Fear is in the water.
If you look at current acts ranging from Billie Eilish to Rico Nasty to Yungblud, fear is in the water. The nightmarish and unsettling no longer lies at the fringes of pop culture; instead, it slowly creeps towards the mainstream. The recent renaissance of horror media from The Babadook to Get Out to nine seasons of “American Horror Story” shows a newfound interest and acceptance of spookiness.
One of pop’s newest stars Kim Petras also embraces the macabre as a form of expression on Turn Off the Light, a compilation of tracks from 2018-19 chock full of gore, film references and succubi. With its dissonant piano cords, “Purgatory” slams you from the project’s start with Goosebumps nostalgia. The ensuing “There Will Be Blood” cranks the volume to excess, constructing a futuristic clubland version of Halloween Town. Here, they play songs called “Bloody Valentine” and “Wrong Turn,” two songs that are in need of what the other possesses, in the former’s case, personality, and the latter’s, heavier synths. For many a track, Petras is something akin to Gesaffelstein’s monster, her spunky soprano inexplicably at home inside industrial techno.
If not riding a techno beat, Petras takes a trap route. Spitting out “Skinniest waaaiiist,” Petras reveals her keen ear for and understanding of her fanbases. Naturally, many queer stans flock towards Petras’s bouncy, decadent pop music, and she is better than many other stars at listening to what they say, or more importantly, tweet. “Queen of the damned/ Bad bitch I am” sung to the melody of “Carol of the Bells” further solidifies her credentials as an acute pop writer, one capable of humor and composing in a verse.
Half of Turn Off the Light came out in 2018, and both the old and new material rely heavily on kick drum-driven beats. As a result, the album slips into moments of repetitiveness, as relayed in the echoes of “In the Next Life” heard in the “Knives” instrumental. Though they demonstrate its cohesiveness, the similarities often make differentiating songs a bit difficult.
A more subtle nightmare found on this project is the quiet influence of Lukasz Gottwald, otherwise known as Dr. Luke. His hand appears over not just this project but all the rest of Petras’s discography. Regardless of whether he or underlings, Aaron Joseph and Vaughn Oliver, crafts these songs, Gottwald boasts credits on the majority of them. Given that Petras appears on about every other song, much of Turn Off the Light ends up centered on the production.
But Petras deserves the center stage, even on a kitschy, holiday-themed production like this. Older 2018 cuts succeed on her charisma and delivery, from the pounding “Close Your Eyes” to “In the Next Life,” the latter given an aggressive edge thanks to Petras’s native tongue. New instrumentals such as “Knives” and “