Kim Petras Cements Her Status as Crying-While-Dancing Party Queen
Don't let Kim Petras' obsession with early-aughts Paris Hilton or penchant for dropping dough on Rodeo Drive (at least in her music video fantasies...) fool you — the 25-year-old German pop act is more than just pretty, neon-tinted ephemera.
Petras, who made headlines as a teenager for becoming the youngest person to undergo gender confirmation surgery, has transcended human interest headlines: she is first and foremost an artist who makes damn good music, and while she told PopCrush it’s an honor to be an advocate and role model for the trans community, her approach to change is less obvious than your typical lobbyist's. As far as Petras is concerned, there’s no fighting the good fight until you’re happy with yourself, and if feel-good tunes are fuel for battle, consider her the pop genre’s newest and most powerful arms dealer.
Petras cemented herself as the new-age queen of parties with the August release of her first single "I Don't Want It All," a bubblegum party track that's as catchy as a series of flytraps. But at her fetes, it's perfectly reasonable — even encouraged — to cry your eyes out while you're dancing. And it turns out that dichotomy is a popular one: The song immediately topped global Spotify charts without so much as a promotional Instagram story or a flyer tacked to a neighborhood telephone pole.
PopCrush spoke with Petras just hours after the release of her latest single, "Heart To Break," a perfect extension of her crestfallen-but-still-somehow-euphoric identity. Here's what she told us about her debut album, contending with transgender stereotypes and why she thinks everyone needs a little bit of Bob Marley in their lives.
You've struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts growing up, yet your music is so starkly upbeat and happy. Do you think that's a testament to how far you've come, or do you see music as a remedy to your problems?
For sure. I definitely always took my problems and turned them into music, and the more I can make myself feel happy, the better. But yeah I definitely feel like music was always a place for me to like escape to. I just love songs that are fantasy.
It's still so routine for reporters ask about your gender confirmation journey. You told OUT that the topic can be overly sensationalized. Did you expect to still have to address this topic so many years later?
I mean, yeah. I think so. I've always had to address it. I didn't think that would change, but my main thing is and what I'm really proud of is that I've worked really hard to become a good songwriter. I've come to LA by myself and really didn't have any support and made it to this place where I can put out music and make music every day in LA, which is crazy, and work with amazing people. So that's what I'm proud of and also at the same time, I'm transgender and sometimes being transgender just takes over. But it's like, you can just be transgender and not be talented. It's almost like people don't want to speak about what you do or who you are as a person when you're transgender, you're just that thing.
So I definitely think that modern music, letting you listen through Spotify is really letting the music speak; it has nothing to do with being transgender or that whole sensation part of it. At the end of the day, I'm just a person.
Do you feel an obligation to be a role model, especially now in the United States, where politics are shifting so pronouncedly?
I, honestly, would love to be a role model to transgender kids, because the more role models they have, the less freaking pain. I just want to make sure people stop seeing it as something like freaky and like you have to grow up and be crazy. I just want kids to see that you can just grow up and live a life and live it however you want to live it.
There's very much a culture right now of using music as a tool of political protests or social justice. Do you feel pressured to make that kind of music?
I think it's amazing when people want to do that. But the way I cope with the world, I don’t know, I want to make people forget about problems. There are so many people out there that are very into speaking about all of that and who make that a big part of their music. I love Kendrick and Beyonce, but my thing is I just want people to have fun and escape, but I'm not saying I don’t care about those things.
You've said it took almost four months to complete "Heart To Break." What was it about that song that required such an intense process?
Well, I think we just wanted the concept to be perfect. The point of the song is basically love-suicide and knowing this is bad for you, but you go jumping into a bad relationship with a smile. It just felt like a little puzzle and it was little hard to figure out. But then we did and it was like, "Oh, my God," and then it immediately became our favorite song. I really love it, but it was for some reason hard to get there.
What do you think makes for the perfect party song?
