Sadie Dupuis is a not-so-secret fan of pop: along with professing her love for chart-friendly artists like Nicki Minaj and Charli XCX, she also added some Top 40 hooks and gloss to Speedy Ortiz's knotty indie rock on the Real Hair EP and their second full-length, Foil Deer. However, she's not a fan of the messages within decades' worth of pop songs, from "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" to "Genie in a Bottle," that blame and shame girls and women for their feelings and desires. With Slugger, Dupuis seeks to be the antidote to those poisonous ideas. Like all of her projects, it has layers within layers: also Dupuis' social media handle, Sad13 (pronounced "sad thirteen") evokes a vintage AOL chat name, text from a Delia's catalog or a downhearted tween -- the age when pop's questionable lyrics start to sink in. Slugger's songs often go wider and deeper than Sad13's debut single, "Basement Queens," a collaboration with rapper Lizzo that celebrates the rise of female producers. The closest the album comes to that track is the literally empowering finale "Coming into Powers," which features a brashly funny cameo by Sammus. As on "Basement Queens," Dupuis is more musically adventurous on her own. Slugger's sheen stands apart from her other music (the album was mastered by Emily Lazar, who has also worked with Sia and HAIM), and songs like "Line Up," which pairs grungy guitars and whooping soprano vocals, are sonic glitter bombs. However, Dupuis' wordplay and images are just as intricate as they are in Speedy Ortiz's music, and remain some of her greatest strengths: on "Krampus (In Love)," she turns "Here We Come A-Wassailing" into an acerbic plea for solitude. Sometimes, Slugger drifts close to her band's territory, as on the elliptical "Fixina" and "Hype," a bluntly worded commentary on fame that was originally intended for Speedy Ortiz. Sad13 is most intriguing when Dupuis subverts the pop template: "Get a Yes," which explores the nature of consent in playful ways that don't detract from her message ("I only cross a line if I wanna"), feels like an anthem in the making. Here and on other highlights like "Tell U What" and "The Sting," the emotional impact of Dupuis' songwriting matches her conceptual cleverness. Even if Slugger might appeal more to Speedy Ortiz fans than Top 40 diehards, hearing Dupuis seek intimacy and independence is never less than pithy, fun, and thought-provoking.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares