Doja Cat’s long-awaited fourth album is here, and what a ride it’s been to get to this point. The lead-up to Scarlet was marked by Doja clashing with her own fans and trashing her own previous albums. Given her reputation as an Internet-native troll, it wasn’t always clear if Doja’s behavior was sincere or performance art. Hours before the album release, she responded to criticism of the Scarlet cover on Twitter/X by saying, “The art I chose for my album is beautiful and I like it a lot. The two spiders signify conquering your fear. None of my album covers had meaning until this album. You not accepting me was a fear I used to have. I don’t care about satisfying you.”
That’s as good a thesis as any for Scarlet, which makes the new single “Agora Hills” even more interesting. The latest single is a much softer, palatable Doja than the abrasive, confrontational singles that preceded the album. The same can be said for the accompanying video, released on Friday and co-directed by Doja and Hannah Lux Davis. It begins with Doja washing off the full-body blood that has been the aesthetic of the Scarlet era thus far, and continues to make alien references that harken back to the extraterrestrial theme of her previous album Planet Her. The pop affectation over the verses and the sweet teen-girl bedroom scenes lean into Doja’s “pink and soft things” vibe that she specifically denounced ahead of Scarlet’s release.
Yet even when Doja deigns to give her fans a taste of her pop prowess (“pop isn’t exciting to me anymore. I don’t wanna make it. No more pop,” she tweeted earlier this year), there’s still an edge to the track and the video. The horror imagery present in the previous Scarlet videos lurks at the edges here, in the utter destruction that surrounds Doja and her glittery girl gang and the voyeuristic perspective of the camera. “Get used to my fans lookin’ at you/Fuck what they heard, I don’t fuck with them birds,” she raps, making it clear that the feud with her fans is still fully on.
This adversarial streak is present throughout Scarlet, from the first track “Paint The Town Red” (“Pop make money, now you try, bitch / You could use a revamp with a new vibe, sis / I don’t need a big feature or a new sidekick / I don’t need a new fan ’cause my boo like it”) to “Attention” (“You follow me, but you don’t really care about the music.”) Even so, the return to radio-friendly fare on “Agora Hills” reinforces one thing, which is that Doja Cat never wants us to see what’s coming next.