It was a "huge day for gays," on Friday, January 6th, 2023 according to Kim Petras. For pop culture enthusiasts who love joyful and unapologetic queer artistry, the day marked the Season 15 premiere of RuPaul's Drag Race and the new pop princess' exclusive iHeartRadio LIVE show. Lucky for us, live television can be experienced over and over again in today's streaming age because Petras' iHeartRadio LIVE show further cemented her as a pop visionary you don't want to miss out on.
Hosted by iHeartRadio's JoJo, the special night featured Petras performing selections from her beloved discography of anthemic pop hits as well as discussing her highly anticipated new music and accomplished career. For fans with a Meta Quest 2 headset, Petras VR performance was available to experience in Meta Horizon Worlds and on iHeartRadio's Facebook.
Following a glowing introduction from JoJo the 2023 Grammy nominee strutted out onto the stage looking like a high femme Bret Michaels and sang one of her first hits "Got My Number." The sugary R&B-tinged pop song appeared on her 2019 debut mixtape Clarity. Petras and her posse of smooth dancers seamlessly transitioned into another one of her early electropop bangers "Heart To Break." Petras showed off her vocal strength as she belted out the anthemic track and topped it off with a delightfully cocky flip of her hair. Moving onto another vocally challenging track, Petras commanded the stage all on her own for "Can't Do Better" before taking a much-deserved break to discuss a major career milestone with JoJo.
"We just had some drinks and went crazy and wrote our little slutty song together," Petras said of her experience working with Sam Smith on their dramatic 2022 collaboration "Unholy." The hit song earned them a 2023 Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The impressive accomplishment also makes Petras the first openly transgender artist and Smith the first openly nonbinary artist to ever be nominated in that specific category. Taking a moment to rave about Smith, Petras went on, "I love Sam. I have so much respect for Sam and... they care about their music so much. It's really great to see and to really collaborate on a song has been awesome. Like the best."
Petras and Smith performed the song for the very first time together at the 2022 iHeartRadio Festival shortly after dropping the song in September. "Every performance ever since then has been insane and now Grammy-nominated. It's crazy," she said, clearly holding back more emotion. "Never thought this would happen to me. Thank you, Sam." The two were together, performing two nights at the iconic Royal Albert Hall in London when they received a text informing them that their "little slutty song" made it to number 1 on the Billboard charts.
A lot has happened since the German singer and songwriter broke through with her debut international hit "I Don't Want It at All" in 2017. The song swiftly went viral and she had more electrifying pop hits to unleash like "1,2,3 Dayz Up" with the late pop visionary SOPHIE and "Heart to Break."
"For me, pop music, growing up, was just kind of like an escape," Petras told JoJo. "I would just put my headphones on and listen to Gwen Stefani and everything would be good. I just have been obsessed with writing songs since I was a kid and I just feel like it really has the power to just make you forget all of your problems. That's definitely what I've been wanting to do and what I always chase with my music. Something that takes you somewhere completely different so you don't have to think about the stupid stuff."
Petras's latest release "If Jesus Was a Rockstar" is all about creating your own beautiful reality, but from the moment a strumming guitar kicks off the song, it's clear that it's a bit of a departure from Petras' other songs.
"It's about religion and spirituality and how I define it for myself and my friends define it for themselves," Petras explained. "It's kind of a song that kind of goes a little deeper than anything I've kind of discussed in my music before. Sometimes I'm just like a bratty girl who gets whatever she wants. Sometimes I'm like a killer for Halloween," she said in reference to her spooky-themed second studio album Turn Off the Light. "And on [her latest EP] Slut Pop I'm just like a slut, you know?" she said as the JoJo and the audience laughed."I have all these characters. And I feel like I'm just sharing how I feel in the world today as a person in the world." However, Petras emphasized, "It's also Choose Your Own Adventure. I hope it means something different to you than it does to me. That's what music's supposed to do."
JoJo revealed that Petras' song about not feeling like you have a place in a religious institution really hit home for him. "Someone once told me that they believe in God but they don't always believe in people that claim they work for God. And you know who told me that? Ja Rule told me that," JoJo unexpectedly revealed.
"Remember this classic?" Kim asked before hitting the stage solo again to sing another Clarity track, "Icy." Petras was once again joined by her dancers and showed off some bonafide pop star choreography for the indulgent "Party Till I Die" off Turn Off the Light. Keeping on theme, Petras pulsed along to a loud, rhythmic heartbeat to transition into "Unholy," a song that's introducing her unapologetic pop to more fans around the world.
