After canceling her sold-out Pride week shows due to illness, Petras returned to deliver her final two performances of the Broken tour. Petras’ career, much like her personal life, has not been one free of controversy.
At the age of 12, Petras was already in the spotlight, though not for the reasons the pop factory would have you conditioned to expect — at that time, Petras was in the process of transitioning her gender. After appearing on several televised interviews in her home country of Germany, Petras completed her transition at age 16.
Shortly thereafter, she began pursuing a music career. Focusing on songwriting in 2013, she enlisted with producers including the Stereotypes and others, eventually working with other pop artists like JoJo, Fergie, and tastemaker Charli XCX. But this trajectory has also been marred by circumstances both of her own making and exterior forces.
Arguably one of the most visible transgender artists in pop culture, Petras has at times made curious decisions to distance herself from her identity in interviews, instead opting to turn the attention solely on her music. “I think the ultimate goal for me is if a transgender person can be known for anything but being transgender. That would be a really great thing,” she told the Huffington Post. It’s clear, however, that a large segment of her fan base is the LGBT community, one that she does cultivate and interact with regularly.
Something else that Petras has found trouble evading is her connection with alleged abuser Lukasz Gottwald (commonly known as Dr. Luke). Petras’ 2018 EP Turn Off the Light was produced by the famed hitmaker, as were much of the songs from her latest debut album, Clarity. Petras has found herself having to explain her comments about her support of the producer after Kesha, Kelly Clarkson, and Lady Gaga spoke out against him. In the #MeToo era, Petras has chosen to let the chips fall and not take on collateral damage in the hopes that the focus will remain on where she wants it to be: her work.
What Petras has been able to accomplish — with exceeding clarity — is unabashed, pop escapism.
Throughout the night at the Mezzanine, the raucous crowd truly embraced her presence and elatedly danced to her catalog full of inescapable bangers. There was rarely a moment where there weren’t screams at the start of each song, and the floor near the stage remained packed and amped. Her younger fans were quite devout, fully equipped with their front-facing cameras and flashlights, dancing and sharing their joy on social media. When pop is at its best, the moral dilemmas of the world seems to melt away. Petras is banking on this idea in her pursuit of pop dominance, and her fans are the perfect use case.
As Petras sings on one of her more sinister numbers: “Don’t try to fight it, just close your eyes.” Whether you want to open your eyes to the world is your prerogative, and yours alone.