Kim Petras, German-born rising queen of pop, delivered a master class in perfectly executed 2019 pop music and showed her range, from bouncy bubblegum Britney to badass modern Beyonce.

11/22/19 – The Royale

As freezing rain fell outside, stepping through the black doors into The Royale transported concert-goers into a late night gay dance club scene: multi-shade metallic embellishment, glitter placement on body parts that rarely get sparkled, and a palpable excitement in the air. 

From the moment Kim Petras stomped her extra-tall black leather stilettos onto the stage she commanded the energy of the room. 

The most unremarkable thing about Kim Petras is that she’s transgender. At times, her meteoric rise is even surprising to her, a girl from a village outside of Cologne, Germany. “A year ago I was playing for five people and now look at this shit,” she hollered from the stage. The crowd of Petras’ fans are from all across the gender spectrum, and the venue had designated half of the bathrooms as nonbinary/gender-expansive as a result. Dancey hit “Got My Number” allowed Petras to adlib perfected vocal runs over the background track, but this song’s fame includes more than just a clever phone number hook line “949-331-0609 / Call me up / Call me up / For a good time.” Petras purchased four billboards bearing the song’s name in Topeka, Kansasa seemingly random choice made less random when you learn that Topeka is headquarters to LGBTQ  hate group the Westboro Baptist Church. 

There’s a very 2019 “Material Girl” vibe to Petras’ lyrics and performance, yet many of her songs echo and mimic earlier influences including Britney, Madonna, Avril Lavigne, and Gwen Stefani. Petras masterfully pulled off five costume (and hair extension) changes in a one and a half hour set, each costume more diva-glam than the next.

The only calm moment was when Petras appeared in her most casual outfit, wearing just an oversized t-shirt. Perched on the edge of the stage, she gathered every speck of attention and energy of all 1,300 people at Royale for “Everybody Dies”. Petras sat calmly, with just her and a cordless mic, and with a basic drum kit background track, and gave us vulnerability with a jazzy, improved version including a belt as good as any diva out there. Then, with a quick swoosh of the t-shirt over her head, she tossed the shirt into the crowd and immediately lightened the mood with the reveal of a Britney-esque sparkly nude rhinestoned leotard. Sweet Spot’s airier vocals, triangle-infused backtrack, and hints of autotune and the “clap” of keyboard percussion filled the room. 

Despite her early influences,, there is a distinctly modern picture that Petras paints with her lyrics, highlighting the image-obsessed and social media culture of the moment. Relevant lyrics call out cultural touchpoints: the club scene in “Blow it All”, the female-empowerment shade, “That’s facts / I make more than your dad” and Instagram-worthy brand worship “I could get you Gucci /…Fendi / …Louboutins /…Prada” in “Meet The Parents”. Perhaps most of all, 2017’s single “I Don’t Want It At All” spoon-feeds the message to us. A wide-open belt layered over a bouncy synth backdrop, and a subtle auto-tune on the vocals that gives the robotic, 90s pop vibe but with a modern twist: “I want all my clothes designer / I want someone else to buy them / I want summer in the Hamptons… / If I do not get it right now / I don’t want it at all.”

The night’s setlist cannot be neatly sorted into one genre. The diversity of tunes spanned the upbeat, simple melody of “Do Me” to the decidedly darker “Massacre,” a pick from Petras’ newest release featuring a deafening chorus with droning organ chords, which Petras layered with a belt so loud you couldn’t hear a person scream. This surprise, Halloween-themed album, Turn Off the Light is an unpinnable combination of deep bass, club beats, and scream metal. At one point, Petras recounted that certain people around her said that “a Halloween album was a terrible idea,” but just like she’s done since the very beginning, Petras said “fuck it, just watch me” and went with her instinct. It paid off. And all along, the crowd of Petras devotees stayed right with her as she mounted a revolving podium and struck a theatrical pose for an entire bass-throbbing chorus of “There Will Be Blood.” 

During the final costume change of the night, Kim’s ultimate hype-man, the producer/DJ Aaron Joseph (who’s been with Petras for years), came out from behind his soundboard setup to rile up the crowd in preparation for Kim’s reveal, zooming from one end of the stage to the other with mic in hand. Petras reappeared in a fabulous sexy cyborg bodysuit, stepped into the spotlight and froze, toe pointed, hands outstretched and face upturned, breathing heavily as the music transitioned from one song to the next. Petras looked out to the back of the room. “I’m a big believer in manifestation” reverberates through the club speakers, her words echoing over the crowd, who are now obvious believers too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.