The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Doja Cat sees red: “Scarlet” and its complexities

Mollys+illustration+for+the+Scarlet+album+review
Molly Parker
Molly’s illustration for the Scarlet album review

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Oct. 4 at 3:46 p.m. to cite “Paint the Town Red,” as the song that hit the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. 

Doja Cat’s new album “Scarlet” simultaneously functions as a hate letter to her internet trolls and a testament to her unbothered-ness. 

The album was released on Sept. 22 and was preceded by the release of three singles, “Attention,” “Paint the Town Red” and “Demons.” “Paint the Town Red,” specifically, quickly shot to the top of the charts, hitting Billboard’s Hot 100 No. 1 spot and becoming the first rap hit to gain this spot since 2001, according to Billboard

“Paint the Town Red” also made history as the first rap single written by a woman to reach the number one spot on Spotify’s Top 50 in the USA list, according to American Songwriter.

The discography of “Scarlet” is admittedly a little disjointed, jumping from drill songs such as “Demons” to the softer, romantic “Can’t Wait” and “Agora Hills.”

Still, this variation in song types does not take away from Doja Cat’s prowess but rather further cements the diversity of her talents. 

To her haters suggesting that she cannot rap and that she sold her soul to pop, “Attention,” “Ouchies” and “Balut” are proof of her versatility. She asserts her dominance through verses in “Ouchies” such as “I don’t need another hit ‘cause it’s useless really.”

The contradiction in her album presents itself in “Ouchies.”  She raps “I don’t mean to instigate” contrasted with verses of “let me get it started/round one, fight.” 

Doja Cat’s claims of being unbothered by her critics are similarly undermined since she takes special care to put them in their place in this album.  

The album makes it impossible to put Doja Cat in a box: she highlights her singing abilities on top of her clever raps. “Often” follows a mellower beat, featuring Doja’s whispery vocals, reminding her listeners that she can bounce from drill to a more R&B sound without batting an eye. 

“Scarlet” turns sharply into horror. The music videos and media surrounding the album’s release are sprinkled with demon images, blood and horror movie elements. Doja Cat’s new aesthetic departs from her poppier, brighter presence with albums such as “Hot Pink” and “Planet Her.” 

The album cover features two interlocking spiders. Much of Doja Cat’s publicity for this newest album showed her drenched in blood—an image which is also the cover for her single “Attention.”

Doja Cat’s embrace of a demonic image polarized her fan base. Stars worshiping their dark side is nothing new: Lil Nas X used a similar theme in his “Montero” music video. 

Doja Cat, however, is aware of coming into fame with a different image. In “Attention” she raps “Look at me, look at me, I’m naked/Vulnerability earned me a lot of bacon.”

She flamed many of her fans for falling for her cash-grab pop albums on a since-deleted controversial series of Threads posts. In “Demons,” Doja Cat raps “I’m a puppet, I’m a sheep, I’m a cash cow,” referencing how she views her past music and rise to fame. 

Her growth is palpable in this new album, as she displays her new array of many talents. 

A true collage of any and all musical styles she wanted to embrace, “Scarlet” is Doja Cat simultaneously proving her capabilities in more than one genre, hitting back at controversy and creating a wide-ranging, inventive and promising masterpiece.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Molly Parker, Illustrations Editor
(She/her) Molly Parker is a senior studio art and anthropology double major from Hopedale, Mass. She had been a member of the illustrations team since the spring of 2020 before becoming editor of the section in the spring of 2023. Molly also creates prints and zines that she displays in the Burlington area as well as her hometown. Apart from illustrating and creating art, she loves watching horror movies, cooking and crocheting. Email [email protected] to get in contact with Molly.