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It’s been a while since mainstream pop stars got absolutely weird. Thankfully, artists like Doja Cat are carrying on the legacy of the likes of Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, while saving the mainstream pool from getting dull.
“All the goofy kids, or the kids who don’t put themselves on a pedestal, or are just not normally accepted — I feel like making that example is good for those kids,” Doja said in her April Billboard cover story. “Because maybe they felt like they could never make it in an industry where everybody is so serious. It’s important that they know they have a lane.”
Staying true to her guts is mainly the reason for the 25-year-old’s rapid ascension, who thrives off of testing a whole myriad of boundaries. Whether it’s refusing to stick to one lane (she flips through rap, R&B and pop with ease), unleashing various renditions of “Say So” because she grew tired of performing the original version, or rocking the kookiest of outfits (2018’s viral “Mooo!” look being the most notorious), it’s clear Doja Cat lives for the thrill. So much so that she left Planet Earth and invited fans inside her new Planet Her album.
Arriving today, the 14-song collection finds the artist at her most confident. 2018’s Amala debut and 2019’s Hot Pink showcased her impressive versatility. Those albums were a yummy trail mix of talents, and Planet Her is the glue that brings it all together.
The album opens with the Afrobeats-inspired “Woman”, drifting listeners not to another planet — but the motherland. Similar to Amala’s “Wine Pon You” featuring dancehall star Konshens and Hot Pink’s “Won’t Bite” that samples 1945 Swahili love song “My Angel (Malaika)“, “Woman” is a hip-shaking celebration of the African diaspora. While bringing her heritage to the forefront (Doja’s father is South African), she shout outs Rihanna’s admirable CEO status as well as her own “divine feminine” allure. Later on “Alone,” Doja channels Rih’s come-hither attitude.
Women’s bodies double as a place of worship, and Doja Cat continues to highlight every inch of her curves on “Naked.” The artist has grown even more comfortable in her skin, and embracing sexuality is an integral theme on Planet Her. It’s best executed on the seductive “You Right.” Here, Doja reunites with The Weeknd, whom she previously collaborated on his “In Your Eyes” remix last May. The Weeknd, who is fresh off his ‘80s-inspired After Hours era, has retired the red suit and briefly returns to the dark sluttiness that longtime fans have been longing for. “But this sex will cloud your memory. A couple strokes will put an end and you’ll belong to me,” he urges in hopes Doja will leave her man.
One of Doja’s best traits is how she shapeshifts her sound to compliment guests. Along with “You Right,” she’s a gracious host on Planet Her, melding her tone to pair with Ariana Grande’s signature sultry coos on “I Don’t Do Drugs” and pumps up Young Thug for a glorious battle of the rap weirdos on “Payday.”
But there are stale moments to be avoided on Planet Her, including the forgettable “Been Like This” and “Imagine.” “Get Into It (Yuh)” is a SoundCloud rapper parody, which may or may not be a nod to when she first blew up on the streaming platform with 2012’s “So High.” What saves the track is the absolutely adorable Nicki Minaj shoutout towards the end, a reminder that the OG rapper is not only an inspiration but the one who pushed the “Say So” remix to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
And then there’s the shadow of Dr. Luke: In 2014, Kesha hit the pop producer/songwriter with various allegations including rape and emotional abuse. The year prior, Doja Cat signed to his Kemosabe Records and hasn’t acknowledged the working relationship. Dr. Luke’s career has remained intact and has credits on “Need To Know,” “You Right,” and “Kiss Me More,” which is difficult to shake off.
But songs like “Ain’t Sh*t” and “Need To Know” help the album achieve its vision. The former, which Doja first previewed on Instagram Live last April, will satisfy fans who’ve awaited its official version. The stripped piano melody of “Ain’t Sh*t” calls back to Elton John’s 1974 classic “Bennie And The Jets,” but that original song’s sincerity is sharply juxtaposed with Doja’s beloved dry humor and a rightfully fed up attitude of the opposite sex (“You should’ve paid my rent / Got get a f**king job!).
“Need To Know” is the best song on Planet Her: an otherworldly joyride driven by the mad scientist that is Doja Cat. She’s in true alien form here: a raunchy freak, cooing baby, helium sucker, and frantic spitter over a galaxy of ice-cold trap melodies. Lyrics like “I don’t play with my pen / I mean what I writе” and “Oh, wait, you a fan of the magic? / Poof, pussy like an Alakazam” is Doja getting deep in her cocky rap bag and it’s exciting to hear.
If Doja Cat’s multiple live performances that highlight her classically trained dance skills, the feast of music videos that call back to the glory days of Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott, or the expertly twisted wordplay weren’t enough, then Planet Her will solidify her star status. As Earth continues to slowly crumble — from climate change to social injustices — I’ll gladly book a one-way ticket and escape to Planet Her.
Planet Her is out now via Kemosabe Records/RCA Records. Get it here.