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Doja Cat’s ‘Scarlet’: Album Review

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It’s not laborious to know why Doja Cat typically appears to have a chip on her shoulder. She rode in 5 years in the past on an unabashed novelty track referred to as “I’m a Cow” (selection lyrics: “Bitch, I’m a cow / Bitch, I’m a cow / I go ‘Mooooo’”) and was initially positioned as a Dr. Luke-produced, sassy and stable if unspectacular pop-R&B singer. Cue haters.

However over the previous few years, the true artist — a bizarre, fearless, sex-positive, empowered and funny-as-hell rapper — has step by step emerged. Her singles bought higher and higher, particularly the bubbling “Say So” and her glowing 2021 duet with SZA, “Kiss Me More.” Through the pandemic, her movies and awards-show performances bought extra musically bold, and the visuals bought stranger and stranger. Together with her high-billed Coachella efficiency in 2022, she proved that she has the expertise, catalog and charisma to headline maintain a significant stage. And on “Scarlet” — her fiery fourth full-length — all of it comes collectively.

Doja has at all times had a provocative, Madonna-like picture, a formidable social-media recreation, and a uncommon potential to show the tables on haters — we’re not even going to attempt to unpack all of the snapbacks on this album. She takes on morons who say she’s selling Devil; the “people that were sleeping [who] say I rap now”; trolls making an attempt to pit her and her admitted largest affect, Nicki Minaj, towards one another (with some hilarious impersonations); to not point out the numerous lyrics right here which can be as sexually aggressive as any male rapper’s, and switch the tables on chauvinists criticizing her seems (“Boo-hoo, n—a, I don’t care you don’t want to fuck me”). A track referred to as “Fuck the Girls” follows one referred to as “Wet Vagina.” The video for for “Agora Hills,” which dropped final night time, begins together with her floating like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” and ends together with her driving a bicycle whereas sporting a T-shirt that claims “Queen of Blowjobs” on it. (See how simple it’s to get distracted?) However on “Attention,” she raps, “You follow me, but you don’t even know about the music,” so let’s shut out the remainder of it and give attention to the highly effective set of songs she’s dropped right here.

“Scarlet” shouldn’t be solely hands-down her greatest album, it’s additionally her first full-on hip-hop set, with beats that vary between laborious and skittery. The pop factor remains to be there, however is generally channeled into sung choruses or bridges. There are a few perky, pop-leaning songs, however even these have an ironic edge: “Agora Hills,” probably the most conventionally pop track right here, comes full with a girlie “no, you hang up!” phone-call phase, till she will get to a center rap about “sucking a little dick in the bathroom” (let’s simply say that’s the one reference to a small one on the album). There are in all probability 25 completely different producers and 50 songwriters within the credit, however her major collaborators are seasoned vets with huge observe information, a lot of whom she’s labored with for years: Kurt McKenzie, Earl on the Beat, Fallen, Jean Baptiste and Jay Versace, whose collective work ranges from Lil Yachty, Infantile Gambino, Drake and Lil Child to Selena Gomez and Black Eyed Peas. And whereas she stays signed to Dr. Luke’s Kemosabe label, the one Luke within the credit is a Luther Campbell pattern.

Musically, the sounds are everywhere in the map: “Attention” has an indelibly slinky melody, “97” is constructed round a RZA-ish hook that seems like a Japanese koto, “Paint the Town Red” makes use of Dionne Warwick’s “Walk on By” as its basis, and most of the songs have spare, laborious bass and beats to spotlight her jaw-dropping lyrics. Head over to Genius.com for the total pull, however some highlights embrace “James Dean/ Let me in them jeans/ Put me on yo hip and let me ride it till I cream”; “Shorty walk-in like she gotta a stick in her ass/ Pretty face, plastic/ It’s giving Kardashian/ Agent 47, I’m giving assassin/ Kick me out the Met but I really run fashion”; “We are enemies, we are foes/ Who are you, what are those?/ You are gross/ Percocet got you playin’ with your nose.” But among the album’s catchiest strains are easy, like Kanye West-like “Ugh”s on “Paint the Town Red” or her song-stopping, “Look at me, look at me — ya lookin’?” on “Attention.”

The album is loaded with singles, but it surely’s an actual album, with a lot of the different songs branching out her sound and displaying off her killer circulation. With 17 tracks spanning virtually an hour, it sags in a few spots, however “Scarlet” units a brand new bar on a number of ranges, and never only for feminine rappers. As she sings on “Fuck the Girls”: “Who dare ride my new Versace coattails?”

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