Sizzy Rocket titled her new album Anarchy as a nod to her punk rock roots, not 2020's unique brand of continued upheaval. It wasn't even recorded this year. Fueled by post-breakup angst, Rocket wrote and recorded the entire album in an eight-day "creative burst" last winter.
"I considered changing it because I don't want it to seem like I'm trying to capitalize on that feeling right now," she tells me over the phone from L.A., alluding to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter activism after George Floyd's death. But something about the word "anarchy"—its sense of urgency, perhaps—rang true, and Rocket kept the title.
That commitment to authenticity is part of what got Rocket where she is today. The 28-year-old indie-pop singer exploded onto the scene in 2016 with Thrills, her raunchy, queer AF debut, after a stint at NYU's prestigious Clive Davis School of Music. She followed it up with 2017's Hot Summer EP and 2019's Grrrl, her bolder, more introspective sophomore album. But her unfiltered approach to songwriting remained. "Every artist is different, but for me personally, the way that I live my life and the things that I experience are the work," Rocket says. "So if [a song] is particularly explicit, that kind of is just what happened or how I experienced it."
With each new release, more queer fans flocked to Rocket, emboldened by the raw sexuality in her music. In tracks like "Tattoos," a particularly horny cut off Grrrl, Rocket sings directly and explicitly about sex with other women. There are no euphemisms, no flowery metaphors. Rocket wants to fuck "girls like you / with tattoos," and she doesn't care who knows.
As an out artist, Rocket is honored that her music—references to sex and smoking included—resonates with other members of the LGBTQ community. But she's not naïve. If Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion taught us anything with "WAP," it's that female recording artists get a lot more grief than their male counterparts for singing about sex or drugs. Rocket cites Travis Scott, one of her all-time favorite artists, as an example: "I think he's just so brilliant and says a lot of explicit shit too but puts it in such an artful way that I'm like, well, why can't I talk about my experiences that way also?"
"It is harder, especially as a female artist, to be in that explicit space," she adds. "Early in my career, I was labeled as the 'edgy bicon' or whatever [within the music industry]. I'm like, 'Well, I'm more than my sexuality, and I'm more than the drugs and the sex and the things that I sing about.' And I feel like Anarchy actually is proving that."
If Grrrl was Rocket's "beautiful gay love story," then Anarchy is her unfiltered journey of self-reflection post-breakup. Its punk rock influence is clear sonically and thematically, with tracks like "Smells Like Sex" and "Cocaine by the Pool" soundtracking the visceral feelings of hooking up and coming down. She describes Anarchy as "aggressive" and "a punch in the face," and she's not wrong. The record does open with the hotheaded single "That Bitch," in which she claims her title as—well, that bitch.
"Grrrl was definitely so soft and vulnerable, and I feel like you can hear the trepidation," Rocket remembers. "You can hear me sort of feeling around for the songs. And I feel like this new record is more definitive. I feel like I learned a lot about myself from Grrrl, and now I'm owning that loudly."
But there's vulnerability alongside all of Anarchy's sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. "Rollerskating," a standout track, draws on the universal but no less devastating experience of first love ("You're the one that I'll never get over, 'cause you / Loved me at a time when I didn't love myself"). The song holds a special place in Rocket's heart: It was written about her "first big love," whom she fell for when she was just 19. "That person has transitioned now to male, but it was a lesbian relationship [at the time]," she shares. "And it was just everything you could ever want it to be. Falling in love, 19 years old, in New York. Like, of course you're going to fuck that up."
Feeling empowered to own her story and her sound, complex as they may be, didn't come easily to Rocket. Even as an indie artist, her career has been marked by outside opinions on what her image should be, how her music should sound. It's taken her years to tune out the noise and become the "punk rockstar" she's always dreamed of.
"I live out this message every day, which is, don't let anyone define you or tell you who you are or who you're supposed to be," Rocket says. "There's so much autonomy and there's so much beauty that comes from the solo journey of figuring out who you are. 'You can be whoever the fuck you want to be' is sort of the tagline, the through-line, of Anarchy."
Rocket has sufficiently bared her soul to me via phone call, so I brace her for one last question: Will she be getting any Anarchy-themed ink to match the Grrrl tattoo on her sternum? She laughs. "Oh yeah. I need my little anarchy symbol tattoo! My mom actually has an anarchy symbol tattoo. I'm like the mini version of her. She's badass too."
Anarchy drops this Friday, September 25.