From the tasty flows of ‘Watermelon Bubblegum’ to the BLM rallying cry of ‘Karen,’ Yvie Oddly – ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’s season 11 winner – gives HL an EXCLUSIVE track-by-track look at her new album.
One of Dolly Parton’s enduring words of wisdom states that “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap,” but drag performer Yvie Oddly has offered a unique counterpoint from the very moment she was crowned the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. The season 11 queen supreme christened her victory by dropping “Dolla Store,” a trap-banger that proclaims the positivity of penny-pinching while championing the charm of cheap. This “sickening spendthrift spirit” surges on “Drag Trap,” the title track to her new full-length album.
“There is nothing more dreadfully boring to me than seeing a drag performer in a luxuriously expensive look that has absolutely nothing to do with/say about themself or the way they view the world,” Yvie Oddly says while talking with HollywoodLife over email. She was on the road as part of Drive N’ Drag’s Halloween edition, a five-city, 10-date socially distant drag show extravaganza featuring Asia O’Hara, Aquaria, Kameron Michaels, Kim Chi, Violet Chachki, and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo (the latter of which pops up on Drag Trap, on “Hype.”)
Drag Trap is an enthralling romp of an album, one that brings the beat, sex, humor, and plenty of hot glue. As an album, it’s as creatively dynamic as Yvie herself, and that’s most evident on “Karen.” A righteous takedown of American white supremacy, Yvie – or, Jovan Bridges – unleashes the pain and fury of seeing so many Black and brown men and women killed in America.
Yvie spoke with HollywoodLife about each track on Drag Trap, including the moment she knew she had to write “Karen”) and the decision with including it on the album. She also talks about how Drag Trap provides an “authentic” look into her life and the potential drag version of Watch The Thrones.
HollywoodLife: The rest of the questions are in sequence to the tracklisting on Drag Trap, but “Karen” is a standout on the album that deserves attention. Do you remember the moment that you knew you had to write this song?
Yvie: I do, in fact. It was the moment that George Floyd was murdered. From then on, I realized I could no longer deal with well-meaning “allies” who refused to do the work it takes to live up to that title.
Within the Yvie Oddly technicolor fantasy constructed on Drag Trap, “Karen” does pull back the curtain, so to speak, to remind the listeners that you are Black. And that this country has been systematically oppressing and kill Black men and women for centuries. Were there any concerns about including this song on the album? Like, that it would be too jarring? Was there any talk about releasing it as a standalone single, or was it always going to be a part of Drag Trap?
I had my concerns with putting “Karen” on Drag Trap. The majority of the album was written from this playful drag perspective, and Karen is a serious intentional departure from that. But I realized for it to make the impact I wanted, it would have to be nestled in with all the fun parts, so that it IS jarring. The reality of the subject matter itself is jarring.
The message on “Karen” can’t be any clearer, but is there anything additional you want to say to our readers?
Try harder, do better, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way. Because the only true mistake is believing our work is done.
There’s a sincere message about making drag treasure out of trash (or “hot shit out of hot glue”) in “Drag Trap.” It also hits like the spiritual successor to “Dolla Store.” One year and $100,000 (before taxes) after winning Drag Race, why do you feel so committed to this celebration of exquisite cheapness?
If I seem committed to celebrating thriftiness, it’s because the world seems committed to celebrating richness and all of the boring old tropes that come with it. There is nothing more dreadfully boring to me than seeing a drag performer in a luxuriously expensive look that has absolutely nothing to do with/ say about themself or the way they view the world.
The beat for “Chicken Dinner” has an ethereal, haunted vibe, and there’s an element of spookiness throughout Drag Trap’s production. Was that intentional, or was that just a byproduct of your naturally supernatural aesthetic?
I’ve gotten feedback about my art being dark, strange, and disturbing–no matter what the medium–for as long as I’ve been an artist. It’s never really been my intent to be so macabre as much as it’s just what captivates me. I remember my nightmares more vividly than I’ll ever recall my dreams, and I want to entrance my audience in the same way.
I mean this as a sincere compliment, but “Hype” could be massive on TikTok. Did you consider that at all when making this song or others on the album?
I probably should have! I wrote a good deal of the album back when I thought I might get to hear some of it played at the clubs, so there are definitely some elements tailored to be experienced in that fashion. Mostly I just wanted to make music that I like listening to.
Also, this is another collab with Vanessa Vanjie Mateo. Are we going to get the Drag Race version of Watch The Throne from you two?
We’re calling it “Clock The Crownz”! It’s 12 tracks all about stealing your men and people who pronounce “crayons” incorrectly.
“Watermelon Bubblegum” is an impressive display of your flow and elocution. Who would you say have been the biggest influences on your rapping style? And this song has some bars – are there any lines you’re particularly proud of?
