Published Jul 04, 2019The ethos of Kim Petras is defined by the opening lyrics on Clarity: "Clarity, I got clarity / I'm the bitch with the sauce, apparently." Though her musical debut was only two years ago — with the single "I Don't Want It All" — the buzz surrounding the German singer-songwriter and her infectious brand of "pure pop" has accelerated. She followed with more singles, and her EP, Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1, in 2018. Clarity, her debut album, falls short of capturing the breadth of Petras's rarity, excluding a few crystalline moments.
Although it's someone else Petras insultingly calls "a parody" on the opening track, it's she who comes across as a parody more than once on Clarity. With cocky lyrics that celebrate affluence and indulgence, Petras sounds like many other white women in pop, appropriating — and defanging — black hip-hop artists, à la Miley Cyrus on "We Can't Stop" and Ariana Grande on "7 rings." "Blow It All," admittedly, a killer earworm, feels like a déjà vu moment of "We Can't Stop," right down to the references to big butts (here, "a big ol' ass") and doing coke in the bathroom.
Otherwise, the lyrics are cliché recounts of heartbreak, love and sex over generic trap-pop production. The style renders several tracks either underwhelming, like the vindictive break-up song "Broken," or forgettable, like the one-night-stand anthem "Got My Number."
But Petras's spirit isn't broken. The track "Personal Hell" shines, sounding equal parts Disney teen starlet — if they sang '80s-inspired synth-pop — and Sky Ferreira, with dysfunctional, not-safe-for-Disney lyrics like "Family says that I need help / Late at night, I touch myself." Petras's voice is monotonous but anxious on the verses, and desperately passionate on the chorus, for a delicious contrast.
Tracks like "Personal Hell" and others — the vulnerable "All I Do Is Cry," the passionate, synth-laden "Do Me" and the braggadocios, independent-minded "Meet the Parents" — reiterate Petras's white-hot pop star potential. As a full body of work, Clarity demonstrates the pitfalls she is encountering on her way there. (Independent)