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Kim Petras perfects spooky pop with ‘Turn Off the Light’

music review

Kim Petras released “Turn Off the Light,” which combines new songs with tracks from last year’s EP “Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1,” Oct. 1.
Kim Petras released “Turn Off the Light,” which combines new songs with tracks from last year’s EP “Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1,” Oct. 1.

The year is 2018, the month is October and Halloween is quickly approaching. This usually entails the absolutely incessant playing of Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash.” Rising popstar Kim Petras, however, delivered something different last October: an EP dedicated entirely to original spooky pop, titled “Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1.” The inclusion of “Vol. 1” hinted at an inevitable sequel.

This year, Kim Petras commenced the Halloween season on Oct. 1 with her anticipated follow-up to “Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1.” Instead of another volume, Petras combined last year’s EP with nine new tracks to form the cohesive, tantalizing 17-track album of your nightmares.

Otherwise known for her dance-inducing bubblegum pop, Petras’s sonic transition in “Turn Off the Light” is just as unanticipated as it is welcome. The album delivers the same high-energy sounds of her earlier work, but the clear tonal shift shows a darker side to her than we’ve ever seen.

In “Turn Off the Light,” Petras dances us through a series of emotions perfect for Halloween: pulsing uneasiness, heart-racing terror and dark desire. Tracks such as “There Will Be Blood” and “Wrong Turn” bring a sound typical of club pop playlists, but their lyrics tell a different story. Petras begins the lyrical portion of the album with the belt “There will be blood, run for your life / Go on and say, go on and say your last goodbye / There will be blood, you're gonna die / You'll never make it, never make it through the night.”

In the album’s sixth track, “Massacre,” Petras slows that energy but keeps the theme. After a haunting repetition of the lyric “It’s gonna be a massacre,” Petras puts a sinister spin on Christmas classic “Carol of the Bells.” Instead of “Christmas is here / bringing good cheer,” Petras belts “Blood on the floor / Glamour and gauze / Stain on the glass / Make this the last / Night that you're here.”

Petras culminates the brewing sexual energy present throughout her lyrical numbers on the first half of “Turn Off the Light” with “Death By Sex,” an upbeat track brimming excitement and lustful desire. She follows “Death By Sex” with the entirety of “Turn Off the Light Vol. 1,” beginning with the chilling instrumental “o m e n” and vocal-heavy track “Close Your Eyes,” arguably the strongest and most single-worthy track on the album. In belting out the chorus, Petras maintains the sexual energy of “Death By Sex” with equally heart-racing lines: “I feel it coming on / You've got nowhere to run / There's no way you'll make it out alive / Oh, when it's after dark / I’m gonna eat your heart / Don't try to fight it, just close your eyes.” She performs less strongly in the titular track “Turn Off The Light,” but elevates the track to camp by featuring Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Almost every one of the vocal tracks stands well by itself, but what makes the album strong is the instrumentals that bind them. “Turn Off the Light” is a highly conceptual album. It boasts a whopping eight instrumentals (or mostly-instrumentals), strategically placed so that nearly every vocal track has its own intro and outro. There are many strong contenders, but “Purgatory,” “Knives” and “Boo! Bitch!” stand out.

“Purgatory” is the first track on the album, which carries immense pressure to accurately pin a  tone for the rest of the album. It surpasses expectations. The first half is enough to put you on the edge of your seat with anticipation — the second half puts you on the center of the dance floor.

“Knives” serves an irresistible beat to the alluring sound of knives being sharpened, and has the perfect energy to carry “Massacre” into “Death By Sex.” “Boo! Bitch!” works as a fittingly upbeat outro to the album, complete with Petras’s signature “woo-ah!” and the sound of maniacal laughter at the very end. Each instrumental perfectly weaves between the songs that precede and follow it. It would be a crime to put this album on shuffle.

Because Petras intends to guide her fans through the dark and unexpected turns of “Turn Off the Light,” she adds one final, unexpected twist: she makes the last track a ballad. “Everybody Dies” seamlessly opens out of “Boo! Bitch!” into a tempo Petras rarely uses. Rather than sounding climactic, it plays more like the closing track on a horror movie soundtrack (after, you know, everybody dies). Beyond its tasteful energy, “Everybody Dies” serves more as Petras’s intention to live her life exactly how she wishes, belting that “Not everybody lives / But everybody dies.”

In “Turn Off the Light,” Kim Petras shows her versatility as an artist more than ever before. We can only quiver in anticipation at what might come next.

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