Minutes before my scheduled Zoom interview with Mel 4Ever, I am notified via email that “C U NEXT TUESDAY” has joined the meeting. I bite back a laugh as I hop on the call with Mel, who runs a nervous hand through her cherry-red hair when she notices her display name.
“Sorry about that,” she says, but we’re both chuckling. The rising singer-songwriter bills herself as a “tranny pop star,” after all. A little C.U.N.T. is to be expected.
A Brooklynite by way of Birmingham, Alabama, Mel grew up dreaming of one day becoming a pop star. Her childhood aspiration was stamped out by years of abuse from her peers and evangelical Christian family members. “Everyone was like, ’You’re a girl, you’re a girl,'” she remembers, “but it was in such a negative connotation that it forced me to create this outer layer that wasn’t me for a really long time.”
Mel moved to New York City in 2015, but it wasn’t until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 that she revisited her pop-star aspirations. While quarantined, she began her medical transition, which she says unlocked a flood of feelings. Her triple-Capricorn ass was not prepared. “I was bursting. I was lashing out — not in an evil way, but I was just like, I need to do something. I need to tell this story.” Her “demonic” debut EP, Tranic Attack, out today (November 12), allowed her to finally do so.
If the project looks and sounds unhinged, that is no mistake. Mel wrote and recorded Tranic Attack with her co-writer, Tor Miller, and producer, Jack Hoffman, during the early months of her transition. It was also her first month of sobriety. “My endocrine system was being bombed,” she remembers. “But [transitioning] also came with this sense of empowerment, like, you actually can do whatever. Whatever dreams you have, they can all become your reality. So then I just decided to do the work, which is a whole different thing.”
But Mel’s bombastic, hyper-punk sound doesn’t mean she can’t go there lyrically or thematically. Take, for example, “Big Tits (whoopsie),” one of her first singles off the EP. Beneath the infectious hook and sassy dig at God for skimping on the “big tits to match [her] ass” is a palpable sense of gender dysphoria. It was the source of many a transition-related anxiety attack for Mel, who nicknamed them “tranic attacks,” or “trans panic attacks,” as a way to cope with the stress. Others tracks on the EP address serious topics like self-hatred, suicidal ideations, and abuse.
Even “OOO Daddy” — an unabashedly horny, hyper pop-leaning cut in which she tells her “daddy” how much she “[likes] the way you fuck this little fucking pussy” — is deeper than it seems. “I really wanted to fuck this boy who is gay,” she says, “but he’s gay, and I’m not a boy, so I wrote this song about it. It turned in from, ’I need you to fuck me,’ to mocking the fact that I needed him to fuck me.”
The music video for the former is packed full of visual references to iconic horror movies, a genre Mel has always loved and identified with. “I felt very demented for a long time,” she jokes. “I don’t know — Alabama programming.”
She nods to the subculture more explicitly with “Jennifer’s Bodice,” one of the EP’s strongest tracks. The title is an homage to the Megan Fox-centric cult classic from 2009. It’s Mel’s favorite movie, but it certainly helps that Fox is having a pop-culture renaissance of her own alongside her boyfriend, singer Machine Gun Kelly. “Honestly, she made the world so horny for so long,” Mel says. “I feel like it’s her time to be like, ’I’m a horny bitch, whatever.'”
Mel calls “Jennifer’s Bodice” an “assault revenge anthem” and notes the visceral, snarling lyrics. In its exceptionally gory bridge, she sings about devouring her abuser whole, shitting him back out, and flushing him down the toilet. “Like, that’s fucking disgusting. But that’s what I was feeling at the time.”
Even so, Mel made sure to include dance-y cuts on Tranic Attack as a tribute to the queer nightlife scene. “I wanted to make sure that I was able to have these feelings,” she says, “but also dance at a club about them, you know?” At the end of the day, “About Fashion” and the aforementioned “Big Tits” are celebratory, upbeat tracks. They’re her two most-streamed songs to date.
What’s next for Brooklyn’s horror-pop icon-in-the-making? Mel has a show on November 15 at Elsewhere, a popular live music venue in Brooklyn, after the EP drops. She can’t wait to perform her own music live, a high she got a taste of back in September when she made her onstage debut at Bushwig, Brooklyn’s annual drag festival.
Her set was “a dream come true,” she says. “Every time I had fantasized about performing and singing, it was always, for some reason, at Bushwig, on the Bushwig stage. Right before I performed, I broke down and started hysterically crying, which is — I’m laughing now, but I could not help it. It was like, holy fucking shit. This thing that I envisioned was happening, and I got to get naked and do my thing. It was amazing.”
Mel’s Bushwig performance was one of her last under her former stage name, Mel Incarnate. When she began making music, Mel borrowed the surname from her sister, Charlene Incarnate, a veteran Brooklyn nightlife performer and the first ever Miss Bushwig honoree. But working on Tranic Attack inspired Mel to forge her own path without the boost of a recognizable name.
The rebrand was also about vindicating her inner child, whose squandered dreams of stardom and womanhood are now unfolding right before her eyes. Our conversation conjures up a memory of Mel’s middle-school bullies throwing metal change at her and screaming, “It’s for your sex change!”
“Those mean little freaks were right,” she says, laughing. “Where are they now? I’m highly therapized, if you can’t tell. It’s ’Mel 4Ever’ now because she had a rough time growing up. I’m like, this little girl needs her moment.”
Tranic Attack is out now.