Doja Cat has strayed into various directions throughout her career, never fully embracing her strengths and instead putting herself into a world (pop) that can be as harsh as the other that she has talent in, hip-hop. Her music has been a hybrid of many genres blending into one big lavish orchestration, whether she is making glamorous pop records or fun dirty tracks that lays focus on having gravitas with the melodies she tries to create as this immersive world that never sees equilibrium. Planet Her shows flashes of this within these ranging pop and hip-hop complexions, despite feeling completely baked and an overall lesser product than her last album Hot Pink.
Throughout recent years Doja Cat has shown flashes greatness when creating spectacular and major pop hits like “Say So,” and the ratchet-fun and intelligent “Tia Tamara” with Rico Nasty. These tracks had these unique gloss and glitz that made them audibly appealing, like the first few minutes of chewing bubble gum. So as the roll-out toward Planet Her started, there were tracks that brought that appeal and gave hope for something as great as her ceiling is. Unfortunately as the album unfurls it becomes more apparent that she has left a lot of the talent in the truck in order to capture the success of “Say So,” as each track carries these glitzy-pop covered production notes that sound like it is trying too hard to be a hit.
However, some tracks hit the nail with the way Doja Cat directs the tracks, like lead single, “Kiss Me More,” featuring SZA. The production doesn’t feel complex and instead is a humbling pop-R&B hybrid with infectious melodies, harmonies, and beautifully executed verses. Doja Cat mirrors this on the promotional single “Need To Know,” an elegant trap track that plays coy with the sexual innuendos that Doja acknowledges as she embraces her sex positivity. Both of these tracks deliver on every-angle, from the vibrant melodies and production to the quirky fun rap verses. She brings a lot of this on the album, but in parts they don’t land as much as others.
Planet Her is an album about Doja Cat, more so than the exterior suggests, though not entirely. As it has been in past work, Doja has sold herself as a great hip-hop artist and overly ambitious pop artist who has made it work more often than not, but on this album the ambitious part becomes more apparent through the production. Oftentimes it can feel over-done and too complex for its own good, as it tries to captivate you. This brings weight to standouts, like the toned down acoustic-centric ballad “Alone,” which has Doja embracing this notion of being okay with being alone – like finding comfort with ones-self; as well there is remarkably orchestrated and constructed ballad “Been Like This,” turning on her strengths as a singer.
Within the confines of the other tracks with themes about sex, relationships, and empowerment, the few things that standout, and its a testament to Doja Cat’s talents, is the melodies she weaves with the lyrics she writes. It’s a continuous strength of hers on Planet Her, albeit many tracks having weak concepts and deliveries, whether she is meddling in pop or in hip-hop, like on “Payday,” featuring Young Thug, which is a weird mess of overly produced pop vocals on the chorus and typical haphazard verse from the Thugger. And it’s a continuous mess as many tracks have great moments within factions, but the whole product isn’t as strong as what she delivers in these flashes. She finds herself balancing way too much and it can be an overbearing presence as tracks become overly thought out to make it as attractive as the other features she has on the album, like the Weeknd.
Unfortunately the track list construction of Planet Her has been a disappointment in hindsight, as Doja Cat released the deluxe edition with five new tracks, three of which are some of the best work amongst the many other tracks on the standard track list. With tracks like “Tonight” with Eve and “Up and Down,” you question how the corny “I Don’t Do Drugs,” with Arianna Grande or the overly baked “Get It To (Yuh),” which is an annoying mess of a track. But one thing that the deluxe edition made apparent, the track with the Weeknd has a longer version and it benefited the album that she chose to add in the shorter version, which has more of an impact than the longer.
Doja Cat has a lot of talent and enough to keep retaining a strong presence in pop, but the trajectory of her career has seemed to have a mental impasse with the ways she can keep it interesting, whether sonically or lyrically. Throughout Planet Her you’re given a slew of consistency, despite many tracks becoming skip-worthy halfway through. Her fans will find a lot to enjoy and indulge in, despite being the weakest project she has released thus far.