Glitterati Omega, Book 2 in the Omega on Top series, arrives later this week. You folks know the drill by now: I write a book, I listen to a lot of music. I publish a book. Then I post a ridiculous playlist featuring all the music that inspired (or “vibe” with) the story.
So, in advance of that, here’s the music I was jamming along to while I wrote this book.
A Little Bit of Music History
My dad played a lot of ‘80s music when I was growing up. And no, it wasn’t on the oldies station when I was a wee one. It was still almost “popular” music.
One of the great things about having an audiophile parent is that they expose you to a lot of music. My dad was more into rock and roll than pop, but these days he’ll listen to rap and more.
Back in the day, though, we listened to Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones. We also listened to more current music, like No Doubt, Alanis Morrisette, and other major ‘90s/early ‘00s stars. My dad is a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan; I remember telling him about a “great new band” and him just laughing at me.
But I digress. My dad likes to collect, so there were lots of different artists in his collection. I loved the cover of the Kate Bush album Hounds of Love. I wasn’t a huge fan of Elton John. My dad and I love Elvis Costello; my mother can’t stand him.
Among the artists we listened to were ‘80s greats like the Eurythmics, Billy Idol, and the infamous Hall & Oates.
Later, I returned to a lot of my dad’s music collection. I had a portable CD player and he had a lot of CDs. The age of downloading music (pirating it) or ripping it off said CDs was just dawning. (A few years ago, I sunset my old computer, and the new one didn’t have a CD drive. An era had ended.)
Overall Theme for Glitterati Omega: “Rich Girl”
Hall & Oates were favs in those days (along with Fleetwood Mac, The Pretenders, and The Police. My favorite tune from Hall & Oates was “Rich Girl.”
I started writing Glitterati Omega, which is about a hyper-femme man who is stupidly rich. I knew “Rich Girl” had to go on the playlist.
Imagine my delight when I discovered Hall & Oates didn’t write the song about a girl at all. It’s actually about a very rich guy they knew. They figured “Rich Guy” wasn’t a catchy chorus, so they switched it to “girl” and a hit was born. But the fact remains: this song is about the heir to a fortune, which is precisely what Rupert is.
Materialism, Modernism, Hyperpop
Another “great” of the ‘80s was pop icon Madonna. Madonna had a string of hits in the ‘80s, including “Like a Virgin” (which scandalized people) and “Like a Prayer.”
“Material Girl” is a bubbly pop song about a gold digging girl who rejects boys who aren’t rich enough. It sounds hyper-misogynistic, but at the end of the song, the boys are chasing the girl. The song closes with the idea that everyone is money-grubbing.
The almost vapid lyrics do have a point to them, which felt appropriate for Rupert. He is, to some degree, a materialistic person, even though he’d be our titular “Material Girl” in this case.
A more recent pop song echoes that materialism: “I Don’t Want It at All” by Kim Petras. I’ve had Petras recommended to me by countless people and algorithms, so I finally decided to give her a go. The vibe is very Rupert—and the impatience behind the lyrics is not misplaced at all.
Another Contender for Glitterati Omega‘s Theme Song
Although Rupert isn’t necessarily as materialistic as these songs suggest, he does “want it right now.”
My venture into Petras’s oeuvre led me to a more recent release, where she featured on a track by ElyOtto called “SugarCrash!”
I’m not super into hyperpop, but “SugarCrash” is an amazingly dissonant blend of jaunty pop sounds and incredibly dark lyrics. The singer talks about getting a lobotomy and taking a ton of pills in an effort to “feel good.”
That resonated with me—and with Rupert, because this is almost exactly how Rupert feels a lot of the time. He’s a relatively upbeat character, but he’s suffering from depression and anxiety. He does think about self-harm in a couple of places—and all he wants to do is “feel good.”
I think I have to stick with “Rich Girl” as the overall theme, but “SugarCrash!” is a strong contender—and yes, it definitely inspired the bath scene early in the novel.
Pop Stars and Drag Queens Inspire Glitterati Omega
The rest of the playlist features pop hits, including Lady Gaga’ and entries from Kylie Minogue’s 2001 album Fever. (The titular track is a perennial fav when I’m writing omegas in heat, ha.) I’ve left off the irritating “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” in favor of “Love at First Sight,” which is another one of my all-time favs.
Another perennial fav here is Charli XCX. Here we have “Focus,” which is prime PC-era pop. Although the track is more demanding that Rupert would ever be, I think it’s fitting for him.
