Interview: Kim Petras Talks “Malibu” & New Era
After releasing two albums and half a dozen stand-alone singles in 2019, Kim Petras would be forgiven taking it easy this year. But the German pop star doesn’t have an off-switch. Instead, she kicked off 2020 by bidding adieu to the Clarity era with “Reminds Me” and just-released “Malibu” as the first taste of her next project. A bright and breezy pop anthem that evokes vintage Madonna and Prince, the ’80s-inspired throwback is an early contender for Song Of The Summer.
I gave the breakout star a call last week to find out more about “Malibu” and the direction of her new era. It turns out that the ode to LA’s premiere beach destination has been gathering dust on Kim’s laptop for three years. At least, the hook has been. It took a while to perfect the verses and bridge, but “Malibu” is now the template for what’s to come — an album of big, bold pop songs that connect emotionally and put a smile on your face. Find out more about Kim’s future plans in our Q&A below.
Congratulations on “Malibu”. It’s so catchy.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I’m so, so proud. I really feel it’s my best song I’ve ever dropped. I’m so stoked, and I’m happy to hear that you like it. Thank you so much.
What inspired the song?
What really inspired the song was my imagination of “Malibu” before I ever got there. When I got there, I was kind of let down. It isn’t such a magical place. It’s honestly boring to me, just a bunch of rich people. I just wanted to write a song about how I thought Malibu would be. I wrote this song three years ago. I’ve had the demo for a long time. It just never felt right. There were a lot of verses and bridges that we played around with. The hook always stayed the same, but it took us a little while to work out the rest.
How does something this good stay on your computer for three years?
I don’t know. It didn’t really fit into Era 1. It sounded more like a Michael Jackson throwback song, or an old Madonna track. It sounds like a classic superstar song to me. I feel like it could be a Prince song. It just never really fit into any of my projects because Clarity was a breakup album. It just feels right now. It’s exactly what I want to do for my next album. This is the start of my new era. I really want to get back to just making pop hits.
That’s my forte. I’m over writing heartbreak songs. I don’t feel depressed. I feel very content and happy. I’m going to make music and that’s all I’m doing. “Malibu” captures that happiness and I want to share it with all my friends and fans. It’s a real representation, I think, of how I want to feel moving forward and how I want to my music to sound. I think it’s very exciting. “Malibu” is my personal favorite song.
Did you finish it before lockdown?
Yes, I finished it before lockdown. I was going to perform it for the first time at Coachella and open my show with it. But now Coachella is in October, which means I get to play songs from my Halloween album. I had the song done. We were just about to film the music video and then everything went into lockdown. That’s a tragedy. As soon as anybody can go outside again, I’m going to shoot that video because I have an amazing concept. In the meantime, I’ve made an amazing anime video. I love it.
I also made a video with all my fans and friends and pop girls. They’re all in bikinis and with drinks and with beach towels. It really won my heart. We had 5000 submissions, it was crazy. That’s been a really fun thing I’ve been doing for this, but I cannot wait to make a legit music video. It definitely deserves one. But I’m just excited that I’m dropping the song and that people have it. They can listen to it and forget about life being shitty right now.
Yeah, I’m listening to a lot of upbeat music. I don’t want to be more depressed than I already am.
Yes, it’s important. It’s so important. All I’ve been listening to is Love. Angel. Music. Baby by Gwen Stefani. Off The Wall by Michael Jackson and a lot of Daft Punk. I don’t want to feel any negativity or listen to songs about heartbreak. I’m just into optimistic music right now.
“Malibu” is the first taste of your new project. How far along are you?
I’m still in the beginning stages of it, but I have some songs I’m very excited about. You know me, I love to write three times the amounts of what I need. I definitely am not there yet, but I have a bunch of songs. I have the title and I have the concept. I’m really trying to make this a concept record. I really am obsessed with being cohesive. I’m still proud of Clarity, but I feel like there are a lot of different directions and sounds. I guess that’s fitting because it’s a heartbreak record, and it feels kind of lost and broken.
