Some fans of Kim Petras' singles — from "I Don't Want It At All" and "Hillside Boys," to the more recent "1, 2, 3 Dayz Up" — might find themselves scratching their heads at the beginning of the pop star's newest song, "Broken." The boldfaced chorus begins the song, but is undercut at first by a more subtle instrumental track than fans might be used to. A steady stream of drum hits are muffled in tandem with loving synths that glide under Petras' glossy vocals.
By the time the second wave of the chorus hits, fans will find themselves bobbing their heads. The breakup anthem is better felt in the sway of one's shoulders rather than in the spring of one's jump — which would be a normal reaction for other songs in her discography. Jumping up and down to a KP bop like "Heart to Break" in a gay bar on a Friday night is practically a rite of passage in 2019. "Broken," however, is perhaps Petras' most low-key banger yet, more in line with the direction of modern Top 40 radio pop.
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While "Broken" doesn't possess the exact same treble-heavy energy listeners have gotten used to, there exists a similar sense of pop-thenticity that she's cultivated as uniquely her own over the past year. Her emphasis on inflection that boosts buzzy phrasing, like "I'm in Paris in Marc Jacobs," does not go unnoticed. Despite singing about being broken hearted, she's managed to propel the song forward with cleverly crafted lines about her own public persona.
These playful moments, juxtaposed with the song's sincere theming, are what ultimately prop up "Broken" as the perfect single to lead her new album rollout. PAPER caught up with Petras to talk about the song, getting back into the studio after the Bloom Tour, and keeping fans on their toes.
How are you gearing up for the release?
I'm super anxious, I always am. I just get freaked out because I never know what people are going to say, so I'm trying to not think about that. I'm going to the studio today, just finishing more stuff up. It's kind of a normal day, but also the song's coming out. I'm not doing anything fancy, at all.
If I were you I'd celebrate because you have nothing to be worried about. "Broken" is so good, I'm loving it.
It feels like the perfect single to be the first one from the album. What led you to choose "Broken"?
The song just kind of appeared very much in the beginning of the whole process. I had just come off of Troye Sivan's Bloom Tour, which was really amazing but also really exhausting. It was a lot of dates and a lot of back-to-back shows. Being away from the studio, I just had a book full of things that I wanted to write about that I had collected over the run of the Bloom Tour, and this was kind of one of the first ones that immediately came out with this guy, Theron Thomas. He's really amazing, he's from Rock City and I've been a fan of his for a long time. He wrote, "Shawty's like a melody in my head..."
Oh my god.
"I completely put this part of me away that feels pain and put on a smile every day."
Totally! So I've been a stan. We were just talking. This word, "Broken," in general, kept coming up in everything I was doing. It just happened super quick and kind of crystalized itself out to be the whole entire vision for the album, just because I have been going through some personal shit and a pretty bad breakup at the same time as doing the tour. Being on stage every night, singing all these super hyper songs...
Jumping around and having to be happy all the time.
Totally, hyping people up. I was just kind of like, "Fuck. I completely put this part of me away that feels pain and put on a smile every day." It kind of came down into a bunch of songs that are pretty emo. I had always felt pretty not very great about being like, "Oh, I'm so sad," because I'm very blessed and a person who's like, "Pick yourself back up and just go." This time around, I was just kind of like, "Yep. I'm going to talk about how I feel, and whine." Which is very un-German, just not talking about that. I was like, "It's okay to feel things and be a little emo." That was my breakup!
The imagery around "Broken," that you've been posting to social media has had that dark aesthetic. It's not the same as your Halloween release, it's dark in a different way and in a way that's much more universal in terms of sadness. What that was like, expressing that sadness?
I was just kind of like, "Let's strip this back and make it more about me." I was honestly like, "Let's make it more about me than the outfits or anything." I'm wearing a 10-dollar-vintage-store- white old negligee. It's kind of like a fallen angel-type aesthetic, which I'm super into, obviously. We picked this amazing house that had been abandoned for a long time in LA with this empty pool, with super lavish decorations and ornaments, amazing chandeliers, shit like that. It was something that used to be so extra and so amazing, and people obviously had a lot of fun there, and then it's just abandoned. It's like being broken up with, I guess.
Yeah, the ruins.
Yeah, kind of. I'm always really into a glam vibe, but in something wrecked. I love wrecked things. I feel like I've done that before in "Faded," where it was this old warehouse on Hollywood Boulevard which was super out of place. Abandoned is always my vibe. [Laughs]
That makes sense, though, with the song. It's not a "Hillside Boys," or an "All the Time" where you feel it in your legs and you want to jump around. When you were creating it, did you find you were dancing to it, even though it's about being broken?