Also appearing on this list is Marina and the Diamonds (Marina Diamanté, who now goes by “Marina”). Marina’s music fits in with upbeat pop that includes some fairly dark lyrics. I first heard “Oh No!” In a store about a decade ago, and I was absolutely smitten with it. The lyrics focus on someone who is becoming “a machine,” so determined to achieve their goals they are. The line “I’m gonna die, die, die” suggests this is not your average pop ballad.
“Primadonna Girl” is a better fit for Glitterati Omega and Rupert in particular. Here, the lyrics talk about a materialistic protagonist who needs to fill the void. Again, Marina’s lyrics suggest some ongoing battle with the darker side of life: “going up, going down, down, down.”
And once again, the lyrics come wrapped in a catchy tune that you can’t help but dance along to. Songs like this are why I don’t accept the idea that pop has nothing of value to say. There are a lot of pop artists that are saying a lot of things about our culture.
Pop Is Usually Feminized (and Dismissed)
Of course, there’s another reason pop fits Glitterati so well. We often associate it with the feminine. In fact, pop stars are usually feminized—think Britney Spears, Madonna, Beyoncé, and Ariana Grande. They’re styled in a particular way—and, as a result, they often earn the adulation of gay men. From there, we cross over into the realm of divas and drag queens. Drag queens and pop stars might be cut from the same cloth: a love of theatrics, over-the-top costuming, and dancing.
Rupert, as a hyper-femme gay man who runs around in couture dresses, would be most akin to a drag queen.
This was an important revelation to me, because a lot of Glitterati is about embracing the feminine. Perce was a pretty personal character for me, because he eschewed the feminine and was knee-deep in his trauma.
An Antidote to the Misogyny of the Early ’00s
Rupert is personal for a different reason: he’s not just embracing the feminine, but a celebration of it. I wanted Rupert to be a vapid airhead, into fashion, very “girly”—and I wanted that not to be a bad thing. In fact, I wanted that to be Rupert’s strength, how very firmly he believes the feminine is something good.
I’ve talked before about “the feminine”—which is not “women” or “females,” but anything we associate with those spheres in our society. Western capitalism degrades the feminine and fetishizes the masculine: rational thought, anger over any other emotion, the importance of jobs, careers, and public-facing activities outside the home. The feminine—the home sphere, childbirth, childrearing—is automatically downgraded: think fashion, cooking, baking, and, yes, pop stars.
This wraps me around to the music scene of my youth. I got to experience the early aughts and the onslaught against young women pop stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera firsthand. And at the time, I didn’t recognize the inherent misogyny going on here. Both Britney and Christina were huge hitmakers, but they were valued only for their sexuality and then derided as sluts.
“Not Like Other Girls” and “Pick Me!” Women
We were encouraged to eschew pop star sexuality: “I’m not like those girls”—and we all knew what “those girls” were. We’d seen them in movies and on TV: they were brainless. They liked fashion and gossiping about boys with their girlfriends. They were living Barbie dolls and, yeah, they found math too difficult.
Those girls were “bad,” somehow, and we shouldn’t want to be them. So we all grew up saying, “I’m not like them.” We had to prove how anti-feminine we were.
But now, looking back on it, I have a question: what the fuck is wrong with it? What’s so wrong about liking fashion and wanting to get dressed up or look good? What’s so wrong about liking boys and gossiping about them with your friends?
Nothing, that’s what, but because it’s “feminine” behavior, we’re taught it’s “bad.” And that’s what Rupert rails against, the idea that the feminine is automatically lesser or bad. Rupert likes fashion, unapologetically, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Drag Queens Embrace and Elevate the Feminine
Because Rupert is a man with a hyper-femme presentation, he crosses back into “drag queen” territory, to some degree. He’s also presenting us a question there: what makes a man? What makes a woman? Can a feminine man still be a man? Rupert’s answer to all of these things is “yes”: despite his hyper-femme presentation and flouncing around in pretty dresses, Rupert is still a man. He’s just a different sort of man—one who has embraced the feminine entirely.
I’d say a lot of drag performers do this when they pull on their wigs. While some are trans women, many are not; while they transform into women on stage, they remain men in their day-to-day lives. This embrace of the feminine may occur only in certain spheres, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
And that’s why the playlist for Glitterati is so heavily focused on female pop performers; they embody the vibe of the book and its protagonist to a great degree.
Even if you don’t particularly like these songs, toss on some of your fav pop hits and groove to them—and you’ll have the perfect soundtrack for Glitterati Omega.