2021 • POP • KEMOSABE/RCA
The third album by the singer by California shows both that she has good production and good writing, and that these two factors are not enough to make a genuinely good and memorable album.
Doja Cat hasn’t been around for a long time but she has already managed to establish her own style like her contemporaries. While some weird, funny noise in the middle of a track can easily remind you of Cardi B, exaggerated, caricatured laughs are easily reminiscent of Nicki Minaj. Likewise, when you hear a really well-produced song with a deep synthetic atmosphere and beats that mix pop, r&B, rap, and trap, you’ll remember Doja Cat. However, what makes the difference between the student and her teachers is that while the seniors seem to be able to deliver something remarkable and memorable without much effort, Doja seems to deliver only something good in technical matters, totally forgetting to do something that minimally sticks and lasts in the people’s heads. In other words, her songs are good but there’s nothing special about it that will make you go back to them.
On her third studio album, Planet Her, Doja Cat only reaffirms this concept about her songs. Dr. Luke-produced, the record was defined by Doja as “the center of the universe, and it’s where all races of space exist and its where all species can kind of be in harmony there. That’s kind of the lore.” Contrary to what some people might point out, Doja said the planet doesn’t paint a kind of feminist and political place for women. “Just trying to be cute,” she told Audacy. And, in a way, that’s it, nothing too special, a 40-minute record that shows the California rapper dealing with the different phases of a breakup. Her lyrics paint well-written moments about empowerment, self-esteem, and sex and also delivers cringeworthy ones, and her instrumental, which is indeed well-produced, seems too passive, never having a minimally interesting conversation with the other areas of the song or playing a really prominent role in the final experience. At the end of the day, you leave the record the same way you joined it.
“Woman,” the opener, is a great example of the kind of tracks Planet Her has. It’s a fun track, of course, well-written and well-produced. However, it doesn’t sound concrete and it’s not catchy at all. In other words, it’s not the kind of song you’re going to start humming in the middle of your day. Of course, that’s not a problem when some tracks on the record are like that, but when the whole record is like that, it’s a different story. Other songs, like “Get Into It (Yuh),” just sound weird. While the hook is pretty cool with girl chorus that sounds like something from the 1990s, Doja’s vocals seem to struggle to try to deliver something decent. Also, there are some shameful lines like, “Call him Ed Sheeran, he in love with my body” and “I mean, y’all bitches better ‘yuh’ like Ariana.” Speaking of Grande, she collaborates here, which is no surprise — the surprise these days is that the record doesn’t have Ariana Grande on it. This one, along with “You Right,” with The Weeknd, sounds relatively good but nothing pays off.
However, on the other hand, there are some nice cuts in Planet Her. “Naked” would be the perfect opener for the album. It shows Doja in an empowered and challenging role in a track that sounds sexy. She asks herself constantly, “Can we take this off and get naked?” “Payday,” featuring Young Thug, is another highlight. The thin vocals at the beginning make it sound like a K-Pop song, which contrasts perfectly with a few strings and the heavier Rap and Trap side of Thug. Then, while “Love To Dream” appears with a melodic hook, with Doja singing, “We just love to dream/I fell asleep when you woke up, oh/It’s not you, baby, it’s just me/I don’t believe what I just lost,” “Need To Know” appears with darker and heavier beats, with Doja in another moment of sexual liberation. She sings, “Wanna know what it’s like/Baby, show me what it’s like/I don’t really got no type/I just wanna fuck all night.” However, while good, these moments are not enough to actually save the record.
Maybe it’s a little needless to say this, but when you finally get to the end of the album, you won’t believe it’s really over. That’s because, in the last tracks, Doja Cat extends the length of the album with these songs that lack personality and that simply add nothing. While “Been Like This” appears sexy and mysterious, “Options” and “Ain’t Shit” sound like generic songs that would be on any Spotify playlist. “Imagine,” in its turn, has potential but it seems that even the Doja doesn’t take the song seriously. However, in the last seconds, Doja kinda pays off a little. “Alone” is one of the most different songs on the record, it has strings, a good structure and progression, and background vocals that make sense with the entire sound construction of the track. Plus, it’s one of her strongest points lyrically, with her finally understanding that she’s better off alone than in bad company. She sings, “Do what you do best and be alone,” and then, “But now, you’re scared to be alone.” “Kiss Me More,” featuring SZA, closes the record well, being a vintage organic hit from the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a minimalist sound but it works as it doesn’t need much to be good. However, at the end of the day, half of Planet Her is only kinda interesting while the other half is forgettable. For now, I will stay here on Earth.