorian’s setlist leads the audience through highs and lows, playing us like a fiddle, so after hearing a block of songs meant to purge our baggage, the set ends with a plea for vulnerability. “Man to Man”, one of Dorian’s calling cards, calls the audience to lay down their arms, not put up their dukes. After a set of songs off My Agenda pumping the audience up to wage war against old systems, Flamboyant‘s “Man to Man” isn’t a reversion to Dorian’s old, less angry state of mind. Or even a change of heart. I take it as the shows resolution, that in the end we’re here to make love, not war; even when you have to make war to change the world. At the end of the day, Dorian is a lover first, fighter second. Right? Even when Dorian fights, they fight for love. War is exhausting, after all. We’re only here for a short time, aren’t we?
But then, before the show could end on this note, darkness befell El Rey…until finally, an encore. Featuring a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Replay” and “Career Boy”, these final moments reaffirmed Dorian as the next incarnation of pop star. Unlike pop artists before them, Dorian pushes more boundaries of sexuality and language. More than Madonna even did. Not because culture and society are more nihilistic and cynical, (though it’s possible) but more likely because you can’t change the world being polite.
Words by: Rob Shepyer
Photos by: Erika Reinsel