Doja Cat doesn’t disappoint in EMAs rock performance of Say So

7 mins read

Doja Cat’s album Hot Pink turned one year old last week, and what better way to celebrate this anniversary than with a rock-out revamp of its most popular track?

Hot Pink is Doja Cat’s second studio album and successfully demonstrates her talent and creative range. Indeed, her versatility is practically unmatched – she has mastered multiple genres over the years such as R&B, rap, hip hop, psychedelic lo-fi, pop, and now, heavy metal. The opening performance to MTV’s Europe Music Awards has left fans begging for this particular version of ‘Say So’ to be released on all streaming platforms.

As is often the case when Doja first steps out on stage (or in this case, crawls out, channelling a gothic, p*ssed-off member of the undead), she is barely recognisable, eyes rimmed with black and wearing a white, bedraggled dress somewhat reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride.

It is only when we hear her distinctive voice and those familiar first lines of ‘Say So’ – a song which, post dance craze on TikTok, you’d mistakenly assume we’re bored of by now – do we realise who is crouching before us in front of the blazing lights, pushing the tousled hair from her face.

There is so much to love about this electrifying performance. For starters, the set design looks like a page ripped from Vogue magazine. As Doja slowly approaches, barefoot and crushing flowers in her wake, she grasps a microphone hidden amongst the daisies on-stage. Hunched over and clutching the mic close, she half-growls, half-purrs the lyrics we know so well.

As the drums kick in, however, she begins to belt out the chorus, clawing at the air, soulfully hitting all the high notes that are introduced to the song, head-banging, stomping with the beat… basically, giving it a hell of a lot of feeling. It’s no real surprise that, upon finishing this show, she took home the award for ‘Best New Artist’, one of the two EMAs she was nominated for.

After all, it would be an understatement to say that Doja Cat has been impressing lately. Over the course of the year, she has collaborated with artists such as Ariana Grande, Sia, Annie Mac, The Weeknd, and Tove Lo. She has most definitely come a long way from her memorable viral hit ‘Mooo!’, which she made in all of one day in her bedroom – although this certainly showed the world that she doesn’t shy away from being herself and using humour in her work, coining the term “meme music” to describe the song. 

People often dismiss Doja Cat for the sexual nature of her lyrics, as in certain music videos, she can be seen as perpetuating damaging stereotypes. For instance, in ‘Make That Cake’, she is seen carrying out traditional domestic duties like baking, and in ‘P*ssy Talk’, she and the City Girls are costumed as secretaries, which is a typically gendered role. Similarly, in ‘Juicy’ (a song “about butts”, as she tells Classical Kyle) she is reduced to body parts, dressed in various fruit costumes. Her songs tend to be explicit and include various euphemisms about hands in cookie jars, putting honey in pots, wanting to ride someone’s Harley motorcycle and the like. It doesn’t take long to figure out what she’s getting at.

Undeniably, female empowerment in the music business is currently a minefield. Some critics maintain that female artists have more freedom than they’ve ever had before and are taking advantage of this opportunity to express their sexuality in a way that inspires and uplifts listeners. Others claim that the female body is still highly objectified and that female artists are just catering to the male gaze, which arguably teaches girls from a young age that “sex sells”. For example, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘WAP’ was the subject of much controversy earlier this year, raising the question of where the line is to be drawn between what is liberating and what is degrading. 

Whilst it may not be very admirable for female artists to twist patriarchal systems that are in place to their advantage, it is a good thing that owning one’s own sexual agency is being promoted. Up until recently, women were made to feel deep shame about their desires and, in the past, women accepted pain during sex, simply told to “lie back and think of England”. Therefore, upbeat songs about having confidence in one’s own sexual autonomy should be celebrated on the whole.

Overall, Doja Cat seems to reinvent herself with each new release, evolving constantly and refusing to be pigeonholed into any one category. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, whilst her multifaceted music questions the lazy assumption that women who refer to their sexual appetite in lyrics are any different from men who do so, pointing to the double standards within society.  

Doja Cat has revealed that her next album is finished and is to be released in 2021. Until then, fans look forward to seeing what she next has in store, and what musical styles she has yet to explore in her career.

Featured image credit: Billboard

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21 / English Studies at Stirling '23 / Yoga Teacher / Writer

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