Publishing Note: This article was written by Staff Writer Gavin Ross and Opinions Editor Triston Green
On Nov. 7 of 2019, Doja Cat released her second album titled “Hot Pink.” The album was announced through the release of a music video featuring a new hit song titled “Rules.” Shortly after, set pictures were released on Instagram; and from there, “Hot Pink” took off, with all audio tracks being released on YouTube and the album becoming available on multiple streaming platforms only two weeks later.
Generally, the album had been met with positive reviews, and as long-time Doja Cat fans, we had expected nothing less. Doja Cat’s previous album titled “Amala” was one of our favorite albums to come out of 2018, with hits like “Cookie Jar,” “Morning Light,” and “Candy,” being our favorites off of the album. The deluxe version of the album in 2019 even introduced the likes of “Juicy,” “Tia Tamera,” and the infamous “Mooo!” With songs like these, we came into the new album expecting songs of the same level or better. But unfortunately, when it came to our listening of the album, we found that “Hot Pink” was actually rather hit or miss.
The album does have its extremely fair share of downsides, taking up about half the album. Starting with the song “Won’t Bite,” a song that emanates with a tropical atmosphere through use of the bongo as percussion, soft guitar plucks, and melodic vocal riffs that remind us strongly of Hawaii. The song’s instrumental work is pretty good, the use of these instruments together make the perfect blend for a good instrumental, but the vocals bring the song down. The strange vocal patterns and tones don’t blend with the instrumental very well, both for Doja Cat and her guest Smino who stars on the track. His feature on this track seems rather off putting, as the song would have fared about the same without him. It does nothing to make the song better, and it might even be a detriment to the song overall with his bland and dry vocal style.
“Talk Dirty” is another song that falls on the low side of the album. It’s a mellow song with some hard vocals that are enhanced by equalizers. There are parts of this song that shine, such as the verses in which Doja actually sings. Her voice is silvery and melodic, making these parts of the song easy on the ears. It leaves me wanting more of her singing, and I wish that she would utilize her singing voice more often. Unfortunately, these parts are only short and sweet, as the rest of the song features these rough equalized vocals that clash with the rest of the song. Since these vocals take up most of the track’s time, most of the track isn’t very desirable. They just don’t seem to fit with the music, and I feel she could have done more with her voice.
“Addiction,” is another song I have to unfortunately consider to be one of the lower points of the album. This track has so much potential, and I could’ve seen this song being a lot better than it turned out to be. The song features some heavenly vocals that you can’t really get in another track on the album, with graceful falsetto lines and contrasting low-down deep-vocaled verses. Unlike the contrast seen in “Talk Dirty,” this works quite well with both vocal styles blending together with the instrumental in a much better way. However, the vocal progression in this song pretty much ruins it. It’s not consistent, with the lengths of the lines varying a little too much for the verses to be catchy. The lyrics don’t blend with each other, making the flow of the song rather choppy and unappealing.
Another song that had the same potential to be good was “Shine,” a song with a soft instrumental and hard percussion. The tune is catchy, and the verses flow much better than they did in “Addiction.” However, the vocals themselves are the main detriment here. The chorus feels flat, and the verses are drowned in autotune. There’s no doubt that Doja Cat can sing, so it’s not a problem of her vocals being inherently bad; it’s quite the opposite actually. Doja Cat has some stunning vocals, though new listeners might not be able to tell if deciding to start by listening to this song. Her vocals are very robotic, suggesting a rather liberal use of autotune. It distracts from the instrumental greatly, and creates a rather undesirable effect overall.
“Better Than Me” is a slow song with a mellow instrumental and vocal style, and the last song on the album that falls short. This song is rather boring overall, and the vocals can sometimes travel off-pitch, which creates a rather odd and unsatisfactory sound. We’re unsure if this is intentional or not, but either way it doesn’t sound too great. The vocal style is rather bland, and the lyrics are nothing special. While other songs have momentum, even if they’re not great, this song doesn’t have any whatsoever. It’s likely the most forgettable track on the album for this reason.
