*I am not a music critic. I am just a totally biased musician.*
So...I listened to Todrick Hall's "Femuline" and gurl! It is so good. First, I want to officially say it in writing since I have been saying it for years. Todrick Hall can write a song about literally anything. He is so gifted to be able to write a catchy song about whatever he wants. Not to get too into his songwriting but what I like about him as a songwriter is that he is very aware. He is in the moment without trying to be too trendy, if that makes sense. His music can be heavily marketed in the same vein of top 40. However, what gives him something different is him putting himself so into his lyrics. His music isn't just like vague nonsense that any white girl can bop around to. He writes lyrics rooted in queer pop culture and his personal interests. So any gay can listen to it like "Yass!" but also has references that if you know, you know. I mean he did write an entire album inspired by Wizard of Oz. With that, he has the ability to write catchy hooks. Like I don't understand. I remember when he would write songs for companies and commercials and they are just so catchy in a way that is unique. He has an authentic campiness to him where you know it is his pen doing the writing. He have a voice. I also appreciate him allowing us to see a more authentic side to him as a songwriter. I found him when he was making parody productions on YouTube, so I knew him but not like knew him through his music. He is starting to open up more and I am here for it. Now to the album.
First, as a person who is not in the club scene, I don't listen to club music unless it is Todrick. He has really found his stride in club music and dare I say is the Mariah Carey of the gay club? So even if you don't like driving beats, you will like this album. He has incorporated the percussive elements of club music into an experience that isn't repetitive. On that note the ONE thing that is repetitive is...I'm sorry to say this, but it is so repetitive to somehow have the amazing ability to write anthem after anthem and incorporate not only BIG collabs but precise collabs.
On the note of anthems. This album at one point felt overwhelming because every song can be and is an athem. "Femuline" is sure to take you on a journey, but that journey is straight up through the stratosphere where you consider, "Do I take party drug and do the damn thing?" I'll stick to my wine, but I found myself fantasizing about being sweaty on a dance floor just turning the party. This album on the surface gives you no room to think. You are just inundated with catchy lyrics and beats that will have you trying dance moves that you have never done. However, once you are worn out and have to sit down, you listen to the lyrics and think of the iconic nature of this album.
The main iconic characteristics of this album are the collabs. First, Ms. Nicole Pussycat Doll herself and those vocals. Every collab they have together I feel like Todrick says, "Let them whores have it!" Then they harmonize in their upper registers floating like fierce Phoenix birds. (More about Todrick really using his entire range later.) Next, Chaka Khan. Chaka KHAN! That Whitney reference did not get past me. Brandy...that's all. My favorite part is when she says she loves straight boys but needs time with her girls. As far as the most iconic collab I go back and forth between Tyra Banks and Ts Madison. I will admit I am much more aware of Tyra Banks. I was a huge fan of Top Model back when CariDee and Eva Marcille were on it. Then to have the song be about fashion, both the industry and the vibe is amazing. It is both a flex of Todrick's access to top fashion brands and the idea that it doesn't matter what you do or want as long as you make it "FASHÓN." That is a deep call back to pop culture. Then Ts Madison. I have only become aware of her in the past year or two. The song is perfect for them two. "Dick been this big." It is layered like many of Todrick's writing. It is obviously possibly saying that he has a big dick, which gon' witcha bad self! Also the phrase that became popular "big dick energy" is part of it. It is kind of like that person that is confident, but doesn't have to peacock to make them seem grandiose. With that the conversation of trans women's bodies is started. It seeks to normalize the trans body. You can also say that there is a moment acknowledging some trans women exuding "big dick energy" because that indeed have bigger dicks than the guys that give them a hard time.
The last element of this project that I want to talk about is Todrick's voice. Yes we know he can sing. What sets this project apart is his mature confidence. He knows when to hold back and when to go in. As a comparison, think of Beyoncé in her early Destiny's Child years versus her on the album 4. There is a certain maturity. She was just running and riffing constantly on those earlier projects. Then by the time of 4, she used those skills when they would be most effective. With that being said, the song that really shows Todrick's vocal prowess is Rainbow Reign. This song is heavily influenced by Disco and R&B in musical composition and Gospel in the flow and makeup of the song. It is a song that Diana Ross herself would twirl to. In this song, Todrick takes on a vocal assignment of a lead singer on a gospel song. There is textbook lead and ad-libbing that can really only be heard on a gospel song. In this song, he really uses 85-90% of his range and he is in total control. He uses a nice chest during the verses and some ad libs during the pre-chorus. Then he gives you his belt and mix for the hook. However, he does not crowd the scene. He lets the backgrounds come through. During the bridge we get something that I have only heard in Gospel music. A moment where each harmony is saying their only lyric and repeating it over one another. It is pretty common in Gospel music to do something like this. Last but not least is his lead up to the final vocal showcase. He does some light head work with foreshadowing to this by hitting an F6. Then like Monét X Change, he basically says, "not yet, you aren't ready." After that last hook, he has a moment to show off without backgrounds. He never goes below an F5. He just floats around effortlessly showing off the F6 again as if it is nothing. *I can't get enough of this song to be honest.* This song is a beautiful way to end the album and really makes me an a trans girl feel amazing.
All in all, "Femuline" is beautifully crafted project. It is aware, present, and transcendent. It is present in that it celebrates this time of year, Pride. It is aware in knowing that so many really need the pick-me-up, especially the queer community and our trans community. Also it is aware of Todrick's space in queer music. It is transcendent in that you will forget where you are and what you are doing once you start this album. Todrick understood the assignment and delivered. Lastly, I want to commend Todrick for being so open about identity in this music. He has done things like this before with Quing merch, but something of this magnitude, I am not sure. We have seen him explore femulinity for the past few years as he has opened up and I feel like we are truly seeing Todrick for the amazing person, songwriter, artist, and queer icon that he was always meant to be. After finishing the album the first time, all I could do was think of Todrick leaning out of the driver's seat in a drive-thru, and being amazed and inspired by where he is today. This album is truly just a testament to where hard work and vulnerability can get you. Todrick, I salute you!