The boundary pushing pop artist Tripping Jupiter has released “Lipstick of The Brave”, an equal parts timely and timeless piano ballad with a personal message dedicated to freedom of gender expression. The single is accompanied by a short film with hand-drawn animation directed by illustrator, animator and two-time Academy Award Nominee Bill Plympton that brings the story and message of “Lipstick of the Brave” to life in gorgeous living color. The short film / music video has already been named as an official selection at the OUTShine LGBTQ+ Film Festival, LGBTQ+ Los Angeles Film Festival, Big Apple Film Festival, Cherry Grove Archives Collection Film Festival, and the Montreal Independent Film Festival.
Describing the process behind writing “Lipstick of The Brave”, the key creative force behind Tripping Jupiter, Madstone Rowan, says that the song came out of a regular meeting with their producer and mentor Barb Morrison (Debbie Harry, LP), who discouraged them from covering the song “Science Fiction Double Feature” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and challenged them instead to write their *own* “Science Fiction Double Feature”. After initially being taken aback by the challenge, Madstone reflected on what the original “Science Fiction Double Feature” was about and realized that much in the same way composer Richard O’Brien wrote the song about the B-movie horror and sci-fi films from their youth that inspired them, “Lipstick of the Brave” should pay tribute to the early queer icons from their youth like Tim Curry and David Bowie who made Madstone realize for the first time that the possibilities of their own gender expression were much more open than they ever realized.
As Madstone describes it, “I immediately thought of Rocky Horror and when I first saw Tim Curry when he made his first appearance in the film, how that sent electricity through my body. Then I thought about David Bowie, and how he pushed the limits of gender throughout his career. The words just started coming out, as they often do. I was writing, not thinking. Then I remembered how I felt when I first saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch… and I thought about how I felt when I saw Lady Gaga when she first burst onto the scene, all androgynous and amazing – and that went in the song too. Images of me as a teen, alone in my room, playing with makeup, putting on lipstick and dancing around my room to my favorite music – all of this just shot into my brain.” When Madstone sent the finished track back to Barb, their only response was “Motherfucker, you made me cry”.
Bill Plympton’s hand-drawn music video for “Lipstick of The Brave” takes Madstone’s intimate and personal story and turns it into something universally accessible, conjuring images of each one of these queer icons of Madstone’s childhood in a expressionistic, manic animation style that is typical of BIll’s work as a cartoonist and animator. With two academy award nominations, a Cannes jury prize, and a number of other awards and accolades under his belt, Bill Plympton was Madstone’s first pick for someone to bring their vision to life, and when Bill received the track he immediately took to it, with Madstone saying that he instantly understood and captured the message they wanted to get across.
Describing the intended thematic meaning behind the song, Madstone says “‘Lipstick of the Brave’ is about my journey of personal empowerment, embracing the goddess energy inside of me and each of us – and honoring that goddess energy by dressing in drag and embracing drag/fantasy through lipstick, makeup and dress. It is a brave and courageous act when any of us does it as individuals, it is an act of collective power when we do it in community”. It’s a message that holds particular weight at this particular moment where trans and gender non-confirming youth across the country are under assault from unnecessary and cruel legislation aimed at policing their gender, but the classic style of the song allows it to transcend just being a song of the current moment and become a rallying cry of the outcasts, misfits, and rebels who have always and will always be here.