Doja Cat’s ‘Scarlet:’ A loud kind of soft 

This cover image released by Kemosabe/RCA shows “Scarlet” by Doja Cat. Photo courtesy of Kemosabe/RCA via AP.

After a tumultuous few months since her EP “Demons + Paint the Town Red” was released, laden with beef between herself and fans and countless controversies regarding purported homophobia and racism, Doja Cat has loosed her highly anticipated album “Scarlet” onto listeners.  

Personally, being new to the singer’s musical style, a few things stood out in her work: a soft type of rapping that was paired with belligerent lyrics, tied together by an overarching theme of horror. 

Before getting a load of the album, potential listeners should be warned that there is frequent use of cursing and mentions of genitalia in her lyrics – for better or worse. Unlike certain artists who use these words carelessly, there is a clear argument for the necessary use of harsh, tongue-cutting language to set the tone of “Scarlet’s” more pugnacious tracks.  

Doja Cat’s rapping ability was showcased in the album and it’s very evident that her style is highly differentiated from others in her cohort of female rappers — namely Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. Perhaps this element sets her in a new league altogether.  

By no extension of the term can her music be classified as “mumble rap” – a category that has expanded to include the likes of Desiigner, BlocBoy JB and Lil Uzi Vert. Instead, lyrics are clearly enunciated from head-to-toe, no matter the atmosphere of a particular song. From tracks like “Gun” to “Skull and Bones,” listeners need not struggle to know what the lyrics of a particular line are constituted of.  

The meaning and interpretation of those lyrics is an entirely different story, however. The maturation of the singer’s now well-defined sound was projected into the work as well.  

A steady electronic beat and soft set of vocals took advantage of the medium tempo and combined to create a “bouncy” feel to the music that was recurrent throughout the tracks, which somehow defied odds even in horror songs. In this fashion, even the most aggressive of “Scarlet’s” pieces did not assault the listener’s eardrums.  

The album’s Halloween-esque theme and pre-October release are certainly no coincidence. The superstar singer plans to hype up the album with a short tour that begins on Halloween and will last for nearly a month.  

The horror aesthetic begins on the front cover of the album, which features two spiders with red-tinted bodies that resemble pearls. Featuring titles such as “Paint the Town Red” and “Demons,” this theme is carried throughout the work. However, it should be pointed out that the whole album does not revolve around the chosen theme, as is the case with other artists.  

The intersection of the terror-based theme and rumors that the singer had sold her soul to the devil were intelligently included in the lyrics of titles like “Agora Hills” and “Skull and Bones,” which delivered lines about jinxes, Satan, Christianity and superstitions.  

One of the most captivating elements of the album, ironically, wasn’t the music at all, but the chromatic symbolism. “I know that I’ve done a lot of pink and soft things, a lot of pop and glittery sounds…but for this next era, I’m going in a more masculine direction,” said the singer an an interview with Variety. 

The new album, in ties with bloody horror, features the color red throughout the artwork, music videos and even lyrics. For the singer, red seems to usher in a more forceful, masculine feeling to her rap sound. After all, pink is derived from the color red after diluting it with white.  

This seems to be a subtle nod to the singer’s comments that her previous work had been “mid and corny.”  Doja Cat’s evolution into a more specialized rap style is accompanied by the her transition into a darker, more hostile aesthetic that simultaneously references her past work which is represented by the pinks of albums such as “Hot Pink” and “Amala.” 

Rating: 4/5 

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