There’s no faulting Kim Petras’s (blonde) ambition. “I wanna feel like Madonna,” she declares on the title track of this de facto debut album. By the end of the 12-track release, which the German singer-songwriter is calling a “project”, she comes off more like a sex-positive, millennial update of Paris Hilton. Given that Petras has said she was “obsessed” with The Simple Life growing up, and recruited Hilton to cameo in one of her videos, this comparison should be received by her appreciatively.
Though 26-year-old Petras has yet to score a mainstream hit, she now has a very healthy 2.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and a particular rapport with LGBTQ pop fans. “I feel proud to be a trans girl, on my way to becoming a legit pop star,” she said in a recent interview, neatly summing up why her progress in the straight-dominated music industry feels so important. ‘Clarity’ should do plenty to continue her upward momentum, because for 38 minutes the sleek pop hooks just keep on coming.
‘Broken’ is a brilliantly bitter break-up bop, the irresistible ‘Sweet Spot’ recalls Fever-era Kylie and ‘Personal Hell’ sounds like the darkest song Britney never recorded. “Yeah, I’m sad, but I’m down to fuck,” Petras sings without an ounce of self-consciousness. Throughout, she’s often boastful (“I’m in Paris in Marc Jacobs, life’s amazing”) but never one-note. The gloomy grind of ‘All I Do Is Cry’ shows her vulnerable side; closing track ‘Shinin” is more interesting than it initially seems, its celebration of success tempered by melancholy.
The caveat? Every track was co-written and produced by Dr. Luke, the highly successful former Katy Perry and Pink collaborator who’s been accused of sexual assault and battery by Kesha, allegations he’s consistently denied. “While I’ve been open and honest about my positive experience with Dr. Luke,” Petras wrote in a Twitter statement last year, “that does not negate or dismiss the experience of others or suggest that multiple perspectives cannot exist at once.” Petras’s decision to work with a such a controversial figure shouldn’t be ignored, but neither should it be allowed to overshadow her own contributions to these songs.
On ‘Clarity’ she establishes a glamorously appealing pop persona that’s all her own: resilient, materialistic, ready and able to call the shots. “I could take you to Miami, but you’ll never meet my family,” she sings on ‘Meet The Parents’, putting a potential partner in his place. By the end of the project, the only logical conclusion is that Petras already sounds like a legit pop star. Now it’s time for the world to make her one.