Icon-in-the-making Kim Petras has barely let her fans breathe over the last year. A steady diet of expertly crafted, club-ready bops will keep a fandom fed, as the singer has become one of the most dependable artists in pop music today.
Sending wigs into orbit and her songs to the top of the charts has become something of a habit for the German-born singer-songwriter. After releasing her glitzy debut single “I Don’t Want It at All” back in 2017 and winning over fans like Paris Hilton, who appeared in the song’s music video, she hasn’t taken her high heel off the gas pedal.
Now that Petras has rightfully secured her spot in the rotation of pop girls most likely to be played at your local gay club, the 26-year-old star is ready to step outside her comfort zone. While she’ll always have an affinity for the turn-up, her new music marks the next stage in Petras’ evolution and a chance for her to dig deeper than drugs and designer labels.
“Pop has been completely turned on its head and I feel this new freedom,” Petras explained.
Her latest and infectiously gloomy single “All I Do Is Cry” arrived on Thursday along with a tear-stained lyric video, showcasing the singer at her most vulnerable and in the throes of major heartbreak. Ahead of her sold-out “Broken” tour, HuffPost caught up with Petras to talk about her new direction, the power of the sad bop and the “judgmental bitches” who want to keep her boxed in.
You are keeping the fans fed in this new era, dropping basically a single a week. How have you managed to maintain this output and where did all of this material come from?
My whole life revolves around songs and anything related to music. I love to spend all my time in the studio, especially having gone through a breakup. I was in a sadder phase, being on tour for a long time and not seeing my friends. All these things just kind of bubbled up for me, so when I came off the Troye Sivan tour, I had this book full of lyrics. We wrote something crazy like 47 songs and then picked our favorites. It’s been a while since I’ve actually released new material because we had most of the singles in the Neon Head era stacked up before we even dropped “I Don’t Want It at All.” These new songs are just the last year and a half of my life and I’m so excited for everyone to hear every single one of them.
And now you’ve released the Sad Girl™ anthem “All I Do Is Cry,” which is perhaps your most emotional, vulnerable track yet. What was the genesis of the song?
“All I Do Is Cry” is actually the first single I wrote on tour and felt really right for this moment. I’ve just become more comfortable talking about being sad. Being born and raised in Germany, we’re always taught to not show our emotions. But I discovered that sad songs can be really fun, too. Before I always wanted music to distract me from my real-life problems, but now I’m just confident enough to be whiny and really go through it on a song.
These breakup bops are so good it makes me want to find a boyfriend just so I can break up with him!
Yeah. [Laughs] I’m so glad you’re saying that. That’s what I want my fans to do!
I’ve always thought of you as a pop connoisseur of sorts because of your deep appreciation for the genre. I know you idolized these pop girls growing up, but do you see some of those idols differently now after experiencing the darker side of fame?
Being in the music industry and doing it yourself ain’t a joke. Things are all so crazy. I definitely don’t really idolize many people anymore ― just the greats. Going in this new direction is a lot about the current state of pop music. I think genres are completely disappearing and pop can be literally anything now. I don’t want to label myself by one genre anymore. I think what I do is pop because I think Juice WRLD is pop and Kendrick [Lamar] is pop. All of these people are pop now because everybody loves their songs and they’re a moment in culture. Pop has been completely turned on its head and I feel this new freedom. I was like, yo, I’m gonna go crazy and express myself. Let’s break the rules that I stick to and be more experimental.
You’ve developed a reputation for almost exclusively delivering these upbeat, gay club anthems, which I love and please never stop. But when I stan an artist, I also want to see all sides of them. Did you feel compelled to challenge expectations in this new era?
I just want to grow. Every artist that I admire like Madonna or Cher had eras. Every album would be a new look, inspiration and wig! This song was out of my comfort zone and it felt like growth, which is what I liked about it. Whenever one of my fans is going through something sad now, they know what to listen to. I kind of discovered over the past year that I had no slower moments in my set. It was all up up up and no breathers when you go inside yourself and think a little bit. This is a little moment in my set where you can cry and then we can go back to partying.
Have you faced any backlash from disappointed fans who want to keep you boxed in?
Yes, but it all disappeared when I dropped “Sweet Spot.” All these fake ass bitches said it’s such a departure, but everybody has come around because they got a club bop and now they can appreciate the sad bops. Of course, I’m gonna give you that, but I’m also gonna give you a new side of me, which I think is really dope. There’s always judgmental bitches, you know!
They are wrong!
Yeah, fuck them.
You recently tweeted about the double standards in music that punish women for singing about sex, drugs, partying, etc. and celebrate men when they do the same thing.
I really felt it strongly after releasing “Blow It All” and a bunch of people were like, “Oh this blonde bitch is singing about the dumbest shit!” There’s no denying that when girls sing about sex, drugs, alcohol and all that shit people think they don’t have their priorities straight or they’re not a good role model. It just sucks because you can have fun and be a girl. You should have fun! It’s awesome being a girl. And I see it happen to Charli XCX too and all the girls talking about partying in their songs. It’s not just happening to me.
Speaking of your past collabs, I was so gagged to see you and Kylie Minogue interact on Twitter. How has she influenced your music and do you think you might work together in the future?
Of course! She was tweeting at me and it was so nuts because a lot of artists don’t even use their Twitter and I hate that. I already DMed her and was like let’s please collab. I’m such a huge fan of Kylie. Nobody in America knows how big she is in Europe. She’s filling stadiums and the ultimate superstar there. Growing up, I was listening to her records and dancing around in my room. Her feel-good funk bops in the 2000s like “Love at First Sight” and “Spinning Around” are some of my all-time favorites. I was super gagged and couldn’t believe it.
Now you’re headlining your own sold-out tour for the first time. What is it like to take the stage completely on your own terms and craft a show just for your fans?
It’s my dream scenario. I’ve been performing in tiny gay clubs with no screens, no props, no nothing for years at this point. I’m so excited to make my stage the way I want it to be and make my set as long and as crazy as I want. This is the full experience for the first time. I’m nervous as hell and in rehearsals all the time, but I’m so excited. This is a huge milestone.
You’re also performing at Manchester Pride later this summer. What did you make of the backlash surrounding Ariana Grande from people who believe a member of the LGBTQ community should be headlining these events?
I completely get that some people feel that way, but whenever a huge pop star is an ally of the LGBTQ community we should accept that. I kind of got a little annoyed because she loves her gays. I mean, c’mon. She’s not using the LGBTQ community.
And then there’s Madonna, who’s done so much for the LGBTQ community and now people wanna be like, “She’s not actually LGBTQ.” Keep that shit! Anybody who wants to support the LGBTQ community is welcome. We should be more inclusive and not become the same way that straight people have been for years. We should include everybody and not be like you have to be gay or trans to play at our Pride.
I completely agree, but I also think there’s a real power in a member of our community taking up space on that stage. What does it mean for you as a trans woman to perform at an event like this?
It means everything for me. I have faced so many hurdles because I’m transgender. It feels amazing to be onstage and show trans kids that they can do anything they want to do. I’ve been going to Pride since I was 13 years old to party with all of my friends. It’s this really special day that’s uplifting and brings a lot of hope to LGBTQ kids out there. I’m so stoked, especially being in a lineup with Ariana Grande, Years and Years and then me! Shit’s crazy!
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.