Gender-fluid electropop artist Addison XIV is all about “obsessive love” in their bouncy, sugary new EP S.H.O.U.J.O., which premieres today. The four-track EP includes tracks appropriate both for the club and for crying in your room, and touches on being in love, being in love with love, being “treated like a girl,” and even a disdain for canines.
S.H.O.U.J.O. includes “WHeN i SeE yR FaCE,” a high-energy but sad track with a groovy bassline that appeared on The Culture Whore’s annual mixtape earlier this year. It’s not the only catchy song on the EP by any means; they all have their earworm qualities, from the repeated spelling in the title track to the memorable lyrics of opener “I Don’t Like Dogs.” The EP’s production recalls a variety of flavors, from ’80s R&B and ’90s pop to “happy hardcore” electronic music, video game theme songs, and J-pop.
Addison produced, recorded, and mixed all the songs on S.H.O.U.J.O., utilizing the program Logic 9 in their Ridgewood bedroom. One of the ’90s-era samplers used was outfitted with a “dance expansion card” featuring beats and sounds used by Swedish songwriter and producer Max Martin in many of his Y2K hits. “So when you hear a piano sound that sounds like it’s from a Britney Spears record,” Addison says, “It’s because it is the piano sound from a Britney Spears record.”
It wasn’t an entirely solo effort: Andrew Nerviano of Brooklyn label Sweat Equity mastered the EP, and “I Don’t Like Dogs,” one of the EP’s bounciest and most initially strange songs, was born from lyrics Addison’s friend Moon Temple came up with one day.
“She was just literally writing about how sick she was of people expecting her to like dogs, but I looked at it and was like, ‘This sounds like it’s about boys.’” The song was completed later that night.
The EP’s title comes from a genre of Japanese anime/manga that Addison grew up reading. Shoujo largely features “magical girl” tropes and images of lovesick or dramatic young women, mostly aimed at a female readership.
Noticing Addison’s heavy use of Japanese influences in the EP’s branding, including Japanese “transliterations” of the song titles and a photo portrait taken in a Japanese Purikura photo booth at the Chinatown Fair, I wonder if the musician actually speaks or reads the language. Aside from just growing up loving Japanese games like Final Fantasy and shoujo manga, Addison says they can read the Hiragana and Katakana scripts, but not the more complex Kanji characters, and can speak it at a conversational level. Still, I ask if there’s ever been any accusations of cultural appropriation.
“Not yet! I think, though, specifically with Japanese culture, it’s kind of difficult to make a case for cultural appropriation because it’s also an imperialist nation and it appropriated a large part of its own culture. Part of the genius of Japan is that it takes these concepts from other cultures it bumps into, processes them, and then spits them back out in this really idiosyncratic, uniquely Japanese way,” Addison says. “And I’ve tried to be true to that spirit because I’m not dressing up and pretending to be Japanese, I’m taking the concepts from Japanese media I grew up with and putting my own very American, very English-speaking internet, very New York spin on it.”
Addison adds that in a discussion for a music video concept for the title track someone suggested using “a silent Japanese girl in the background scattering cherry blossoms,” which was dismissed as “an instant no.”
“That’s not even really about Japan or inspired by Japanese culture,” Addison explains. “That’s an American stereotype of Asian women as quiet and subservient and exotic, and I’m not going to be part of helping that stay in place.”
Tonight, Addison will be performing at nightlife empress Susanne Bartsch’s BOOM! party at The Standard, alongside names like burlesque performer Dirty Martini and drag queen musician Kevin Aviance. In an interesting twist, last year Addison released a song called “Susanne Bartsch,” written from “the gossip [Addison had] heard people talk about her in between desperately conniving to see if she would hire them,” and often performed it around the New York nightlife circuit.
“For me, getting into nightlife was kind of a performance art project, and the ultimate goal of that project was to have that song get so popular that she’d have to book me at her party and I’d be up on stage simultaneously condemning and celebrating the ludicrous nature of New York nightlife in front of all the people who put me there.”
Now that Addison has technically accomplished this goal, I asked what still drives them to make pop music in today’s uncertain political climate.
“It’s my only employable skill.”