With her “androgynous voice,” chameleon to the fireworks of glitter-doling synthesizers, one woman has turned some choice shades of magenta into sound for this candid record. Touching on themes of self-compassion and vulnerability, Staris not only a forthright account of her experience as a trans woman of colour, but a tender call to self-love and community. The name that crowns this verbal drum roll—queer pop’s new poptronic princess—the eponymous Star Amerasu.
Amerasu (artist name Ah-Mer-Ah-Su), is an Oakland based singer and producer with an affinity for the Shinto solar goddess Amaterasu. Her 2016 debut, Eclipsing, is an aptly named 15 minutes of bitcrush peppered industrial grit. Amerasu’s sound turned decidedly brighter and poppier with 2017’s Rebecca, where she opened up about coping with loss, her relationship to substances, and her feelings about Meg Ryan (City of Angels, You’ve Got Mail).
Star literally speaks for itself—Amerasu offers intimate phone interviews with her friends as commas between tracks. The recordopens with Davia Spain, Bay Area performing artist and scholar, speaking to the power of “creat[ing] space for [her] to be truthful to [her]self” dissolving self-blame through self-compassion. On another track, model Maya Monès, credited with “utilizing her visibility as a trans woman of color in the fashion industry to help other young folks see themselves in the world,” touches on how trans livelihood is tangled up in performativity and the tremendous pressure of always being expected to be “on” (Amerasu herself subtitles her Instagram with “Personality as Performance Art”), and Saturn Rising contemplates the ways in which all of this is related to power and desirability.The trilling, angelic vibrato of On—”close your eyes, take a breath”—primes the album with a sense of womb-like nurture and safety, a sort of skin tone sound palette. A choir of all the gentle furnishings of your environment, a carousel of the good people in your life. The well-wishes of chimes and bells—gentle like fingertips resting on skin—”it’s OK to close this chapter.” Soft, tender, resilient.
Be Free is where the album opens up with what sounds like the startup jingle of a purple luxury car with butterfly doors that won’t be designed for another 100 years. The track is a graceful night ride propelled by the engine of some serious percussion, with a bass synth for underglow. This is luxury of the spirit, not of the moneyed sort. The next time we get this sort of sentiment is on Boys, which, by the way, bangs without reserve.
My personal favorite could’ve conceivably been written after a night terror consisting of being trapped in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. Set over top of the kind of hot beat that loosens wallets in boutiques, Perfect is basically a runway fantasy turned inside out, taking the runway in form but self-love in content.
The gorgeous music video adds another dimension, depicting Amerasu in day-to-day rituals of cleaning and sustenance, referencing Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles(quick wiki read),an art-house/slow cinema feminist epic about a widow going through her routine of cooking, cleaning, and turning tricks—all in real time (sadly, YouTube’s algorithm interprets Dielman a bit on the tedious side, as its Up Next recommendation is “How to Setup Printer and Scanner Konica Minolta Bizhub.”)
There’s something to be said about the necessary compression of this filmic quote into a music video, where all of Amerasu’s cooking, cleaning, and bathing is run at breakneck speeds.
With Kids, a cover of MGMT’s 2007 banger, the album closes on the natal safety we started with. Is it that as kids we are most likely to feel community, even as society is already invested in pointing out all the ways in which our voices are “too loud?” Davia Spain recalls “so much of my childhood was about conforming to these ideas of what it means to be a person, and because of that I wasn’t able to fully love myself, because I didn’t fit what my parents wanted me to be,” (Exercise in Self Compassion) so it seems that any natal safety is short-lived, and maybe why most of us long for it all the more.
Star is simply the kind of record that isn’t stocked enough. It is heavy work in some ways (and sophisticated in all ways!), but itsraw honesty, underscored by throbbing runway beats, has more the slant of celebration than anything. Amerasu refuses to allow the conversation around trans women of color to just be people “tweet[ing] hashtags of people like [her] who are brutalized and only remembered in death” (Billboard)—rather, in addition to being an artifact of empowerment, this record is a sitting-on-the-stairs sort of honesty, a safe-keeping savvy of all the ways in which art can be a sort of communal celebration and preservation.
“I believe in community, and our ability to create spaces is a really powerful magic,” Amerasu says, “probably one of the biggest magics that we have in the world,” (i-D) something that can lift people out of self-doubt. With self-doubt there can be no community. “I would like many people, regardless of color, creed, or sexual identity to listen to STAR and realize that human experience is a bitch!” (Billboard)