Review: The musical app TikTok is fueled by the peppy and eclectic sounds of Doja Cat’s 2019 album Hot Pink, a body of work that combines RnB, 90s pop and Nicki-Minaj-style rapping
By Mira Sripada (’22)
Amalaratna Zandile Dlamini, professionally known as Doja Cat, is a singer/songwriter from Los Angeles, California. In 2014, Doja Cat signed to RCA records and in that same year, released the EP Purrr!. After this EP, Doja Cat debuted two more albums in 2019: Amala and Hot Pink. Some would say Doja’s breakthrough came from the popular song and music video “Mooo!”. However, Gen-Zers would argue that Doja Cat’s success stems from TikTok, where songs like “Say So” and “Like That (feat. Gucci Mane)” dominate the For You Page.
Hot Pink is a 12-track RnB/pop album that features a unique contrast between peppy, feminine vocals and obnoxious, hardcore rapping. This is apparent in the seventh song “Talk Dirty”. In this track, the hook is composed of a groovy, electric vocal riff underscored by a dreamy, soprano melody. Throughout the song, listeners hear sassy rap verses and tame, melodious ones as well. This juxtaposition is also on display in the song “Addiction”. Here, her audience is captivated with a vivacious, danceable and lightweight chorus sung in her soprano voice, clear through the lyrics “And it makes me want to dance, a little”. However this is completely contradicted when a rap full of intentional and artful autotune acts as a vehicle for Dlamini to boast and gloat. Meanwhile, the empty space is filled with a hearty and intense RnB beat that allows the song to shine. Speaking of “Shine”, that is precisely the title of the tenth song where these opposing sounds continue to thrill her audience. In this song, a repeated low-voice vocal melody paints across a song featuring zippy, techno and high pitched vocals switching back and forth from a rambunctious rap.
Another aspect of Hot Pink is its underlying sound of 90s pop. This is present in three songs on the album, the first being “Cyber ***”. Doja’s vocal performance in this song, driven by plenty of oohs and aahs, is high-pitched, clear cut and backed by sharp beats and a peppy, bright marimba. Similarly, in the sixth track “Like That (feat. Gucci Mane)”, a bouncy, airy beat and a random arrangement of some twinkles and snaps blend into a catchy and cheerful song. Finally, the qualities of 90s pop are perfectly executed in the most identifiable song on Hot Pink: “Say So”. It is in this song that the alluring aspects of Doja’s vocal performance combine effortlessly with a danceable and bubbly beat, bringing notalgia to the person listening. The singer’s dreamy and breezy voice is heard through the lyrics, “It’s been a long time since you fell in love”.
The eclectic and versatile nature of Hot Pink is clear through songs like “Won’t Bite (feat. Simno)”, where a West African guitar pulses through the entirety of the piece and a wild, almost animal-inspired chorus keeps listeners intrigued. Simno provides a brief, light and groovy rap verse to break a fairly repetitive song. The track “Better Than Me” provides yet another attribute to this album. Here, a message of self-confidence is revealed through pensive and wistful vocals. This is exemplified through the lyrics, “Swag is what I’m oozin’”. Moreover, a summer jam filled with melodic oohs and aahs is present in the song “Bottom *****”. In the beginning, listeners may be reminded of 2010s pop because of the electric guitar melody, played throughout the entire song. Doja Cat sings with a heavy amount of autotune, contributing to the techno sound present in other songs on her album. Finally, a wild-west inspired instrumentation combines with her RnB and techno sound to create “Rules”. This track provides a new level of moxie and sass to the album, while also intentionally leaving out the cheerfulness heard in her other songs, clear through the lyrics, “I ain’t no minion”.
In the 2019 album Hot Pink, Doja Cat, a multifaceted artist communicates a sound like no other, where she effortlessly blurs the lines between 90s pop, RnB and techno. To further demonstrate versatility, Doja plays with instrumentation from all around the world and from different genres like in the songs “Won’t Bite (feat. Simno)” and “Rules”, respectively. Hot Pink exemplifies the ways in which the singer expresses herself, whether it be through rapping akin to that of Nicki Minaj or singing and her talent speaks for itself. However, had it not been for the popularity Doja Cat gained through TikTok, her career may not be where it is now and her anything but ordinary sound may not have reached as many young people as it did. Doja Cat’s experimental nature will keep her audience patiently anticipating the release of another musical masterpiece.