What I want to do now is a concept record that really just puts you in this foxhole world. I just want you to be able to listen to it, from start to finish, and feel the one emotion and hear one sound. “Malibu” is an example of what I’m going for. There are a lot of different colors to it. I’m very excited about the concept, but it’s the title I’m really proud of. I think people are definitely going to gag.
I’m already gagging! You mentioned being inspired by Madonna and Prince. Does the new project have an ’80s influence?
I always have an ’80s influence. That’s just in me. My favorite music is from the ’80s. I think everybody was so unafraid to be ridiculously big and loud. I love Cyndi Lauper. I have always loved that sound. But I don’t just want to make an ’80s album, I want to make something that feels new and fresh — with a lot of the stuff I love about the 80s, like big songs, big hair and big drama. I’m definitely trying to experiment as much as possible as I can with that world.
A song like “Heart To Break,” for example, felt very ’80s and pop. I guess that’s what I’m good at and also what I love doing most. There’s more of that, but obviously my voice has evolved tremendously since Era 1. The new songs really focus on showing different colors of my vocals. You know how I’m obsessed with ad libs, harmonies. I really want to give you some more of that. I just want to push myself.
When I dropped “Heart To Break,” I was just a writer in the studio. So I always wrote my songs really high. In the beginning, that song was really hard to sing night after night. But then I started training and I adjusted. Now it’s easy for me to sing “Heart To Break” every night on tour. I want to see how far I can take my vocals. That definitely takes a back seat, however, to making songs that touch people. That’s always my priority. You can get very caught up, but none of that matters if the song doesn’t connect with people.
I think connection is a keyword. I really want to connect. I also feel like it’s a good opportunity to address some things. Because I know exactly what people are saying about me. I think this is a good moment to put that all into the music instead of talking about it. I guess the best way to know me is to listen to my music anyway. Really, is better place?
Will there be any collaborations on the album?
Yes, I would love to. My number one collaboration that I’ve always wanted to do is Daft Punk. I would die if I ever got to collaborate with them. Maybe I’ll ask Charli XCX if I find the perfect song. Yes, I think that there are tons of exciting people. I’ve always dreamt about having Nicki Minaj on a song as well. There are so many amazing female rappers right now that I would die to work with. It just needs to make sense. Sometimes collaborations just happen because people wanted to combine fan bases.
The song doesn’t even make sense and I hate that. When I collaborate, I want to see a duet. I want to do real songs that make sense for both artists, to be honest. When I think about great collaborations I think about David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. I think about Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson. I think about “Lady Marmalade.” Right now, obviously with Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion, there are some great collaborations that absolutely make sense.
Is “Reminds Me” going to be on the next project or is that just a standalone single?
“Reminds Me” was a farewell to Clarity. It won’t be on this. I’d like people to think about it more as a part of Clarity. I think we’ll do packages in the future that include “Reminds Me” on Clarity. That will be fun, but no, it’s not on this next project.
I love your Halloween album so much. Do you have any other holiday-themed projects on the horizon?
Thank you so much! I just feel dedicated to Halloween. That has always been the biggest holiday to me and something that I feel passionate about is just making songs that people can put on every Halloween. I’m still really passionate about Halloween. I would like to go down as the first person to drop a Halloween-themed album that you can put on every October 1st and every October 31st to get into the mood. That’s just the holiday I’m so stoked about. I think there are so many Christmas songs but I don’t it’s for me.
Mariah Carey is already the Queen of Christmas. Then, there’s Justin Bieber, Gwen Stefani. There are so many Christmas records. My heart is with Halloween. Technically, “Heart To Break” was dropped on Valentine’s Day. So, technically, it’s a Valentine’s Day song. Maybe I could make an album of anti-Valentine’s Day songs at some point.
It’s been a pleasure. Congratulations again on “Malibu”!
Thank you so, so much. It’s been great to talk to you.