Of course. 1000%. Over the space of the last half-year, most of what I've been listening to and what I've been obsessed with is Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, and old Rihanna records, Post Malone and Travis Scott. That's what I've been really into and what I feel like got me over a bunch of heartbreak. Before that, my whole focus was like, "OK, I just want to make classic gay club: old school Madonna, classics! That was more my thing, which makes sense now, because if I got one record I could do any music that I like. I kind of like every genre, I like the great music of every genre. If I had to pick my all-time favorite, it would just be '80s, super colorful, super happy shit that's reminiscent of early Madonna, who is my absolute idol in life.
Yeah! "Into the Groove," and "Holiday!" All of those classics, like "Papa Don't Preach." Those super sparkly pop records! I feel like it was just natural, I just really got into this type of music and listened to that type of artist and that was immediately reflected in what I gravitated towards. I started this era outgoing, going to different producers and listening to different tracks, and every track that I gravitated to was more trap-y. I was just like, "This is what I immediately have an idea for." I just always go off of what feels authentic to me, what I'm feeling right now, and the type of music that I'm listening to right now.
"Broken" is undeniably authentic. The lyrics like, "You cut me open/ I cried oceans/ All I wanted was devotion," and "I'm in Paris in Marc Jacobs," that's so you! It's your story and the song has a trap-inspired edge.
Even when I'm sad, I always try to make it fun. At the same time, I feel like Juice WRLD has been super fun for me to listen to, even though it's the most sad shit ever that he's saying. It's those concepts that everybody just wants to scream out, so that's kind of what I wanted to do. I'm kind of braggy in it, I'm just like, "When she leaves you for your best friend, that shit karma/ When you see me with my new dude, that's a come-up." At the same time, I'm stunting, because that's who I am.
Kim Petras has bars!
It's so exciting to me, for the first time I have a fucking flow. I have a flow and I have some bars. Even before I did "I Don't Want It At All" and stuff like that, I did wackier stuff and that's what I listened to. Then I just kind of got into this obsession — which I still fucking love so much, I'll never get tired of it. It's kind of a return for me, too, because that's kind of what I was doing as a songwriter. I was just in sessions every single day trying to write for Rihanna and working with everyone and their mom in LA. I've done that part too, so it's kind of circled back.
Now that it's going to be the first single to represent the album, do you feel relief or more anxiety about putting it out? I hear a mix from artists sometimes when talking about their first single.
Yeah, I think there's so much pressure on the first single for that initial reaction. I have other shit coming super soon, so I'm not really worried about how people... I really want my fans to like it, that's all I really care about. Then the next ones drop, which I'm so excited for, I definitely just want to keep releasing a lot of stuff. This is definitely the best starting point that I had. This sums it up, but there's a lot of different things. I'm always going to want to surprise people, that's my number one thing. I think I also wanted to release this one because I think it's going to be surprising to a lot of people. To a lot of people, I'm a super upbeat, almost animated Lizzie McGuire pop star, which I love being, but this is a different side of me and I don't think I've shown it before. I'm excited.
When "Can't Do Better" came out, everyone wasn't expecting this huge power ballad. It was a totally different side from the singles that had been released, so I think you do a good job of keeping the fans on their toes. Just when they think they know...
Especially since the last thing was the Halloween mixtape. I really just always want to switch it up. At the end of the day, what I love is music and making music, but genres — I think they're disappearing. I think everybody should just take whatever they like from any genre and fucking make the most creative thing they can come up with. That's been my little philosophy this time around.
"I feel like I'm more confident in being me now."
I can't exactly pinpoint what I feel is different about "Broken" from your previous singles, maybe it's the fact that it's going to represent something else, a whole body of work. Was it different making this song than the other singles?
I think every single song I ever do is different. It comes from different places. Sometimes I'll watch a movie and I'm like, "Wow. This is the perfect song title," and here we go. Sometimes I'm just in the studio banging my head against the wall for days and days and days and not coming up with anything good. This one was a very lucky one, I felt like I had just come off of tour and I was hungry to get back in the studio. It just kind of fell into my lap, it was pretty easy. I think the thing that has changed is me, and the shit that I've done this past year which has been super transformative for me as a person. I feel like I'm more confident in being me now. I think that's a big part that I owe to my fans because when I first came out with "I Don't Want It At All," I was just like, "Yo. Is anybody going to like this?" I'm not the most confident person, I'm kind of a quiet person in a room. I'm literally just in the room, writing lyrics onto a notepad and not talking to anybody. I was really insecure in the beginning of this, and I feel like now that I know there's people who actually like me, and they want to hear what I have to say. They've given me an enormous boost of confidence, and now I'm just much more comfortable being myself. I'm excited about this round, because I feel like there's so much more personality now as like who I've now become over the last year.
I'm so excited to see what this brings. Did you have anything else you wanted to add about the single.
Sure! I fucking love this one, I hope people really like it. I'm super excited to see how everybody reacts, I'm super anxious, but I guess I'll see! And more music is always coming. I'm always working on music.
Always feeding the fans.
Always feeding the gays!
Photography: Thom Kerr