Meet your next pop princess.
Kim Petras is just 26, but has been in the public eye for over half her life – and she’s been a popstar-in-waiting for even longer. Growing up in Germany, she learned English from Britney and Spice Girls videos, until her songwriting career brought her to L.A. to pursue her dreams.
If you’ve heard a song or two on Spotify, or seen her colourful social media presence, you may think you know what to expect: proudly bubblegum, impeccably crafted, guilt-free pop songs. Ironically, Petras already sounds like a Top 40 staple, but she’s an independent artist who isn’t getting mainstream radio or TV exposure… yet.
Nevertheless, she has a cult following – there are no casual Kim Petras fans. Fresh off playing Sydney’s Mardi Gras and an opening slot with Rita Ora in Brisbane, she’s touched down in Melbourne for two sold-out nights at the Northcote Social Club. Typically an indie rock venue, the last popstar to play there was none other than Dua Lipa in 2016. At just 300 capacity, it may be the smallest venue Petras will play for the foreseeable future.
As the ’80s new wave synths of If You Think About Me… hit, Kim emerges to a hero’s welcome, even though it’s her first time in Australia. Glammed up in her trademark side-ponytail bun, she looks like a cartoon character brought to life – until you feel the full force of her charisma. I Don’t Want It At All, a tongue-in-cheek ode to retail therapy, shows off her spectacular high range over crisp synth-funk beats. It threatens to be the peak of the night – and it’s only her second song! Though Petras is only in her first year as a touring act – she’s still amazed that anyone knows the words to her songs – she struts across the stage with the effortless poise of a born diva. It’s offset only by her collaborator and hype man Aaron Joseph, who bounces around like a loveable goofball.
To date, it’s been easy to pigeonhole Kim Petras’ music as a throwback. She sings with the overpowering joy of Cyndi Lauper, has the sly humour of Aqua, the megastar aspirations of Katy and Gaga. In some ways, she’s perfect for the kind of pop stan who longs for the halcyon days of, well, 2012. But the closer you pay attention, the deeper her artistry gets – an uncommon quality for a young pop act. Petras has songs in every shade of bubblegum, from the smooth R&B of Slow It Down, to the hip-hop inflected Hills, to the bouncy, new SOPHIE-produced bop of 1,2,3 dayz up.
Most compelling are the cuts from Turn Off The Light, Vol. 1, last year’s Halloween-themed EP. Stage lights blood red, she rips through Close Your Eyes and Turn Off The Light”, two songs about the thrill and horror of opening up to a lover. In The Next Life, an ode to infamy, includes a vocodered verse delivered in her native German. Turn Off The Light is Petras’ most distinctive project to date – these are songs you couldn’t imagine anyone else singing, over relentless, buzzsaw Eurodisco beats. Her music never feels more human – or spiritual – than with that dark bionic edge.
Petras closes the show with a trio of signature songs. Heart To Break, her biggest hit to date, has an unbelievably catchy chorus that’s too high for us mere mortals to sing along to. She unleashes the full strength of her emotions on the power ballad Can’t Do Better. And Unlock It, the Charli XCX collaboration that put her on the map for many listeners, pairs a classic pop lyric – “If you want my love, try to unlock it” – with her most out-there production, as a rush of euphoric synth arpeggios point to the future.
On her tiny stage, Kim Petras makes popstardom feel unusually accessible. For every dazzling moment, she’s just as down-to-earth. This is the final show of her first era, and if tonight only hints at her full potential, her stardom is guaranteed.
Last concert of first era done next chapter
— KIM PETRAS Murakami Princess (@kimpetras) March 7, 2019