Lauren Devine is more than just a little ready to be a pop star. “That’s how the whole thing started!” the glamour gurl exclaims when I ask my most fawning question: If this song blows up, which it should, are you ready to be a star?
The song in question, Try Sexual, Devine’s fourth release, is a club pumping hit with deep thrust breakdowns and sexy sing-alongs. The track’s lusty lyrics (“Not afraid to try new things, and if you like it, you’re taking me home”) pervaded my hottest, messiest August, and so I approached Devine for an interview. A couple days later, she’s taking me home.
Late August 2013: Devine’s big Bedwick basement bedroom is empty save for one chair, a sound system, and lighting—a baseboard of soft-colored LED lights that shift tones like Turrell’s Guggenheim atrium. She’s just moved in. Immediately comfortable in the welcoming presence of this buoyant figure, I sprawl on the floor. Devine takes the chair.
“I’m totally ready,” she jumps on my opening question, “I’m sooo ready.” That’s how the whole thing started: two years ago, Devine’s good friend, David Toro, made an offhand comment that the fabulous Devine, then working in fashion was, “totally ready to be a pop star, or, at least, just a little ready. And then that became my first single, Just A Little Ready. I wasn’t even thinking about making music before then.”
A veritable pop hit, Just A Little Ready dropped in early 2012 with a video directed by artist/comic Casey Jane Ellison. The video—glamour shots abound—is an amateurish homage to the best of blond ambition past (Madge, Mariah, and “it always comes back to” Britney) twisted with maybe-irony and definitely-MDMA. “It’s chemicals deep down inside,” repeats one refrain and that’s how the track makes you feel: body high.
Devine followed Just A Little Ready up with This Is How We Do Dubai:
Like the dessert missed the rain
Well Devine is back
And I’m taking you all
To my favorite Emirate
Then came Luv U Far, a “club grunty (country-grunge)” ballad about modern mediated long-d relationships. Devine’s latest single, Try Sexual, may be her most ambitious yet. Sampling from Amber’s 1999 hit Sexual (li da di), Try Sexual posits a new orientation based not on identity so much as practice. The song, produced by burqa and featuring Adaron and Nightfeelings, is like an antithesis to RiRi’s We Found Love, while the video, directed Anthony Valdez, looks like a Blendr orgy of Britney’s Slave 4 U and Steve McQueen’s Shame but with #noregrets.
Because of the referential nature of both Devine’s songs and videos, some have read her project as parody. Others have written her up as a performance artist; Devine regularly collaborates with young art stars like Ryan Trecartin and the team at DIS. Devine isn’t crazy about either label. She would love to see her Top 40 inspired pop songs climb the charts. Live for the applause, work bitch, she can’t stop—Lauren Devine is triple-O sooo ready to be a star.
What does Try Sexual mean?
It’s all in the lyrics but I’d say the main vibe is being about the “why not?” life. This is something I’ve been really feeling lately. You know, when I was in middle school, if you were a freak, you’d be like “I’m bi!” Now there seems to be this endless plethora of ways to be sexual. Identity doesn’t matter as much. I feel like sexuality is becoming less politicized and so we’re getting back to the real essence of sex, which is fun and pleasure. Try Sexual about having a positive attitude.
And about acting on that attitude—try is a verb, bi is a statement.
Right. My favorite kind of bisexual, and they might not even call themselves bisexual, are people who are bi in a personal trainer vibe. Like, they’re really into working out and perfecting themselves and because they are becoming what they think is their ideal form of self, they get this extreme narcissism that bleeds into their sexuality and they become bisexual or “try sexual.”
I think I know what you mean. Seeing yourself as sexual object as well as a subject, you become super sexual.
You fetishize yourself. And if there are other people who are like that and they start paying attention—
It’s like two facing mirrors!
Yeah, that pumps your sexuality. I call it “narcissistic try sexuality.” I think this mode has a lot to do with our branding culture, our Instagramming culture. Everyone’s doing it!
That reminds me of all of the glamour shots in your video Luv U Far, which is a song ostensibly about a long distance relationship but really it’s about your relationship with your own image.
Exactly. I was definitely playing with that with Luv U Far, which is about a long-distance relationship that maybe you created all by yourself. Maybe it doesn’t even really exist? Maybe you’re grooming yourself for that imaginary perfect person? I was talking to my friend about Skype last week and I was like, “you know when you drag the box to be—
Right in the center of their forehead!
So it looks like you’re looking right at them.
You’re their third eye.
That is Luv U Far. I’m putting myself as their Skype bindee and I am totally letting them believe I’m engaging with them but I’m actually pumping myself up. I love all that weird stuff. I’m not mocking it. I’m recognizing it as something people do.
I love all your videos. They seem so essential to the music. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: if you make a really iconic music video, that song gets fixed to the imagery in the video. Like, I can’t hear …Baby One More Time without picturing schoolgirl Britney, and so the music becomes this visual form. Your work does this really well.
I think that’s why often people will talk about me in a performance artist context. I don’t see myself that way but I can see why people do. I work really conceptually, like I’ll work really genre specifically and include all those references in the video.
Your videos are totally pop referential. And there’s an authenticity to them. Like if someone just stumbled across Luv U Far, they might not be able to tell if it’s sincere or…
I know why people say that and it’s been kind of a point of contention for me. My goal with the whole project—with the music and the videos—is to go undetected, so if you heard it or saw it in a context where you would normally hear this kind of Top 40 pop music, you wouldn’t have those questions of “is this ironic? or who is this person?” I’m constantly striving to be undetectable.
Do you approach every song as a single? They’re all such hits.
Everything is supposed to be a hit, a song that captures a moment. I only think in terms of singles. Or like ringtones. If I could come up with a perfect 10 second clip, I wouldn’t even push it further than that. I would just release that.