Earlier this year, Kim Petras’ team became the butt of the joke on Twitter when they booked the pop maven at stadiums. Petras was running hot on the dual successes of platinum-certified radio hit “Unholy” and summer club smash “Alone,” but the stadiums barely sold: Screenshots of bright blue Ticketmaster seat maps proliferated online, and the consensus was that her team had gotten a big head. The two tracks saw Petras ascend standom for chart success, in the company of two artists — Sam Smith and Nicki Minaj — who sell out stadiums in minutes. Petras’ team’s conclusion, likely enabled by poor market research, was that she had become a marquee name in her own right.
Their snafu dovetailed with Petras’ attempt to transition from alt pop ingenuity to four-quadrant predictability. Petras, who played Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Oct. 29, developed as an artist with an uncanny knack for versatility across pop’s sounds. The story goes that the pop outsider from Germany grew up as an underdog, observing pop and assembling her pastiche from afar. But with her two studio albums, Feed the Beast and Problématique, both released this year, her versatility gave way to an edgeless swerve into mainstream pop’s rat race.
Petras opened her Halloweekend show with Feed the Beast’s title track. The track is an inspiration-less anthem to Petras’ new studio persona, which set the tone for the show. Like the rest of Petras’ 2023 albums, Feed the Beast coasts on the star identity Petras established for herself with her earlier releases. It postures Petras as the music industry’s shamed child, but the one that everyone can’t put down — “In the morning, in the evening/ On the counter, on the floor,” she sings, “Keep you coming back for more.”
Strangely, for a post-“WAP” artist whose Slut Pop set the groundwork for an outré pop surge, Petras sanded her rough edges down with Feed the Beast. The title track is smooth and inoffensive, an uninteresting request for the mainstream to eat her up. On Feed the Beast, she tries to play both sides, but comes across as an act for middle America to clutch their pearls to with no real transgression. “Unholy,” her collaboration with Sam Smith, found success with a similarly PG-suggestive formula.
But when Petras tempers her sound, her vocals shine. Though Petras’ compositions have faltered, she’s taken the opportunity to prove her status as a pop vocalist. At Bill Graham, all variety of pick-me paragons in their spookiest finery were stunned by the artist’s range, especially during a tweaked rendition of fan favorite “Hillside Boys.”
Though Petras’ voice was a bright spot in her show, it wasn’t enough to unify the entire act. Lately, following Taylor Swift’s lead, artists have taken to structuring their shows around the eras of their sound, attempting to showcase not only the development of their music, but their identity as a star. Petras structured her show around her distinct releases, but her eras, with the exception of Slut Pop, have never been aesthetically concise enough to make the structure work.
During the Slut Pop segment of Petras’ show, a green, phallic microphone hung down from the ceiling for “Throat Goat,” an inventive touch that the rest of the show failed to live up to. Throughout the show, Petras performed in front of a series of visuals that suggested hedonism and freakiness without building on Petras’ act. Lacquered with polish, the show made one thing clear: Hollywood loves to throw money around, and Petras seems to have cashed in.