The author, director, producer and forward-thinking feminist of BurningAngel details the albums that became a part of her identity and ultimately steered her creative path.
Over the course of the last two decades, Joanna Angel has transformed the landscape of adult entertainment.
Starting her BurningAngel production empire from her college dorm room in 2002, her brand incorporated a counter culture esthetic on film that was missing from the space, often relegated as a fringe category within the genre. Angel took the confrontational component of punk and presented it front and center, integral to the fabric of all things BurningAngel.
In the years since, Angel has since gone onto become an accomplished director, producer, entrepreneur, and a two-time author, all under business banner that remains both sex positive and unapologetically adult. More than just the tattoos and the punk rock posture, Angel and the contributors under her umbrella, typify a modern generation of creatives that work best outside the lines. All this while dismantling stigma and the defying stereotypes associated with the universe of adult entertainment.
Celebrating the release of her second book, Club 42: A Choose-Your-Own Erotic Fantasy, Angel as the author presents an interactive read that allows the audience to help navigate the plot and drive the narrative by steering the protagonist throughout the read. It’s that kind of outside the box thinking that has anchored Angel’s career.
Championing the counter culture from there very beginning of BurningAngel, we thought it would be fitting to find out the musical roadmap that began Joanna Angel on her course of professional conquest.
In her own words, the forward-thinking industry innovator shared the ten albums that changed her life.
Rancid – …And Out Come the Wolves
Angel – I used to stay up way past my bedtime and watch 120 minutes on MTV when I was in middle school (it was on from 12- 2 am on Sunday evenings- for those of you who aren’t from my generation, or are, but you actually adhered to your bedtime). The moment I saw the music video for “Time Bomb” was a life-changing moment. It wasn’t that I just liked the song, the attitude and the style and the aesthetic of Tim and Lars… and the music video itself… well, it made me feel like, I found my home. Up until that point, I was some kind of wandering lost stray weirdo looking for where I belonged, and after I went and purchased this album the very next day. I found the home I was looking for, and it was called Punk.
Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine
Angel – This album was basically my best friend, and actually my only real friend in middle-school. No one understood me the way Trent did. I spent my time in class writing out all of his lyrics in my notebook. I had a giant poster of Trent hung up in my bedroom, that I would literally speak to at night. And I swear, he heard every word I said. The lyrics and the music of this album are heart-wrenching and beautiful. A few years ago when I was lucky enough to see Nine Inch Nails in concert, and he sang the bridge of “That’s What I Get” myself along with most of the room was in tears. It will get me every time! In his words “It meant everything to me.”
Rocket From The Crypt – Self Titled
Angel – I could go into explaining how much I love this album and how many times I listened to it on repeat in my later teens and early 20’s , and how I still to this day sing the red-lipstick song every time I put on red-lipstick, but that’s just not that interesting. What I can tell you is that on the very first date I went on with my now husband, he rolled up his pant leg up to scratch his leg and I briefly saw that he had an RFTC tattoo. I barely knew him at all but our mutual love for this band made me feel instantly connected to him. It was that moment I knew I wanted to marry him. And well, just a few years later… I did.
Children of Bodom – Are You Dead Yet?
Angel – Pre-covid, I have spent the past 10+ years touring strip clubs across the world as a feature entertainer. As a “featured” act in a club, it was part of my job to put together my own set list of music to strip to, and well…. that Britney Spears cover, was what I would call my secret weapon. It was a sure fire way to wake up an unenthusiastic crowd, or even… and unenthusiastic me, on the nights where I was just a little too tired to be stripping my clothing off to loud music at 3 am in a different time zone. My set would open with “Are You Dead Yet?” and close with “Oops I did it again”, and both these tunes made my presence known. They made me feel sexy, they made me feel angry, and they brought out a sexual and powerful demon in me that possessed the room and in turn made customers open up their wallets.
RIP Alexi. You wrote some brilliant music that not only changed my life, but also changed the amount of money in my bank account. And while we’re at it talking about this cover…seriously, FREE BRITNEY!