Stylistically a lot comes from Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Wayne since they were the biggest names in the game when I was first exploring my love for rapping. That being said, I pay homage to all sorts of influences with my flows on this album–from classics like The Notorious B.I.G. and Missy Elliott to some of my favorite modern artists like Tyler, The Creator, Tierra Whack, and Lil’ Peep.
As far as my favorite line: “I’m the hot pepper peter piper picked, cuz I’m picante, pick apart any plan. Pick a hand, either hand: upper hand! You pick wrong? Pick again! Peek-a-boo, peek at you, picture this pickle too: pick a friend, pick a crew, pick a place, pick a view.” Because that was the biggest tongue twister I’ve ever written, and I delivered it all in one breath (after months of practice.)
Are you ready to be swamped with packets of watermelon Bubblicious from your fans?
It’s going to be the new BBQ Lays that I kept getting after dropping “Dolla $tore.” And thank god because I actually LIKE watermelon flavored bubblegum.
“I’ll f-ck a fan / but if you try an’ talk about Drag Race / your ass will get blocked.” Literally laughed out loud at this line, which I assume is autobiographical?
I meaaaaaaan…I’ll just say that if you see me on a hookup app, it’s probably because I’m there to fulfill that purpose first. Like at least save the super stanning/hate for the pillow talk AFTER you’ve seen me “perform” live.
The beat has some heat to it. Were you looking to make a song that makes ‘em sweat in the club?
That was precisely my goal! When writing this, I pictured being in the middle of a packed, sweaty dance floor (in Brazil) when suddenly they hear the “bloop” and every queer in a mile radius checks their phones.
Your battles with Hypermobile Ehlers–Danlos syndrome were documented on Drag Race, and you flip the script by turning your sickness into “sickening, no?” on “Sick Bitch.” Were you going for an anthem for those dealing with chronic conditions? Also, when did you write this? That coronavirus line was pretty damn..well…sick.
I actually began writing this song last year with my friend, Willow Pill, because we both live with chronic illness. We wanted to write something that would act as a parody to the tropes of this “sick” or cool young rapper, and something that was also an anthem for people living with chronic illness and invisible disabilities. But that line–like so much on this album–was a sassy rewrite. I like to go back and edit my work up until the moment I deliver it.
“Gigging” / “Take A Nap”
By nature, drag performers are these larger-than-life characters that exist on the level of rock/rap stars. Yet, in “Gigging” – in both the video and song – you put some lipstick on your blue-collar. And in “Take A Nap,” you create a song about just how working hard leaves you wanting just an hour of shuteye before your next show.
When most music is a celebration of wealth and flawlessness, what was the motivation to make songs about debt and the strain of tour schedules?
If you only ever get one side of the story, then it’s incomplete: a lie. I wanted to write songs that felt authentic to my perspective on the same experiences I know a lot of people simply romanticize. And a major part of my perspective last year involved me silently screaming into the void about how hard I was working, how tired I was, and how alone the growing pains of fame made me feel. Even to this day, there’s so much I could never explain to truly help others understand.
Drag Trap ends with a song that reminds me of what Dr. Octagon might sound like if he was booked for Season 13. This does have a more “overwhelming” feel than the other tracks on the album. Were you going for a more Street Trash meets The Blob meets “the alternate ending to Little Shop of Horrors where Audrey II devours the world” kind of vibe?
This was one of the last songs I wrote for the album, and I did so at a time when I was experiencing some of those aforementioned growing pains AMIDST all of the chaos 2020 brought. I was taking the trash out after a really nasty argument when some garbage juice spilled on me, and I just lost it. I immediately started writing (and shouting) ‘Garbage Juice’ because I needed to acknowledge all of that anger and hopelessness to grow from it. I know it’s a haunting note to end the album on, but that’s because it’s not finished. After we wipe off all the drag fantasy, we realize this scary world IS our reality, and it’s always up to us to write the next song . . . hopefully a brighter one.
Being that you do Halloween practically every time you step on stage, do you feel pressure to deliver something extra on Oct. 31? Or do you see it like every other night now?
Not necessarily Halloween itself as much as the entirety of the spooky season (Labor Day-Thanksgiving). But it’s my favorite holiday, so I’ve always tried to go as extra as possible.
You partnered with Culture Trip to throw a virtual pumpkin carving party (“or two!” as you put it.) Do you carve a pumpkin every year? Is there one design – maybe you created a particularly scary face – that you’re most proud of?
It’s funny because I’m actually not THAT experienced of a pumpkin carver. I used to do it all the time as a kid, but have only done it few times since. I did carve a pretty cool jack o lantern of Gaga as “The Countess” a few years back.
At the start of the month, you kicked off the Halloween edition of the Drive ‘N Drag tour. How has that been?
It’s been a really awesome ride of a show. We’ve performed in the heat, rain, and snow–always delivering fantastic and horrifying thrills along the way. So fans can expect an amazing show to lift their “spirits” and, of course, “killer” drag!
Drag Trap is out now.