Halifax, Vivek Shraya has your soundtrack for Pride Month and beyond | Music | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Vivek Shraya's new album is sexy and dance-y and full of influences you love—like Janet Jackson and Sheryl Crow.

Halifax, Vivek Shraya has your soundtrack for Pride Month and beyond

The performer brings her new album to town the day before Shania Twain, meaning we get a double dose of iconic pop this weekend.

This week, two very different—but equally glamorous—divas are making Halifax glitter on back to back nights: Yes, Shania Twain is playing a long-sold-out show June 12 at the Scotiabank Centre—and trust, her girls are ready to go. But the evening before (June 11 at Alderney Landing Theatre) pop princess and multi hyphenate artist Vivek Shraya delivers the closing show of her latest tour, supporting her new album Baby, You’re Projecting—a dance-pop gem so bright and multifaceted, Madonna herself must be jealous.

Slick and anthemic, Baby You’re Projecting feels like a timely gift to unwrap at the start of Pride month: This is music for getting ready for a party, for making out on the dance floor, for swimming deep in the sea of your feelings, and even for nursing yourself back to normal after a crush that doesn’t pan out—never mind that Shraya has long been one of the country’s most visible trans icons.

While it’s all too common to hear albums today described as “genre defying” before listing a bunch of sounds nowhere to be found when the LP spins, Shraya offers the opposite: She rides the retro-disco-wave on “Sinister Sister”, while “Quitter” feels like a lost B-side from Lady Gaga’s The Fame. Album standout “Colonizer”—about how it can be complicated dating a white man—paints from the palette of early Sheryl Crow and, yup, The Woman In Me-era Twain. (Speaking by phone with The Coast, Shraya herself mentions Crow’s self-titled album as an influence, especially on the track “He Loves Me Until He Hates Me”. Janet Jackson’s fingerprints also evidently smudge Shraya’s songbook. )

The smattering of sounds is anchored in both their danceability and Shraya’s siren voice—which makes sense, considering Shraya’s artistic practice at large balances theatre, film, visual art, literature (she penned the vital book I’m Afraid of Men, which has been translated into three languages) and music: So. Much. Music.

(When asked how she balances so many mediums and projects, she doesn’t hesitate: “How do I do it? I mean, I just really love the process of taking an idea and realizing it into something tangible that can then be used as a way to connect with another person, another human. So I'm just very motivated by creation and creativity and art-making. There's no, like, giant secret. It's what allows me to wake up in the morning and feel like life is worth living.”)

Since the early 2000s, Shraya’s been carving out her space in Canada’s indie scene, evolving from a Stars-esque sound to a star in her own right. It just so happens, too, that Baby, You’re Projecting is her label debut, via Mint Records, after 20 years of being an independent artist.

click to enlarge Halifax, Vivek Shraya has your soundtrack for Pride Month and beyond
Vanessa Heins
"Making art in my 40s has been just like: thinking less about what are the quote-unquote ‘industry pressures’ to make it."

It’s not lost on Shraya where the album where she sounds the most herself almost didn’t happen. When told that the arc from her 2020 one-person show How To Fail as a Pop Star to releasing this spangly, deep and joy-filled album feels like a movie’s arc, Shraya can’t help but laugh before explaining that the inside view is a little different: “It isn't the dream being real but it is a new chapter—and it's an unexpected chapter. So I'm definitely excited and happy about that,” she says. “I think for me, what's been exciting about making art in my 40s has been just like: thinking less about what are the quote-unquote ‘industry pressures’ to make it. Music is definitely a youth genre and yeah, I've had to rethink my relationship to music.”

“One of the things I'm deliberately doing is talking a lot about aging with this record cycle: Like, I'm talking about being in my 40s and part of it is because I feel like that's something that's sort of shied away from—especially if you're a girl or a femme or a woman. There is so much pressure to disappear, or to pretend that you're still young and I want to be like: “No, no, no, it's so exciting on this end.’ I feel like I'm just getting started. Like, there's something so amazing about not feeling like an imposter anymore: just by the nature of doing something for 20-plus years,” the musician adds. “I think that there is this idea: You get to a certain age and you're supposed to sort of disappear and not be sexy. And, you know, especially being a trans person in the world: People will say that you're fierce and fabulous, but they don't necessarily see you as someone who experiences desire or feels desires worthy of desire. And so, I think at this era of my career, it feels so important to put out an image of me that's very much thriving and sexy and sexual.” (Mission very much accomplished in the long-form music video that accompanies the record.)

When asked what keeps her returning to music—when she has so many other mediums and when, as she states herself, she’s known to so many as an author first–a glimmer clouds Shraya’s voice the same way it does when she sings. “Think of, like, a brown, queer kid in the ‘90s in Edmondson in the snow: There were a couple things that can be alive. One was my mom's love. And the other was pop music. Pop music allowed me to imagine a different kind of life. It allowed me to imagine a reason to keep going. It gave me so much hope and comfort. I feel a weird debt to it,” she says. “One of the reasons why I'm drawn to music and making music over and over again is because I want to write that kind of song: I want right to that kind of music to give to, the queer kid in a small town.”

With this album, Shraya’s written 11 of them.

Vivek Shraya w/T. Thomason at STAGES Festival, June 11 8:30pm, tickets $15-$35 or pay-what-you-can

Morgan Mullin

Morgan was the Arts & Entertainment Editor at The Coast, where she wrote about everything from what to see and do around Halifax to profiles of the city’s creative class to larger cultural pieces. She started with The Coast in 2016.
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