LOS ANGELES – “Feed the Beast” by Kim Petras (Republic Records)
Better late than never, and surely worth the wait: Fifteen years after launching her music career, the German singer Kim Petras has released a glossy, full-length major-label debut, filled with Eurodance and trance-informed pop music.
Not to say that the delay was her fault, or that she hasn’t been hard at work. This year, Petras became the first openly trans artists to win in a major category at the Grammy Awards for her playfully sacrilegious collaboration with Sam Smith, “Unholy,” in the best pop duo/group performance category. The same song, re-released as a bonus track on “Feed the Beast,” went No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first trans artist ever occupy the top spot.
So why the postponement? In 2021, after signing to major label Republic Records, Petras recorded a debut LP titled “Problematique” — but it was scrapped, and ultimately, leaked. In the interim, she reimagined herself a student of Eurodance and ’90s house music. The lead single “Alone,” featuring a punchy verse from rapper Nicki Minaj, is the exemplar: She samples the 1999 Alice Deejay hit “Better Off Alone,” appealing to Y2K cultural nostalgia for vocal trance and neon nightlife.
Throughout “Feed the Beast”, Petras demonstrates a deep understanding of the many nuances of hi-hat-heavy, club-ready anthems. Even the slow burn “Thousand Pieces” is recorded over a trap beat, a far cry from, say, the industrial-noise-pop of “brrr.” As Petras sings on “uhoh,” “Everything I drop is a banger.”
At the center of “Feed the Beast” are two sex-positive synth-pop stompers: “Sex Talk" and “Hit It From The Back,” tracks that strike like an R-rated take on Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” era — up-tempo pop tunes meant to earworm their way into the listener’s heart and transgress in equal measure.
The influence of Perry appears again on the campy “Coconuts,” a summery ode to her chest. That's likely because much of “Feed the Beast” was produced by Dr. Luke, as was the case with “Teenage Dream.”
It is worth noting that Luke's longstanding legal battle with singer Kesha over allegations of rape and, in turn, allegations of defamation finally settled in court last week following nearly a decade of lawsuits and countersuits. According to Vulture, in 2022, Petras tweeted in response to a fan asking her to “stop defending dr luke” by writing, “I have nothing to say or be ashamed of at all.” She deleted the tweets.
Beyond those complications, and for all the fun and flirtiness of “Feed the Beast,” there is a subtle restraint. Electric songs ripe for the dance floor burn bright and fast — a sprint, not a marathon — and lack the kind of edge listeners have come to expect from Petras. Where are the explicit, breathy harmonies of 2022's “Slut Pop” EP? The Madonna-worship of “Broken” from 2021's “Do Me”? Her entertaining hedonism persists, to be sure, but how long will it resonate?
Across 14 original tracks, Kim Petras' beast has been fed — and hopefully soon, it will be unleashed.