Honorable Mention: Pop music as of late has become so… respectable. During yet another year where it was cool to collectively crown an 18-year-old as the Next Big Thing, music publications continued to turn inward, assess decades of their own misogyny-tinted taste (which, for the record, was a good thing), and champion releases that had massive PR machines behind them, the type of titles that major labels made sure that every second of recording time was polished and perfected before general consumption. Which makes a tumultuous entity like Doja Cat such a breath of fresh air within this increasingly stuffy space, as the unifying visual and sonic aesthetic of the delirious Planet Her is defined by a specific adherence to the blatantly ridiculous (read: Internet-based humor), personified best by its ruling governess and her many theatrical proclivities. As previously stated, she’s our most chaotic rapper-turned-pop-star since Nicki Minaj — who’s thanked by name at the end of the bouncy tribute track “Get Into It (Yuh),” with its short-burst chorus threatening to “Pop out with a truck,” delivered with a cadence somewhere between Onika and Playboi Carti — and one who’s unpredictable nature and robust versatility as a vocalist becomes her third album’s central strengths.
Take “Need to Know,” a track filled with absurd double entendres (“Tell me your schedule / I got a lotta new tricks for you, baby / Just sayin’ I’m flexible”) and performed with an exaggerated triplet flow, but one brimming with hyper-kinetic confidence, a choral tour de force that happens to include orgasmically squealed ad-libs hanging in the backing mix. Or the ways she pleads to “be your woman” on the project’s lush afrobeat opener, before further begging the titular question (“Boy, can we take off all our clothes?”) on the dancehall-infused “Naked,” and eventually landing in hyper-pop territory on “Payday,” with her raspy falsetto somehow out-weirding the routinely oddball Young Thug; that’s three vastly different genres traversed in the span of three consecutive tracks, yet presented in typical Doja fashion: as a big extemporaneous joke, one she’s let us all in on. Which is to say, she’s pretty funny, at times hilarious with some of her line deliveries — the high-pitched inflections and nefarious threats she hoarsely shouts at the end of “Ain’t Shit” (“I’m not gon’ key your car, I’ll call your fucking mom / You should have paid my rent, go get a fucking job”); the giddy glee of “Got imagination ’cause I’m childish” that follows shortly after — but is, by all means, a force to reckon with when not in a purely comedic context. Her biggest claim to world domination yet, the peppy “Kiss Me More” (essentially a stronger version of “Say So,” but if Ace of Bass penned it) is proof enough of her star-making abilities; if anything, the fun, breezy, and radiantly warm energy of the smash single feels almost too professional for a musical temptress like Doja. But like most of Planet Her, it’s only further proof of her cosmic, chameleon-like abilities that are hiding in plain sight.