In the music video for SSION’s first single in five years, “Comeback,” the artist also known as Cody Critcheloe plays a disco superstar who gets chased by a giant letter O. He ends up at a punk boy-band audition, run by a sleazy talent recruiter, played by himself. This is the kind of slightly-off fantasia that Critcheloe has specialized in since developing the SSION persona in Kansas City, circa 2003. Over the 15 intervening years, he’s risen to prominence with an approach that’s both punk and glam in equal measure. He’s a veteran of New York’s avant-pop scene, counting heavy hitters like rapper Mykki Blanco among his friends and collaborators.
Since SSION’s last release in 2012, Bent, Critcheloe has focused on other projects, especially directing videos—he’s created lush visuals for Charli XCX, Perfume Genius, Grizzly Bear, Robyn, and Kylie Minogue, among others. Now, though, he’s back; “I make an album every four years,” he told The FADER. Although the lyrics of “Comeback” detail the return of an ex-lover (“I always knew you would come back, come back to me”), they also allude to SSION’s “comeback.” With this in mind, Critcheloe has compiled a playlist to accompany his beloved project’s rebirth.
SSION: You have to include this track because you know it’s great and it’s the basis for this playlist!
“Nothing Can Bring Me Down,” The Twilighters
SSION: I love the lyrics to this song. They’re kind of psychedelic but maybe more amphetamine based—either way it feels very alive! I’m eventually going to cover this song. I’m more of a rock singer pretending to be a pop singer anyway.
“Killer/Papa Was a Rolling Stone (Live in Rio),” George Michael
SSION: I’m not sure why this is my favorite George Michael song. He didn’t even write it but for some reason it really speaks to me and I love the way he performs it live. The seamless transition into Sly and the Family Stone is genius. He opened his Rock in Rio performance with this song and it feels so epic, like the perfect mission statement. The way he moves across the stage in the Mugler suit, and when he smiles, his teeth are just so white. This was also the show where he met Anselmo Feleppa, the love of his life, who happened to be in the front row. Last Christmas Eve when I was home in Kentucky visiting my family I was watching this performance on Youtube, which lead to me spending the whole night googling images of “George Michael 2016.” The next morning I found out he died. It was an odd premonition and I spent all christmas day in a trance. I love George so much, which reminds me, I still need to get that tattoo of the Acropolis with his nickname (YOG) below it.
“State Trooper (Trentemøller Mix),” Bruce Springsteen
SSION: This is Springsteen’s gay anthem, whether he likes it or not. On the run, escaping from a small town, with no kid, no wife, just you driving through Nebraska, Kansas City, Tulsa, wherever. I’ve spent a lot of time in those parts and when it gets dark, it’s pitch black. But hey, at least you are getting out and taking no prisoners. That scream at the end is one of the best things I’ve ever heard in my life. Chills. Also this remix is a bit cheesy but it works.
“Warm In The Winter,” Glass Candy
SSION: I remember one day this song randomly came on shuffle and it made me cry. I just kept it on repeat all day and all night and just kept crying. I grew up with Glass Candy. I played a bunch of punk shows with them in the Midwest and it took me back in this really sweet and grateful way, not in a good ol’ days’ kinda way. It was like, thank goddess i’m here… right now. I had been really depressed for sometime and this was like my first step out of it. That summer I got really tan, started doing yoga and started smoking again. I knew I was gonna be okay.
“Heatwave,” Amber Mark
SSION: There is nothing I like more than sweating, like dripping, soaking wet. It’s the best way to get the demon out. That’s what this song is to me. For the longest time I was convinced that I was really into the winter but it’s just not true, I’m a summer babe through and through. Hell is freezing cold, slouched over wearing tons of layers and boots that are soaking wet.
“Ten Miles High,” Roisin Murphy
SSION: I can’t even articulate how much I love this chick. She does it better than anyone—best director, best lyrics, sharp and funny. Something ominous about this kind of rebirth here … I’m here for it. Always.
“Hey Hey My My (Live At Farm Aid),” Neil Young
SSION: Lyrics so good that Kurt Cobain included a few in his suicide note. You can’t mess with that. There is something soothing about this song. Like, the die is cast, this is what I do and I’m gonna do it forever. Maybe it’s sad but it feels kinda glamorous to me. I love his performance of this song at Farm Aid … look at those eyes. I should learn how to play harmonica. So should Kanye!
SSION’S FORTHCOMING ALBUM O WILL BE OUT IN 2018. YOU CAN CHECK OUT AN EXTENDED VERSION OF THIS PLAYLIST ON SPOTIFY.