Kim Petras - Clarity
Jul 11, 2019
Kim Petras wants to be a popstar so, so bad. Really, she’s already succeeded: over the past two years, she’s racked up millions of streams from a dedicated following enamoured by her frothy bubblegum pop. Gearing up for the release of her debut album, though, Petras switched to a much more chart-friendly trap-pop sound – no doubt in an attempt to further her rise to superstardom. But Clarity isn’t quite as compelling a statement as it should be.

On the surface, the era is mostly a success: blending 80s camp with modern-day trap beats, the album drunkenly stumbles through drug-addled sex-fests on the way to the light at the end of the tunnel (the appropriately named “Shinin'”). It’s a little cliche, though – Petras can pen a good hook but is hesitant to dig deep and portray heartbreak intimately. Behind the aloof hedonism of “Icy” and “Do Me” runs an intriguing undercurrent of sadness, but it never quite surfaces, resulting in catchy but unsatisfying listens. More frustrating, though, is when she retreats to familiar ground; the pallid disco-lite of “Sweet Spot” and the “Tainted Love” rehash “Personal Hell” are the kind of songs she’s known for but they’re utterly vacuous and fail to evolve her sound in any meaningful way.

That said, there are definite highlights, which are mainly seen when Petras really leans into the aesthetic. “Broken” and “All I Do is Cry” form the album’s core, as the bratty protagonist spills her guts over the club floor with delirious venom that becomes more and more breathless. Here, Petras finally brings despair to the forefront of her lyrics – ‘You cut me open, I cried oceans / All I wanted was devotion, now I got no-thing,’ ‘I feel like I’m drowning / You just let me down and I don’t know why’ – and the overwrought lyrics bring a level of camp that complements the sparkling instrumentals well.

But the best is “Another One”, where the detached facade of “Do Me” shatters; the twinkling synths are submerged by aquatic beats, and the protagonist’s loneliness takes centre stage. ‘Don’t you know that I’m a mess since I met you?” she cries out in the bridge, and in the pregnant pause the shot glasses shatter, the dancefloor clears. The pathos in these tracks comes as a surprise on first listen, and I’d say that’s because Clarity‘s narrative isn’t exactly crystal clear; it’s definitely there, but scattered across separate tracks, obscured by repeated phrases (VVSes in the hooks of back to back tracks? Come on, Kim…) and shallow lyrics.

Most damning, though, is that it’s been done. Several times. Comparisons to The Weekend and Miley Cyrus abound, but the Ponytailed Princess herself dropped this album several months ago, and for my money she did it better. What made thank u, next a pop culture moment was seeing Ariana take control of a personal narrative that had become tangled in tragedy; knowing what Grande had gone through made the album so much more evocative, even if she didn’t quite spin twelve tracks of solid gold. That’s not to say Petras should feel obliged to approach her art as tell-all autobiography, but – in the age of parasocial interaction – authenticity reigns supreme, and ‘From nada to Prada, you know you’re a star’ just isn’t convincing enough.

Favourite track: “Another One”
Favourite lyrics: ‘I ain’t really into sharing, not for you or nobody’
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