Now, it might seem like the entire album was a bust just from that, but there is still hope. The rest of the album is pretty good, and there’s one particular song that is probably one of our favorite songs in existence, so let’s cover the better side of the album.
Starting with “Cyber Sex,” a futuristic synth track with an entrancing atmosphere. This song is a good way to kick off talking about the good songs of the album. It manages to be very soft and toned-down, yet energetic and bouncy at the same time; which is likely due to the quirky and beloved vocal style Doja Cat is known for being utilized here. Each verse sounds different, but the lyrics and flow really blend everything together to make a pretty solid piece.
“Rules” is a hard-hitting western track, featuring rugged instrumentals and peppy flute samples to boot. The flow is pretty consistent throughout the song, but it really works to make this song catchy. Doja utilizes a pretty unique vocal model here, an upbeat melody with harmonies that sound very unique to the main melody, rather than a simple pitch change. These harmonies really shine in the final chorus when they increase in volume, giving the song a noteworthy ending despite it using the same harmonies the rest of the song used. They synergize with the vocals perfectly, and the instrumental couldn’t be any better for this track. This is likely one of the best songs on the album.
“Bottom Bitch” is a fusion between alternative rock and R&B, featuring vocals enhanced with autotune. Unlike “Shine,” the autotune is very mild and actually works with the instrumental very well. The key to this song is that nothing was overdone, the sounds come together perfectly and the song just feels really fun. It’s a song about people sticking together through thick and thin, it’s bright and positive with a unique feel that we really haven’t gotten from a Doja Cat song before.
“Like That” is an energetic track featuring verses from Gucci Mane. While Gucci Mane’s feature didn’t really do much for the song, Doja’s harmonic and melodic vocals really come through to show a side of her vocals that we don’t get to see often. It’s a simple catchy track with vim and vigor, and it’s a pretty unique song when compared to the rest of Doja’s library. Gucci Mane doesn’t bring the song down either, despite him not really boosting the quality of the song in any way. It’s nice to see Doja Cat collaborating with other artists, and this collaboration kind of works.
“Streets” is a fantastic song with a very strong and distinct beat, featuring smooth synth and soft vocals alongside it. This song is utterly enchanting, and it’s hard to explain the feeling the song gives. The lyrics are powerful and loaded, all packed behind Doja’s somber voice. It’s easy to hear the emotion behind the vocals, and it really makes this song stand out. Aside from the last two songs we haven’t yet touched in the album, this song has the most incomparable feeling and notable personality.
“Juicy” is another song with a distinct feeling, and that might be because this song actually comes from her previous album. The song itself is amazing, featuring solid vocals, plucky digital rings and riffs in the instrumental, and a pretty cool message about positive body image. However, this version of the song features additional verses sung by Tyga. And, as fans of the original, we’ll probably stick with the version that showed up on “Amala.” Maybe it’s because Doja’s original verses were more upbeat and lyrically unique in comparison to Tyga’s rather uninspired verses, but he can’t really make the song worse considering how great it is. If you have “Hot Pink” and not “Amala,” it’s still a pretty good tune. Although we’d encourage the listen of “Amala’s” version of the track any day.
And finally, the crown and jewel of the album, “Say So.” This is a song that could probably be classified under the genre of “Future Funk” considering its futuristic synth riffs paired with the funky disco theme of the song; and you can’t really go wrong with “Future Funk.” This song is incredible, and probably one of our favorite songs of all time. It’s bass and synth greatly resemble songs from the japanese music genre of “City Pop,” a genre that took Japan by storm in the late 70’s, and remained popular up into the late 90’s. “Say So” greatly resembles tracks like “Plastic Love” by Mariya Takeuchi. There’s something so nostalgic about it, whether you’re a “City Pop” or “Future Funk” connoisseur or not. It’s quite the addicting song to listen to, everything from the familiar instrumental to the euphonious vocals.
The album overall is pretty hit or miss, you either get hits like “Say So,” or you get bland tracks like “Better Than Me.” We find ourselves listening to about half the album, while skipping the rest. For that reason, it gets a 5/10 in our book. Nonetheless, Doja Cat is still on our radar, and we look forward to future releases from the ever-growing artist.