Illustration by Creak Shi, University of Michigan

Upon pressing play on Kim Petras’ debut album, “Feed The Beast,” listeners are greeted by a growl from a dragon-like creature. The singer’s first release with a major record label, the album is a consumer-friendly compilation of sonically diverse pop that reflects the breadth of her talents.

In the six years since Petras released her brilliant debut single, “I Don’t Want It at All,” her musical journey has included an unmatched run of bubblegum singles, a “mixtape,” a Halloween-themed project and a scrapped album. During this time, she went from being an independent artist with a cultivated online fanbase to a viral hitmaker. Petras is now signed with Republic Records and is one of the first transgender women to win a Grammy award.

Petras has already released her 2019 album “Clarity” (retroactively declared a “mixtape”), 2018’s Halloween-inspired project “Turn Off The Light” and her 2022 “Slut Pop” mini-album. As such, “Feed The Beast” is not quite a “debut,” but it is her first full project released under Republic Records. Her unreleased — and since leaked — 2022 album, “Problématique,” was scrapped before it saw the light of day, stirring up speculation about creative differences between the singer and her label. “Feed The Beast” is the product of the knowledge Petras gained from past singles, “Problématique” cuts and the influence of the electronic Europop she grew up with.

Upon hearing the album’s title, one might ask, “Exactly what beast are we supposed to be feeding?” After all, the cover art for the album shows Petras in front of a midnight-blue sky, wet-haired and wrapped in ancient chains as if she had just fought off “the beast” in an epic battle. Could “the beast” be a metaphor for the commercial machine of pop music? Or perhaps the often-dangerous state of fame? Well, not quite. The title track’s lyrics identify “the beast” as Petras’ sexual desire, instructing her partner to “​​eat me please.” While the aforementioned meanings might have made for a more insightful piece, this song still makes for a fun and up-tempo introduction to the album.

The real star of this album is the club banger, “King of Hearts.” The song accomplishes what Petras does best: delivering a sorrowful message about heartbreak while still managing to be dance-worthy and upbeat. There are many incredible instances of this throughout her tenure as Gen Z’s pop maestro — “Heart to Break,” “Icy,” and “Hillside Boys,” just to name a few — and “King of Hearts” cranks up the heat on the subgenre of heartbreak anthems Petras has mastered. “I met you one night on the corner of a bad decision/When my eyes locked with yours it felt just like a fast collision,” she sings at breakneck speed. The song leans into the album’s characteristic electronic sound, and sprawls into an all-out rager of a chorus that is bound to get listeners up and jumping. “King of hearts/You gon’ keep on playin’ ‘til you go too far,” Petras belts out.

The first few tracks on the album are in line with the Europop vibe Petras seems excited to embrace, but the sound begins to stray shortly after. Per fan request (and likely her own desire), two songs from the scrapped “Problématique” album are featured: “Revelations” and “Hit It From The Back.” Though the songs maintain the essence of Petras’ fizzy bubblegum-pop, they ultimately feel out of place on the album. Still, despite their jarring difference from the rest of the songs, any dedicated fan is sure to be pleased that the irresistible cuts are finally available to stream.

Sandwiched between the two “Problématique” tracks is the dark and moody “BAIT,” which features BANKS. “If you want my love, baby, say it to my face/If you want me hard, you can pull up by my place,” BANKS purrs atop a hyperpop-tinged beat. The two artists’ voices blend seamlessly, at times making it difficult to differentiate between the two. Petras shines on the first verse, however, warning that “I got the venom to take you to heaven/And I’m ‘bout to bite down, down.”

The album winds down by tacking on past singles from as long ago as 2021. Tracks such as “Coconuts,” “brrr,” and the Sam Smith collaboration “Unholy” actually take more away from the album than they add to it. Though each of these songs are fun, edgy and fierce, they clash with the new songs. The transition from lines like “Off with your head/Off with the lines that you rehearsed forever,” to “My coconuts/You can put ‘еm in your mouth,” is a sharp contrast, to say the least. None of this is to say that the lighthearted songs are rudimentary or silly, because one of Petras’ strong suits is her knack for writing irresistible songs about sex. But in relation to the other tracks and their Europop influences, the older singles don’t stand as strong.

The inclusion of these tracks is likely Republic Records’ doing, not Petras’ own. By featuring the Grammy-winning “Unholy” and TikTok-viral “Coconuts,” the album appears more successful from a numbers standpoint. Maybe Petras did want the songs on the album, but that seems unlikely due to the dark Europop focus of most of the new songs — which keep in theme with “feeding the beast.” While you can still easily bop your head along with the older singles, the album would likely be stronger if they were shaved off. Petras’ artistic vision is somewhat muddled by the external focus on commercial and chart success.

“Claws” swoops in to save the day in the latter half of the album. The song’s similarity to Petras’ Halloween project, “Turn Off The Light,” is a sweet surprise for longtime fans who relish her references to horror. Thudding bass and heavenly layered vocals carry the listener through feelings of intense infatuation, asking “Am I tripping on acid?/I want you like a drug/Am I crazy for calling it love?” The chorus is a jumpy and entrancing blend of synths that transports the listener to a sonic wonderland. “‘Cause you dig your claws right into my heart so I won’t forget ya/’Cause you sink your teeth in every scar and it gives me pleasure,” Petras sings. In moments like these, she seems to have found her sweet spot for crafting excellent pop earworms. Though there are definitely a couple of outliers, she mostly sticks to her formula of enticing her listeners with user-friendly pop songs. The result is a solid major-label debut that’s sure to find its way into countless clubs and dance floors this summer.

You may also like

Back to Top