Petras cooled things down with a "little chair, guitar action" to finally sing "If Jesus Was a Rockstar." Politely excusing the guitarist from the stage, Petras' next song, "Clarity," and seeing the familiar faces of die-hard fans in the audience made her reminisce about "the Clarity Tour and the Broken Tour," an era she recalled as "rough times but amazing times."
The new pop princess has come such a long way in her artistry that it's easy to forget she's just getting started and has so much more to share. Fans have been eagerly awaiting a full-length album since the pop star's major label debut, Problématique, was shelved this summer. Petras gave a much-needed update on her upcoming album.
"I have so many songs at this point [well over 100, JoJo and the audience discovered]. It's awesome. I'm definitely flying around the world right now to finish songs but it's definitely the most ambitious thing I've done," Petras said of the album. "It's kind of the essence of me as an artist. It just has so many different sounds and themes to it." The singer recently sat down with iHeartRadio's Emily Curl to discuss the vast array of themes from religion to Greek mythology.
Petras attributed her love for "legends and lore" to her German heritage. "This may be super nerdy," she laughed before adding that mythology and fantasy aren't the only themes on the album. When JoJo tried to pry some more hints about the album, like a title, Petras became charmingly flustered but kept her lips sealed for the sake of drama. "I want a big reveal," she said. "I want to do something crazy."
Her desire for adventurous pop stunts possibly routes back to an early love of P!nk, the ultimate pop daredevil. "I remember everybody was supposed to bring their favorite CD to school and play it one day. I brought P!nk's Missundaztood and my teacher turned it off and I was like 'That's what I want to be,'" Petras recalled as her eyes lit up with passion. "It suddenly clicked. I want to be the girl that the teachers turn their music off."
"I wish you all the best, girl," Petras said to the teacher who censored P!nk's rowdy pop rock and told a young Petras "to not where the things I would wear." Although it "rubbed me the wrong way," Petras said she's over it and "that was then and this is now, baby. Now I'm Grammy nominated." She also credited Madonna and Cher for being major influences on her music.
"I don't think I'd be here at all without Madonna. I think Madonna opened the gates and the doors that everyone follows and broke so many rules. I mean Truth or Dare inspired me so much," she said. "And [her] just pushing for a different type of view and pushing people's perception of what's okay and what's not okay and how a woman can express herself. I've just always perceived her as incredibly strong and a different thinker."
She went on, "Cher to me is also somebody who's just like "Cher." She defies gender, she defies anything and she's just 'Cher,'" Petras laughed. "I love those kinds of people." When JoJo asked if any of those artists could possibly be featured on her upcoming album, Petras hilariously replied, "Oh my god. The gays. What would they do? People would die. It would be serious. I don't know if we'd want to do that."
Moving on to another music legend, JoJo and Petras discussed her cover of Kate Bush's hit "Running Up That Hill," which became popularized for a whole new generation thanks to it being an integral part of the plot in Stranger Things 4. While fans assumed it was inspired by the success of the show— "Everybody was like 'She's quick to jump on the train,'" Petras said, giving a snotty impression of ruffled fans online— it turned out to be a wild coincidence.
"It was like literally like days after it blew up and we had recorded it four months prior. That's when Amazon Music had reached out [to record the song for Pride Month]." Petras also informed American fans, "Also, "Running Up That Hill" is a huge song in Europe. If you grew up in Europe, you know "Running Up That Hill," it's like a classic. I've just always loved that song because it's about equality."
To close out the Q&A session, Petras gave fans a passionate promise for 2023. "Tour, album, all of that," she said. "I feel like it's gonna be better and more exciting and pushing harder than ever before. I'm super confident in the music. I want to give you the best era for this I can possibly give you and I want everything to be right." Petras reminded fans she hasn't been on tour since 2019 and although she "loved that tour" she feels "like it's time to step it up."
Her next musical offering was a track "real ones remember," called "Blow It All" followed by her 2017 single "Hillside Voice," which cued back Petras dancers. The night also featured what Petras dubbed an "unreleased bop" from the scrapped Problématique called "Hit It From the Back." Nearing the end of the show, Petras returned to her humble yet glorious beginnings and sang her debut hit "I Don't Want It At All," as she confidently worked the stage like a runway. To close it out, Petras brought out her fellow "Coconut Girls" to perform her 2021 hit "Coconuts" the campiest ode to femininity since Katy Perry's "California Girls."
Petras didn't end the night before reminding fans to get prepared for the exciting 2023 she has lined up. "I'll see you soon," she said and happily skipped off the stage.