To fans, Trixie Mattel is the raucous winner of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars Season 3. To the government, she's Brian Michael Firkus and, no matter what you call her, she's not just a pretty face: Mattel combines her act with country music that is as touching (and sometimes cheeky) as the best of them.
Mattel grew up in Milwaukee, Wis. and developed an affinity for country music while living with her grandparents. Her grandfather, a country music musician, showed her the ropes. With a flair for the stage, Mattel earned a BFA in musical theater at the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and began her foray into drag.
Her distinctive makeup, warm humor, and sense of fun brought her to Drag Race, and on to creating her own cosmetics company (Trixie Cosmetics) and her debut album Two Birds in 2017 and its 2018 companion album One Stone. Her 2020 album, Barbara, channels surf rock and folk. Having released a double LP, The Blonde & Pink Albums, in January, Mattel has a number of cotton candy pop country songs with an acid bite.
From "Malibu" to "Jackson," here are Trixie Mattel's 10 best country songs, so far:
"Jesse Jesse"From: 'Barbara' (2020)
This pop rocker, off of 2020's Barbara, is a bubbly foot tapper that invokes another '80s hit with a similar title. The narrator innocently invites a crush over, calling to mind bubblegum pop hits of yore about puppy love. It's a fun ride, combining earnestness with cheekiness, acknowledging the novelty of applying these sounds to a gay love story.
"This Town" (ft. Shakey Graves)From: 'The Blonde & Pink Albums' (2022)
When Mattel wants to get serious, though, her lyrics are powerful. "This Town" is an autobiographical glimpse of Mattel's experience growing up repressed and confused in Wisconsin. Mattel doesn't spare the normies around her, pointing to their hypocrisy and narrow-minded views while providing hope for escape for those in a similar situation.
"Malibu"From: 'Barbara' (2020)
In this foot-tapper from Barbara, Mattel turns her satirical gaze to gay culture in LA. Evoking '60s girl groups, Mattel casts her righteous scorn on a lover her who has used her and tossed her away for the next shiny toy.
"Little Sister"From: 'One Stone' (2018)
When Mattel digs into her roots, magical things happen. This acoustic version of "Little Sister" brings out the difficulties of Mattel's youth. In it, she exhorts her little sister to make the escape from their small town that she desperately needs.
"C'mon Loretta"From: 'C'mon Loretta' (2022)
Another rock'n'roller, "C'mon Loretta" is a spunky rocker that captures Loretta Lynn's story and turns her into something of a folk hero. Mattel desperately tries to convince Loretta (or, perhaps, Loretta is a stand-in for someone else) to leave a toxic relationship and live life on her own terms.
"Moving Parts (Acoustic)"From: 'Moving Parts (Acoustic)' (2018)
Mattel's iconic anthem is, at first blush, a guide to anyone who feels out of sorts. Dig a little deeper, and it's encouragement to push through the fear and live life as yourself -- regardless of gender or sexuality.
"Gold"From: 'Barbara' (2020)
With a beefed up sound, "Gold" is one of the more reflective songs on Barbara. A classic country ballad of love that's gone sour, Mattel's voice is a sweet and mournful lilt. There's a little spite in there, too -- it's not good to dwell too much, of course. And while the narrator questions the promise of true love, they never sound totally down and out.
"Soldier"From: 'One Stone' (2018)
Mattel invokes classic folk rock instrumentation in a gentle takedown of toxic masculinity. As the song unfolds, Mattel enumerates the ways that hewing to traditional manhood ultimately chips away at one's sense of self-worth. It's gentle and pointed, like the best of Mattel's music.
"Jackson" (with Orville Peck)From: 'Full Coverage Vol. 1' (2021)
What's better than one outrageously dressed queer country music singer? How about two? Teaming up with Orville Peck (who performs a sort of drag of his own), the pair cover Johnny and June Carter Cash's "Jackson" with an uncontainable sense of fun.
"Stranger" (ft. Lavender Country)
Mattel's best collaboration is with Patrick Haggerty of Lavender Country. Haggerty recorded what is likely the first queer country music album ever, Lavender Country. Mattel's cover of "I Can't Shake the Stranger Out of You" adds a spin of mournful sweetness to the original's melancholy jangle. The pair's duet adds a new dimension to the song: internalized homophobia may be cross-generational, but we don't have to endure it alone.