Doja Cat welcomes us to her planet.
Doja Cat has a creative energy and child-like wonder that seems to simply ooze out of her. When we interviewed her for HNHH two years ago, she arrived colour-coordinated with a bag of chips (Takis). She first found success online while singing about being a cow, and stuffing french fries in her nostrils. And, while she can pull off the sexy-as-fuck-look in a skin-tight, sparkly bodysuit just as much as the next pop star, she can also share a too-close selfie of her face in some as-of-yet-unseen, and unflattering contortion. She sings about snacks, but she also sings about female desire and sexuality, and she’s unafraid to embrace all these aspects of her person; her woman.
Planet Her, then, could be viewed as Doja Cat’s ode to, well, herself. Or, it could be interpreted as some sort of blanket-statement female-empowerment-tribute. However, upon contextualizing the album further in a recent interview with Big Boy, it’s evident that Doja did not necessarily frame this album from the outset with either of these intentions, and this actually makes the album that much more appealing; in its all carefree and innovative glory: "I wanted to have an excuse to make a world," she said, plainly.
Doja’s world is fluffy. If it was a colour, it would be somewhere in the pink-purple-blue hues, perhaps already evidenced by her album cover, which finds Doja floating in a sea of outer space, her body adorned with sparkles and swatches of paint as she appears in a state of ecstasy. The music is equally vibrant, with pop undertones melding into an eclectic and wide-spanning array of r’n’b and hip-hop influences.
These influences start with an afro-carribean-inspired summer banger, produced by longtime collaborator Yeti Beats and Linden Jay. “Woman,” the album’s opener, is a feel-good, body-moving record that finds Doja embodying and championing all aspects of womanhood, with a chant-like chorus that both swiftly, and powerfully, ushers us into (or onto?) Planet Her.
LISTEN: Doja Cat "Woman"
Doja steers our other-worldly adventure into trendy, hyper-pop territory with the playful “Payday”, featuring the soothing voice of Young Thug, and production from Y2K, who makes frequent appearances on the album, and seemingly helps Doja achieve this new medley of sounds to compliment her already-eccentric-yet-pop-leaning style.
Y2K pops up again, alongside Sully, with the short-but-sweet and early favorite, “Get Into It Yuh.” The bubblegum-esque song is a bouncy anthem for females everywhere, ending with a shout out to Nicki Minaj, whose over-the-top and sometimes maniacal way of rapping has inevitably inspired Doja Cat’s flow as well (case-in-point).
As we wade slowly into the middle of the album, the swell of excitement that accompanied new-found love and the exploration therein begins to fade away-- perhaps just as relationships are warrant to do IRL-- as the sound veers from high-energy into more r’n’b territory, offering the listener a lulling, although not jarring, change in pace. “I Don’t Do Drugs,” with a feature from Ariana Grande, compares a lover to a drug addiction over sickly-sweet yet perfectly poppy production, while “Love to Dream” is a cloudy, r’n’b-lite record that finds Doja softly singing about being in her head a bit too much.
And, while the earlier songs marked a change sonically, it’s “You Right,” the much-anticipated collaboration with The Weeknd, that signifies another important change; this one, having to do with the larger tale of love and romance that’s weaved throughout Planet Her’s 14-song tracklist.
WATCH: Doja Cat & The Weeknd "You Right"
Dr. Luke produces a sleek, shimmery beat, studded with closed hi-hats for Doja and Abel to effortlessly float over, as Doja grapples with wanting someone else-- someone that’s not her man. It’s in this way that Doja appears to be riding the natural arc of her relationship throughout Planet Her. What starts feverishly as a way for Doja to ask (nay, demand) her man stake his claim, quickly cascades into them getting “Naked” together, and living their best lives, but, as the story evolves, Doja finds herself glancing another man’s way on “You Right,” before we find ourselves spiraling into the chopped & screwed, and altogether melancholic “Been Like This.” It's here that Doja exposes a relationship turned sour, only to proceed to clown her exes with “Ain’t Shit,” and, of course, explore her “Options” alongside J.I.D. The album closes out with “Alone,” as Doja comes to the realization that, while her man may still want her, she doesn’t actually want (or need) him. So, perhaps there is a bit of that female-empowerment-tribute in the album after all.
And yet, this isn’t the reason why Planet Her is Doja Cat’s best work to date, although the fact that she manages to create such a succinct and stunning tracklist and storyline is helpful. Where Planet Her truly shines, however, is in the music. The producers molds their beats around the pockets of Doja Cat’s vocals, whether that be singing, rapping, or something else entirely. Each song is a new playground for Doja Cat to prance or pounce all over, however she sees fit, and put on a quirky but endearing display in the process. There are plenty of earworm lines and sonic detours where she does a brief show-and-tell of her myriad of artistic styles. So, while we could say that the artist's music has evolved from Hot Pink and her previous work, it feels more apt to simply say that Doja Cat sounds more like herself-- Doja is the most her she’s been yet.