PLANET HER by Doja Cat
Best tracks: Kiss Me More, Naked, Get Into It (Yuh), You Right
Weakest tracks: Been Like This, I Don’t Do Drugs
Planet Her is the hotly-anticipated pop-rap album by American rapper Doja Cat after she broke out with her sophomore Hot Pink last year. Promising sci-fi concepts in the sounds and visuals for the music videos, along with futuristic and utopian space imagery, all eyes were on this record’s release date, especially those of Doja Cat’s dedicated young fandom who call themselves Doja’s ‘kittens’. Finally released on 25th June, it is now available on all major streaming sites. And there are clearly some standout tracks.
‘Woman’ is a powerful opener for the conceptual album. With its afrobeat and confident vocal delivery, ‘Woman’ makes for an empowering dance track although it isn’t grand enough to be considered an empowerment anthem. There are some notably interesting lyrics on Doja’s part with her dropping pop culture keywords like the teen movie ‘Mean Girls’, the religious figure of Mother Mary and the Divine Feminine. Sometimes, one can’t help but think this track tries to emulate 2018’s pop mega-hit ‘God Is A Woman’ by Ariana Grande which also had themes of female worship and feminine sexuality. But Doja makes up for it in her feisty delivery, with a kind of ferocity that never really comes back again in the album.
The next track is ‘Naked’ which is one of my favourites on the record. Doja whispers alluringly, “Baby you so anxious. Can we take it? Can we take this off and get naked?” She opens the song by rapping this repeatedly to the point that it sounds like a hypnotizingly seductive chant, thereby setting up a very exciting and tastefully fun atmosphere for the rest of the song. Another noteworthy aspect is its South African house-type beat, reminiscent of Beyonce’s Derek Dixie-produced ‘Find Your Way Back’ in 2019. The dance beat and synths create an image of a starry night sky and a bonfire-lit beach party, which go well with Planet Her‘s cover art and space concept. There are some creative verses about the “party in your pants”, designer birthday suits, couture, tattoos, island-hopping, and post-coital cuddling. It’s all very fun and playfully sexy.
‘Naked’ is followed by ‘Payday’, which features rapper Young Thug. It has a very lighthearted and jovial vibe which is fresh, but if you have listened to Hot Pink, it sounds like a track that could have been released as part of that but was excluded at the last minute and was shipped with Planet Her instead. The windchime-like strings and the bass reminds one of the Hot Pink-era hits such as ‘Juicy’ and ‘Shine’. It’s almost like Doja’s team thought, “Okay, just in case the Hot Pink-inclined fans aren’t down for the sci-fi fantasy concept of Planet Her, they can check out the Hot Pink-esque ‘Payday’.”
‘Get Into It (Yuh)’ is one of the more exciting songs on the album with the piano hook grabbing your attention from the very start, and with a very groovy chorus. Doja Cat is in her element here.
‘I Don’t Do Drugs’: This track has very mediocre and simplistic beats with the overall atmosphere being rather tame. Featuring the vocals of pop girl Ariana Grande, it tries to be subtly sexy but ends up being mostly boring. Ariana, who is often hailed as this generation’s answer to Mariah Carey with her impressive belting and a voice that flows like honey, is a letdown here as her vocals don’t go to any exciting territory.
With ‘Ain’t Shit’, Doja picks up the energy and our attention. It begins with bare piano keys with the frustrated Doja declaring “This happened One. Two. Three. Times. Too much.” She goes on to deliver bars that are brutal but subtle at the same time, dragging her exes and their laziness during the course of their relationships with her. Instead of opting for heavy-handedness, Doja takes the more ‘sweet on the outside, spicy on the inside’ approach. Doja uses different voices going from high pitched purring to genuinely agitated guttural rap effortlessly. Overall it’s more of an annoyed, funny song than an all-guns-blazing rage. Watch the chorus be heavily memorized by Doja’s fans and rapped along with enthusiasm on her next tour.
With ‘Imagine’ and ‘Alone’, the album sees a visible dip in energy and speed. The two songs are laid back, reflecting perhaps the more sober, after-dance phase of a party. Usually, we don’t feel the lack of a feature in a Doja track because her versatile voice can sound like three different rappers (or singers) on one track. But in these two tracks, the versatility is absent as we see Doja – The Sad and Wistful vocalist, and only her.
We finally get to the end of the album with ‘Kiss Me More’, the lead single featuring vocals from RnB singer SZA. Released back in April, it is easily one of the best songs on the album. We see Doja on top form with her inventive innuendo-filled bars, fierce delivery and immaculate energy. With the participation of the always dependable SZA, what we get is a flawless pop collaboration between two amazingly talented young divas.
Though it has its groovy and sexy moments, Planet Her lacks the number of hits and strong hooks that her previous album Hot Pink was known for. There is less versatility in the sounds and genres that Doja explores here. Hot Pink had ‘Rules’ with its marketable girl-goes-gangsta imagery, ‘Bottom B**ch’ with 90s surfer rock vibes, the reggae-inspired ‘Cyber Sex’, the devastatingly raw ‘Streets’, ‘Juicy’ with the very 2020 aesthetic of rapping about fleshy derrieres and comparing them to fruits, and the biggest hit of 2020 ‘Say So’ with its 70s disco funk vibe. Planet Her, frustratingly, comes nowhere near this vast range of sounds and sub-genres.
It feels like the producers on PH met up and said “let’s take ‘Juicy’, ‘Shine’ and ‘Say So’ from Hot Pink and shape all the songs of Planet Her on these three alone.” That’s a bummer because one of the best songs from Hot Pink was ‘Streets’, which had such intensity and longing to it which no song on PH comes even close to. That is good in a way because there are no cash-in duplicates of ‘Streets’ on PH but such a brilliant song’s absence means a lack of sonic versatility in the new album. If they were going to copy a Doja Cat classic for the new record, it may as well have been ‘Streets’.
It’s inevitable that Planet Her is so heavily compared to her previous album which had agreeably put her on the rap map with Nicki Minaj and Cardi B in terms of pop culture significance. And it seemed as though it would outdo the super hit – albeit critically divisive – Hot Pink. Sadly, PH offers no new sci-fi fantasy ideas in its sound nor the lyrics. The instrumentation does not break new ground, nor does it sound futuristic as promised. Scratching the gloss and glitter on the surface, what we really get is a dance-pop album with some fun tracks, but nothing outside of the box. One expected more from rap’s hottest star.
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