Perfume Genius is a very aggressive singer-songwriter project. Michael Hadreas’ most notable songs are unencumbered, bold and direct to the point of confrontation. Many of us first heard him on “Mr. Petersen”, an unflinching look at student/teacher impropriety. More of us, through the stark, sweet and ultimately tragic video for “Hood”, a two-minute visual love story with now-deceased gay porn star, Arpad Miklos. This aspect of Hadreas’ artistry creates a fascinating tension against the music of a Perfume Genius song, which bear typical signifiers of passivity: creaky vocals, piano, and a kind of reverb that makes all his stories sound like shellshocked, PTSD recollections.
On “Queen”, Hadreas unifies his lyrical and musical ambitions into the most forthright, ornate, lustrous and “pop” moment of his career. We hear him over bigger drums, new keyboards, grunting samples, barely any reverb. It fits the concept: Hadreas describes “Queen” as a song inspired by “gay panic”, and the power one can derive from knowing their mere being is making everyone around them extremely uncomfortable. It’s a perfect merger of intent and execution, but there’s still the tension that makes Perfume Genius such an uneasy, unique listen: “Queen” sounds like triumph amid the pathetic relevancy of its subject matter in 2014.