Doja Cat is a weirdo, but that’s why and how we fell in love with her. Her first big taste of viral fame was, after all, a song about cows. In the years since “Mooo!” the world can’t quite shake one of pop’s preeminent internet trolls (only Lil Nas X can compete). She’s weathered the types of controversies that would force a duller star to dim completely: offensive tweets, “showing feet in racial chat rooms,” bad Covid takes. But if the last year of Doja Cat’s internet, radio, award show and chart dominance have taught us anything, it’s that our Edgelord-in-Chief is going to be sticking around for a long time, no matter what.
On Planet Her, Doja Cat invites us into the exquisitely strange and spectacularly camp world she’s been teasing and toying with over her last few releases. There’s a bit of cheeky, sci-fi B movie references in the presentation but the content itself is pristine pop fun. Frequent collaborator Yeti Beats along with rising star Y2K keep the show moving, matching the rapper-singer’s chaotic energy with a mix of trap, funk and bubblegum.
The strongest songs are specifically with Y2K, who not only pushes Doja further but makes collaborators like Young Thug and Ariana Grande meet them in their own pop universe. “Payday” and “I Don’t Do Drugs,” featuring Thugger and Grande respectively, are centerpieces of the LP: smooth, freaky, unforgettable ear worms.
Unlike on her last two albums, Dr. Luke — whose continued legal battle with Kesha over allegations of assault has made him persona non grata in the pop world he once ruled — has a much smaller footprint on Planet Her, contributing only to the album’s three singles. He signed Doja Cat when she was 17, years before the allegations were made public and even longer before she would start to make a name on her own. His renewed status as a hitmaker, largely due to Doja’s star power independent of him, has left some listeners and artists with lingering queasiness, which Doja’s career inherited at the onset. Planet Her proves, undoubtedly, that her creativity doesn’t hinge on his contributions.
Of course, Doja shines so brightly because of her voice. Her flow and singing are elastic, swift and often purposefully silly. She straddles multiple worlds at once, performing at the intersection of Grande, Gaga, Grimes and Nicki, specifically if the latter’s alter ego Roman had just become a living, breathing human. Fittingly, Minaj gets a wonderfully sweet shoutout at the end of “Get Into It (Yuh)” [“Thank you Nicki, I love you/Got that big rocket launcher”]. Like the four artists above, Doja Cat is equally chameleonic: she opens the album with the Jidenna-assisted Afrobeat track “Woman,” something she slips in with ease and verve. Later, she’s just as comfortable doing a bit of Travis Scott drag on “Imagine.” She charts the eclectic sea of sounds in stride; her personality is simply too big to let her drown.
Even though this is her third album, Planet Her, in some respects, feels like a debut. If her first two LPs presented Doja as a pop outsider, blissfully living in her own world, this one makes her the coolest girl in school. Let’s hope she wields her powers to continue making the pop world as strange and exciting as possible.