Pantera – Vulgar Display of Power
Angel – Rancid made me fall in love with Punk, and this album made me fall in love with metal. And there is no better way to fall in love with metal than when you’re naked on stage at a strip club as you clank you pleaser heels on the stage to the beat of “Walk”. The first time I ever heard that song was actually also my first night of stripping, back in 2004. The strip club DJ picked it for me as I went on stage, and after completing my set I went up and asked him “Hey who is the band that sang that first song you picked for me” and he gave me a condescending look and said “Pantera”, and he was right for being condescending. Shame on me for always knowing who they were and never taking the time to listen to them because I listened to Punk, and I rarely strayed away from the genre when listening to music. However, I made up for lost time studying up on all things Pantera, who I soon realized were also punk as fuck, and it opened the door for me to expand my horizons to a whole world of metal I had yet to pay much attention to.
Pulp – This Is Hardcore
Angel – If it wasn’t for this album, I don’t know if I would have ever had sex. OK, that’s a stretch I mean eventually I would have had it with someone but there’s no way my first time would have been as good as it was without the help of this album getting me in the mood. This album really made me want to have sex. And like, lots of sex. It’s hands down, the sexiest album ever made.
The Locust – Self Titled
Angel – This incredibly bizarre 20 minute album full of discordant keyboards and a high pitched screaming vocals, is one of the most brilliant records ever made. If you think I’m wrong, well, I will stab you with the wings of my locust belt buckle while I’m wearing a gas-mask and force you to change your mind. The genius of Justin Pearson is often overlooked, but not by me. I was instantly hooked the moment I heard this album, and I joined their cult of fans, following this band around in my tight pants and teased black hair and my vegan creepers, literally anywhere they played within several hundred miles from me in the early 2000’s. They inspired me. They made me step outside the box and channel my angst into art. They made me want to create. They made me want to scream, and most importantly, they made me want to dance.
Sleater Kinney – Call the Doctor
Sleater Kinney was such an important band. They got up and yelled ‘I am a woman hear me roar,’ but at the same time they also said ‘I am a woman and it’s ok to cry sometimes.’ They embraced the harder and softer side of feminism and this album made me feel like it was perfectly ok to be me. I can’t tell you how many times I cried to “Good Things” and then screamed and yelled and stomped my feet to “Call the Doctor.” And now, years later, I laugh my ass off uncontrollably to Portlandia. So, Carrie Brownstein, you have officially made me feel every emotion there is to feel. Thank you.
Weezer – Pinkerton
Angel – I wish Weezer would just stop making albums so we could all remember them by this, because anything they did after this, just sucks. In their defense, when you make something so awesome it really is hard to follow that. This is the ultimate singalong album, and it’s damn near impossible to be in a bad mood when you put it on. Most of the music I listen to inspires some kind of anger, or some kind of intense dark emotion, but you know, this album inspires a feeling that is often forgotten as an option in the creation of art. And that is happiness. This album, just, makes me fucking happy. Is that ok to say? It always did. And it always will. And that’s important. I remember seeing Weezer play on this tour, and I had never in my life, seen an entire crowd, sing along every single word to every single song, throughout the entire show. I’m smiling just thinking about it.
Anti-Flag – Die For The Government
Angel – Back in 1998 I went to Coney Island high with the intent to see the SubHumans play. The opening bang was Anti-Flag, and I had not heard of them yet. My music taste at the time was mostly limited to what I saw spray painted on the back of spiky leather jackets, and they had not made their way on those. I got there early to reserve a standing spot in the front row, as I was very short, and the crowd surely would be full of tall men, with very tall spiked hair. Anti-Flag came onto the stage, they opened with “Die For The Government” and the energy and the unity that song brought to that tiny room was something incomparable to anything I’ve ever felt.
I found myself singing along to a song I never even heard yet, hanging onto every word, raising my fist and stomping my feet, with every emotion from the bottom of my angst filled heart. It was fucking powerful. At the end of the set, I forfeited my front row spot and pushed through the crowd and ran over to their merch table and immediately purchased their CD, and said, “Thank You” to the guy at the table. It was a life changing moment. I listened to that album every day in its entirety on repeat for many many months after. As for the SubHumans, well, I’ll always love their logo! And that’s about it.