Just a good beat and just a cool lyric, but I also like party songs that kind of have some depth to it and that are kind of like, I love kind of dancing and crying too.
What is it about love that eludes you?
It's a recurring thing: It's that I fall really deeply for bad relationships. It's just always been this way and not changing. There's a lot of self-analytics going on and like, what the fuck is wrong with me? But I guess at the same time I know a lot of people struggle with that, and all my friends are the same way. I'm not that different.
Do you ever see yourself tapping into a darker or more melancholy side?
Totally. I have a bunch of heartbreak songs on the album of things that I can't wait to share — hurting, love troubles. I'm not amazing at love, so there's definitely a lot to talk regarding that. I can just never get the guy I want.
"I Don't Want It At All" is definitely another banger and it makes your love of the early 2000s and Paris Hilton very clear. Do you really have a Paris Hilton shrine like the one featured in the video?
Yes, I had pictures and perfumes and all that stuff in my room. I didn’t pray to it, but I looked at it every day and was really obsessed with her. And everybody was obsessed with her during that time, it was her freaking heyday. I've always loved her.
And I've always loved [the early-aughts] I guess because I was a teenager in the 2000s and it was such a fun time. I’m just trying to make the kind of music that I'd listen to as a teenager and forget about all my problems. That’s just always my goal. I remember running home from school, because I hated school and listening to Britney Spears and the Spice Girls and Fergie. It makes me feel good.
The "I Don't Want It" video is super glamorous and fun, and finds the character shopping on Rodeo Drive with no credit limits. How sincere is that fantasy to your real personality?
My life isn't like that at all. The video is kind of about the part of me that dreams about having somebody to buy me all my shit and then I just have everything for free. I came to LA with no money and no industry contacts and really worked my way up. I slept on couches. I'm really far from that life but I think that everybody sometimes is just like, Dammit, I wish I could just be a spoiled brat.
You obviously struck a chord with listeners because the song topped Spotify viral global charts — how did you react to that and what do you think it says about the way people consume music around the world?
Well, I think it's awesome, especially since there was no marketing or promo, it was just in the New Music Friday playlist and then that happened. It was the first song I ever put up, and I didn't have an especially big fanbase or anything like that. I feel like streaming makes it possible for the music to just speak, not judging on looks or visuals or how popular an artist is.
What are some of your most recent favorite tracks or artists?
Honestly, Kendrick, his latest friggin' thing was incredible! So good. I also love Troye Sivan. The songs he came out with so far, I'm a big Troye Sivan fan.
How did "Unlock It" with Charli XCX come together? Were you a big fan of Charli's?
She's an epic pop girl and I love all her stuff. It really just came together, we met at a Sophie show. We were just saying hi and met through a mutual friend. We partied a little bit and the next day she got my number from my stylist and texted me the song and asked if I wanted to jump on this. I was like, hell yeah! The next day I went into the studio and wrote it. I sent it to her and she was like, "Done!"
When are you most creatively inclined?
I feel like a lot of times when I'm kind of down and and alone, or I'm thinking a lot about life or super in my head. That's when I usually need to get things out and rid myself of that energy. But other times I'm freaking ecstatic, yelling around in the studio, dancing around and then something fun happens with my friends.
What are some other songs or artists that you would suggest people listen to to get into a less depressed place?
Probably Bob Marley. I love Bob Marley so much. Honestly, all of Madonna's discography. She has so many amazing, fun songs. Or Cyndi Lauper. The thing is, at the same time, I also love listening to Lana Del Rey all the time, the saddest thing you can do to yourself. Let's throw Culture Club and MJ in there.
The last we heard, you were two or three songs away from a complete album. What's the latest?
I could put out a full album right now, but I'm just going to keep writing and see what happens and wait for the right timing. The next few singles will decide that. But I can't wait to share the full album, and I really would love for it to come out soon so all the songs can stand together and make sense.
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