Photo Credit: David LaChapelle
Even in the age of virality – where the most unsuspecting of characters can be turned into worldwide celebrities overnight – Doja Cat still feels like an especially unlikely candidate for 2021’s biggest rapper. Yet, with nearly 60 million monthly Spotify listeners to her name, that’s exactly what she is. Having burst onto most people’s radar with the much-memed novelty song “Mooo!” in 2018, she’s since become a chart-topping global phenom in her own right. Like on 2019’s Hot Pink – which boasted a number one single in “Say So” – on Planet Her, Doja sets out to prove herself to be mainstream rap’s most versatile star. It’s a task that, for better or for worse, she achieves with ease.
Across its fourteen tracks, Planet Her moves from the tropical house-meets-Afrobeats of “Woman” to the made-for-TikTok trap-pop of “Get Into It (Yuh)”, all the way to the infectious R&B-pop of “Kiss Me More.” Some of these choices work better than others – while “Kiss Me More” is as close to pop-perfection as Doja has ever gotten, “Get Into It (Yuh)” is based around a cloying melody that’s only made more irritating by a needless grating vocal inflection that, for some inexplicable reason, Doja refuses to let up across the song’s 2+ minutes.
Still, Doja’s consistent refusal to play it safe makes this album, if nothing else, consistently intriguing and unpredictable; especially when compared to one of the year’s other massive rap releases; Drake’s painfully boring Certified Lover Boy. The wider audience of listeners seems to agree as well. While CLB enjoyed a record-breaking opening week, the vast majority of its songs fell sharply on the Billboard charts after its release week. In comparison, numerous songs from Planet Her have already enjoyed sleeper success. These songs have a way of slowly seeping into your brain and putting themselves on repeat as soon as they’re there. “Kiss Me More”, “You Right” and “Woman” boast some of the strongest, earworm melodies of the year.
The big elephant in the room regarding Doja Cat’s career up to (and including) this point is the involvement of Dr. Luke – who, in addition to having produced previous hits for her like “Say So” and “Best Friend” – is credited on multiple songs here (most notably “Need To Know”). Her continued collaboration with Dr. Luke (real name Lukasz Gottwald) – who was accused of sexual assault by Kesha in 2014 – is disappointing both ethically and musically; as it also leads to some of the weaker numbers here. In a Rolling Stone interview earlier this week, Doja said of Gottwald “I don’t think I need to work with him again” and she’s right. On Planet Her, the endlessly controversial 26-year-old shows that she alone can offer results inventive and interesting enough to warrant doing away with the producer-to-the-stars who has long passed his sell-by date. Let’s hope next time she does.