It has taken Kim Petras 15 years to get a debut album out. In the interim, the German singer —songwriter’s steady rise has made her one to watch among pop artists: Her “Era 1” singles, released from 2017 to 2019, were a cool homage to fizzy 2000s bubblegum, and her pair of Halloween-themed mixtapes were edgy, spooky fun. Earlier this year, Petras became the first trans artist to have a Number One hit, with her Sam Smith collaboration “Unholy.”
But the journey to Feed the Beast hasn’t been all Champagne and glitter. Her continued work with Dr. Luke has been troublesome to many music fans, due to accusations of sexual assault and abuse that kept the producer locked in a long-running legal battle with Kesha, which just settled out of court this week. Then, after signing to a major label in 2021, Petras’ original debut album, Problematique, was scrapped entirely and eventually leaked.
Petras has described her new release as her most “personal” work to date, a project forsaking the characters she embodied on her Turn Off the Lights Halloween projects or even last year’s Slut Pop EP. But somehow this album feels like we’ve gotten even further from who Petras is creatively, losing the weird magnetism and spark that made her past eras feel so fun and against the grain.
Largely, Petras’ new material seems heavily inspired by Nineties house and Europop. Lead single “Alone,” featuring a surprisingly low — energy Nicki Minaj guest verse, samples Alice Deejay’s 1999 hit “Better Off Alone,” adding unnecessary trap hi-hats into the mix. Much of the album is comprised of similarly cheap ploys for radio and TikTok play, making the often trendsetting Petras a copy of many copies. Tracks like “King of Hearts” and “Claws” sound like an onslaught of overpriced vodka sodas: watered down and indiscernible from the next one.
It’s not all bad news: “Coconuts,” released last year, is still a sunshine-y bop. “Revelations” features a steely bit of Eighties guitar and a chorus that feels like a nod to her spooky-pop history. While most of the songs are extremely horny, “Sex Talk” and “Hit It From the Back” are the sexiest of the sex songs, commendable for their directness and sense of humor.
“Minute” exudes some of that vulnerability Petras promised from the album: It’s a straightforward yearning love song about wanting someone to stay just a little longer. Meanwhile, “Uh Oh” is a classic Petras party track. She sings “Everything I drop is a banger” on the chorus, which is true of the song but falls flat when thinking of the rest of the album.
Of course, even the weaker songs have their dance-floor potential. Petras is, above all else, a pure fan of pop music and the feeling it exudes. But in chasing her new status as the type of pop star who has Top 40 potential, she abandoned the freakishly forward-thinking personality that built her a base to begin with. Here, the beast has been tamed. Let’s hope it doesn’t stay subdued much longer.