As pop music seems to make its cultural resurgence, Kim Petras’ Clarity, propels the genre forward by reinventing both the sonic and business “formula” that made it so popular in the early-2000s.
Kim Petras is the Los Angeles-based, millennial pop sensation from Germany whose early gender transition gave her her first 15 minutes of fame before she took the music industry by storm in 2017. Though she released her first EP, One Piece of Tape, in 2011, she didn’t stake her claim until working with the controversial producer, Dr. Luke, who was accused of sexually assaulting Kesha back in 2014. Despite backlash from the public, Petras continues to work with Luke, expressing her sympathy for sexual assault victims but emphasizing that her own perspective on the producer is not the same as Kesha’s. After a series of critically-acclaimed singles, collaborations with fellow pop connoisseur Charli XCX and her Halloween-themed EP entitled Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1, she finally released her debut album, Clarity, on June 28.
While many artists seem to be following in Beyonce’s footsteps by keeping hush-hush until their album is essentially already out, Kim Petras is no stranger to singles (i.e. her entire rainbow-themed collection including “I Don’t Want It At All,” “Heart to Break,” and “Hillside Boys”). If there’s one word to describe Kim, it’s “consistent.”
In the months leading up to Clarity’s release, the 26-year-old star took to Twitter and Instagram (as she often does to casually interact and meme around with her fans) to announce a new single every week for nine weeks. Along with the tracks themselves, she also released a lyric video and Spotify visualizer for each; delivering a gift-wrapped package of pop perfection tied together by stylistically similar (yet individually perfect) visuals. Starting with “Broken” and ending with the title-track “Clarity,” the singles create a narrative that follows her experiences with love, loneliness, heartbreak, and recovery. Altogether, the build-up to Clarity is unmatched by any other artist.
The album itself revels in the familiar verse-chorus pop structure but is elevated by its infectious melodies and electronic-dance stylings by Aaron Joseph and Dr. Luke, who also assisted in writing the album. By incorporating influences from hip-hop, R&B, and soul into built-for-gay-nights-out dance-pop, Kim Petras traverses across genres to create an album full of hits.
Lyrically, one might knock Clarity for being “basic” or “silly.” However, while the choruses may come across as lacking in depth with lyrics like “do me, do me, do me like that, hurt me so good, make me wanna be bad” or “all I do is cry about you,” they also reek of a playful authenticity sold completely by the melodrama of her flirtatious character. Like if Sharpay Evans’ “Fabulous” and Britney Spears’ “Oops!…I Did It Again” had a lovechild equally as bitchy and confident as it was innocent and charming. But, no matter if a song is pleading “don’t stop, don’t stop, we’re getting to the sweet spot” or lamenting a lost love, every track (beginning to end) is guaranteed to get stuck in your head and make you throw some ass.
It’s easy to understand why artists are pumping out music like machines nowadays, what with social media, video and audio streaming attacking the already-short attention spans of listeners inundated by infinite choice. So, as a musician, it’s never been more important to know yourself, know your brand and know your audience – three things Kim Petras can check off her list with her eyes closed. With this debut album, she solidifies herself as the LGBTQIA+ icon and popstar she was born to become.