Kim Petras: An Unproblematic Queen.

Cover Photo:
Kim Petras by Joey James.

When the 16-year-old girl from Germany, Kim Petras, sat on the sofa of ITV’s This Morning to chat with Phillip Schofield about being “the youngest transgender person in the world”, she was bombarded with questions about her transition as well as people’s perception of her. The conversation eventually led to the presenters mentioning Petras’s dreams of becoming an international pop-star.

With the teenage singer describing her plans to the public as the clips from her semi-professional music video were shown, not many could believe that one day Petras would be one of the most promising names in pop music. 

Back in 2017, after years of patience and hard work, Petras released her debut single, ‘I Don’t Want It At All’. The song has since been described as a “sugar baby anthem” and peaked at number 54 on Billboard‘s ‘Dance Club Songs’ chart.

The music video for it featured a cameo appearance by the one and only — Paris Hilton, who couldn’t be any more supportive of the German creative. The party princess regularly mentions Petras during her public appearances, whether it’s interviewing the singer at an event or introducing her performance at an awards ceremony. 

Ever since the release of ‘I Don’t Want It At All’, the Kim Petras universe has been expanding at an incredible pace. One of her later singles, called ‘Heart to Break’, has recently reached 10 million views on YouTube.

Petras’s debut full-length studio album Clarity dropped in 2019 received fantastic reviews from critics, including a 100 out of 100 rating from The New York Times.

There is no doubt that Petras has got her own original style, knows how to play with kitsch and pastiche, use pop symbolism and, essentially, play the game. Even her most recent single ‘Malibu’, released in the midst of a global pandemic, scored her a performance on Jimmy Kimmel.

I first started obsessing over Petras after hearing some of her tracks on YouTube. Instantly, I decided to do a little bit of research. I had known about her nationality and gender identity prior to the release of Clarity, but I was interested in how the bubblegum princess managed to start such a magnificent career so unexpectedly. 

It usually takes nothing more than an average Wikipedia search to find out how a specific star was discovered, the name of their first record label and circumstances in which they got offered a recording contract.

In this case, the story starts with independent music videos that Petras released between 2008 and 2014, later jumping straight to the release of ‘I Don’t Want It At All’ and ‘Unlock It’ — a Charli XCX song from her fourth mixtape Pop 2, which featured Jay Park and Kim Petras herself.

Petras’s signature plastic pop sound is definitely polished and professional. In fact, most of the singer’s production has been co-developed by none other than Dr. Luke — the controversial music producer, responsible for the success of stars like Katy Perry or Kesha. The former accused the producer of sexual and verbal abuse back in 2014.

Those accusations sparked the #FreeKesha movement, started by her fans to help their idol get released from her recording contract with Dr. Luke. This controversy divided the music industry into the supporters of either Kesha or Dr. Luke, whose career has become much more difficult due to his damaged reputation.

Though Petras’s records aren’t credited to Dr. Luke, his involvement in Kim Petras’s music was discovered by fans, who simply wondered about the identity behind Made In China — the producer, recognised on every single track from Clarity. According to Kim’s publicist, the pseudonym belongs Dr. Luke’s chief studio engineer. Interestingly enough, the publicist also happens to work for Dr. Luke. 

It’s more than obvious that Dr. Luke is responsible for the majority of Kim Petras’s tunes. The singer herself avoids mentioning the producer in her interviews; yet the one time she commented on the situation, she received a lot of criticism for saying, “I would like my fans to know that I wouldn’t work with somebody I believe to be an abuser of women.” 

Petras later apologised for implying that Kesha’s version of the story might not be the truth. Around that time, in an interview with Genius, Kim Petras confirmed that Dr. Luke indeed signed her, kick starting her career in pop music at the same time.

In 2018, after years of avoiding the topic, Kim Petras told The Sun tabloid newspaper that she is considering ending her collaboration with Dr. Luke permanently. The star didn’t provide the journalist with a reason, but it doesn’t seem absolutely necessary in this case.

Kim Petras’ newest single “Malibu” is available now.

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