Kim Petras performing at Capital Pride Festival in Washington DCTed Eytan / Flickr

On a dreary September morning, my head pounding from a hangover and looming dissertation deadlines, my phone illuminates with a message: “Have you heard the new Kim Petras album?” Of course I have. Feed The Beast, the German-born singer’s debut LP, was released in May. Yet, how foolish was I to believe that Petras would leave her fanbase hungry for four months …

The notification was not about Feed the Beast, but Problématique, a Europe-inspired concept project released as an “album surprise” (Petras writes in French on Instagram). While it was intended as her first record, a series of delays and major leaks meant the project was scrapped in 2022. Released singles ‘Coconuts’ and ‘Hit It From The Back’ were pulled from the wreckage and added to the collection of club bangers that became her first album, Feed The Beast. Both albums have a quintessential pop feel, but Problématique draws on the music of the early 2000s.

Problématique evokes images of low-rise jeans, glossy lips, and Juicy Couture”

Exploiting the recent revival of the noughties, Problématique evokes images of low-rise jeans, glossy lips and Juicy Couture. The attraction of noughties pop music was not vocal talent, but catchy, singable melodies. This idea is evident in ‘Love Ya Leave Ya’, the chorus of which comprises just two notes, and the album’s title track whose chorus is not sung but yelled. The 2000s also saw the rise of excessive autotune, which Petras exploits to stylise her vocals in ‘Something About U’ and ‘Confession’.

The album’s synth riffs and clap percussion are ripped right out of Justin Timberlake’s repertoire and put into ‘Treat Me Like a Ho’, whose talk-singing is reminiscent of Fergie. While this approach proves fruitful aesthetically, it does threaten the likelihood that the album will make it into the sets of contemporary DJs. Club culture has shifted in the last 20 years and Feed The Beast capitalised on this through maximalist production. Problématique instead favours a minimalist approach, harkening back to the collection of songs Petras named “Era 1”.

Despite releasing her own music since 2017, her undeniable break-through came with Slut Pop. The raunchy EP earned its success through unapologetic explicitness, with graphic descriptions of sex and relentless obscenities throughout. Problématique takes a different approach to the liberation of women’s sexuality, one far more palatable for mainstream listeners. Lyrics like if you wanna come … come through” (‘Dirty Things’) tease the listener while affording her the plausible deniability necessary for radio play.

Alongside sex, the album abounds with references to materialist culture, which flourished in the 2000s. ‘All She Wants’ – featuring noughties figurehead and close friend of Petras, Paris Hilton – is a prime example: the verses list capitalist giants (“Tiffany, Cartier, Goyard, Gaultier”) while the chorus boasts a preference for purchasing over love. This materialism spills out into her love life in ‘Confession’, where romantic desire is confused with objectifying greed: “I gotta make you my possession.”


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However, with only ten tracks, the album is clearly incomplete, lacking an emotional ballad akin to ‘Thousand Pieces’ or ‘All I Do Is Cry’ from her previous collections. Though ‘Love Ya Leave Ya’ gestures towards this, it lacks the depth of these other tracks and this is reflected in its upbeat sound.

Despite its on-the-nose European focus (“got the bread, show me the baguette” – ‘Je T’Adore’), Problématique leads Petras further down the path to worldwide stardom. Just as Britney Spears distracted noughties teens from the gloomy state of a post-9/11 world, this pop time machine provides an unserious distraction from an economic recession, rising bigotry, and the dissertation I have no idea how to begin.