An Interview With Miss Universum
A Fiery Swedish Feminista
You can add Miss Universum to the much too skimpy list of feminist musicians who pay equal attention to spreading their political agenda as to writing damn catchy pop songs. Save for Kathleen Hanna and her danceable femme-pop threesome, Le Tigre, music plays second fiddle to politics for most guerrilla girls with guitars. No matter how fierce and intelligent the message, if the platform is music, the music's gotta be good.
Perhaps due to that enviable pop sensibility ingrained in every Swede, or the help of songwriter Uji Brandelius (known to many as Doktor Kosmos), Miss Universum's musical output isn't just good, it's exceptional. The eleven lo-fi pop creations that make up her debut album, Selfelected offer plenty of memorable hooks atop punchy bass lines and synthetic backbeats. Miss Universum might've learned a few tricks from electro-punk queens like Peaches and Chicks On Speed, but the melodies carried in the bouncy piano, glockenspiel, and background cheers are rooted firmly in pop.
That's not to say the first-class songwriting eclipses Miss Universum's political passion. Her witty lyrics tackle gender inequality ("Lady Put Your Foot Down") and the undervalued job of a full-time mom ("Running A Home"). The AIDS crisis in Africa, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and chemical warfare are just a few of the global epidemics mentioned in "Eternity," the magic moment on Selfelected where both melody and message shine equally brightly. And then there's the synth-punk tunes like "Shopaholic" (Buy a life and buy a meaning/ Buy a dream and buy a washing machine) and "Destination: Happiness," which poke fun at 21st century living.
Miss Universum's career as a self-proclaimed political agitator didn't begin with music. Before adapting the infamous alter ego, she was simply Catti Brandelius- photographer, poet, columnist, video producer, activist, and performance artist. In the Spring of 2002, she produced a one-man show titled "Modern Fart," in which she danced around with a giant penis (the male sex organ served as a medium to heckle Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle). "Stop pushing Freud in my face. He gives me acne," Catti once wrote in her fanzine called Miss Universum No. 1. The education system's preference for the male philosophical perspective is just one of the many annoyances that Catti attacks in her works of art.
In Sweden, Miss Universum's refreshing contributions to art and music have kept her in the media eye, but few outside her native country are aware of this fiery feminista. Selfelected has yet to see a worldwide release. I contacted Catti by e-mail to find out more about her plans for the future, the world, and naturally, the universe.