Perfume genius
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Perfume Genius Set My Heart on Fire Immediately Matador

In 10 years and five albums, Mike Hadreas, aka Perfume Genius, has built not only a flawless career as a peerless singer-songwriter, but a complete queer lexicon all his own. It’s an impressive feat in the year 2020 when so much of LGBTQIA+ culture has (rightfully) entered the mainstream. Even the title of his new album, Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, is imbued with a sense of gay drama – not tomorrow, not later this week, destroy my heart right now, before this song is even over. People sometimes mistake camp for comedy, and the two are not interchangeable. What Perfume Genius barters in is high camp of the grandest order: the pain, the love, the sorrow, the absurdity of the human condition laid bare for all to see, through the lens of someone whose poetry is forever intertwined with their identity.

The best example of this is new single On the Floor, which, ironically, may be the most pop-influenced Perfume Genius song in his catalogue. Set to a True Blue-era synth-shuffle, On the Floor chronicles a tale of life-defining heartbreak: “How long until this washes away?” pleads Hadreas as the song bops along, almost indifferent to his suffering. It’s in direct dissonance with another highlight, Describe, which begins with a dirge of guitars reminiscent of early Smashing Pumpkins, harking back to that delicious time of teenagehood when listening to loud, sad music was a singular pleasure. By the time the track breaks down into an ambient coda, your tears have dried on your pillow, and you’re ready to start the journey all over again.

It’s always hard to avoid evalutating an artist’s work against what they’ve done before, but more than any musician in his field, Perfume Genius is creating a discography that’s not just about cool songs, or even self-expression – it’s a document of who he is, and what that means in this moment in history. It’s meticulous in its melancholy, and that’s what makes it both so personal and exceptionally universal.