If this debut album from Kim Petras feels like it’s been a long time coming, well, that’s because it has. The German pop savant began gathering “Bunheads” – the singer’s loyal fanbase named after her early signature hairstyle – when she dropped the strutting, tongue-in-cheek single ‘I Don’t Want It At All’ in August 2017.
These days, breaking into the mainstream is a tall order for any female pop artist, but Petras has faced an additional obstacle: the industry’s tacit transphobia. When she initially tried to land a major label deal, she was told: “How do we market this? There isn’t a place for you.” It must have felt doubly sweet, then, when last year’s inescapable Sam Smith collaboration ‘Unholy’ made her the first openly trans artist to reach Number One on the Billboard Hot 100, then the first openly trans artist to win a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group.
At this point in her career, Petras has already proven she can make a distinctive body of work: last year’s ‘Slut Pop’ EP lived up to its lascivious title with tracks called ‘Throat Goat’ and ‘Treat Me Like A Slut’. But ‘Feed The Beast’ arrives with a slightly different M.O. When Petras sings “Everything I drop is a banger” on ‘Uhoh’, it feels like the album’s guiding principle. This is her shot to become a proper, household name pop star, and she’s not going to blow it.
Thankfully, on ‘Feed The Beast’, nearly everything that Petras drops actually is a banger. ‘Sex Talk’ sounds like a hyperpop cover of an early Madonna single, the Max Martin co-write ‘Thousand Pieces’ is the best boyband ballad in years, and the delirious rave anthem ‘Castles In The Sky’ channels happy hardcore veterans Scooter. ‘King Of Hearts’, an Ava Max-style dance banger, will dominate gay bars from Berlin to Birmingham. It also displays Petras’s lyrical dexterity: “You got your girls lined up like you throwing a blind audition,” she sings, taking aim at a monogamy-resistant player.
Elsewhere, the funky, sun-kissed ‘Coconuts’ shows Petras’ campy side: when she sings “you can put ’em in your mouth”, she isn’t referring to a tropical fruit that grows on palm trees. It’s one of seven tracks co-written with Lukas “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, Petras’s frequent collaborator, who has been a highly controversial figure since Kesha accused him of emotional abuse and sexual assault in 2014. (The producer has always denied the allegations and the pair have been in a long-running legal battle since).
Not everything fits: the gloomy Banks duet ‘Bait’ is too subdued to stand out next to so much pop maximalism, and ‘Unholy’ is tacked on the end of the tracklist, presumably because it sounds like nothing else here. This doesn’t really matter. ‘Feed The Beast’ is a tremendously entertaining showcase for a pop star who can go deep when she wants to, but is also smart enough to understand the visceral thrill of dumb escapism. When she sings “hands up, spill your drink on thе floor!” on ‘Uhoh’, you’ll be powerless to resist.
- Release date: June 23, 2023
- Record label: Republic