Relive The Album: Doja Cat’s Amala was a debut that showcased her versatility

From “Mooo!” to Planet Her, Doja Cat’s rise to fame has been nothing short of meteoric. Her debut album, Amala, released in 2018, proved to be a genre-bending mix of pop, rap and R&B. Traces of reggaeton and Latin music even find their way into the eclectic offering, measurable by Doja’s enigmatic, deftly unapologetic persona.

It came pouring through her music even in this early release, and today stands as a bold reminder not only of her provocation, but her talent – an impressive ability to shape pop culture, define it even, and predict it’s every turn.

Seamlessly blending humour and vulnerability, Amala was certainly proof of Doja Cat’s keen awareness of her market, having built a massive social media presence and devoted fanbase. Yet she beckoned experimentation, even if it was within the confines of American pop. Sure, the record is full of catchy, radio-ready hooks, irresistible beats, but it’s also a showcase of Doja’s fearless willingness to take risks.

Take a track like “Candy” – it was the record’s best performing single, in which she brags about her sexual prowess. Pushing a classic R&B sound with the additions of sultry synthesisers and driving trap basslines, it made for a sure-fire smash hit. Her fans asked and she answered. But not without a couple vocal switch-ups in between.

It’s followed by “Game”, a bop you’d expect to hear from the likes of Calvin Harris or Dua Lipa, underpinned by vocal production techniques that can only be described as cute. It’s a playful, undeniably infectious groove, showcasing the rapper’s ability to make a full-blown dance single that stands in brilliant contrast to the rest of the record.

“Morning Light” is a welcome departure from the album’s more upbeat tracks, with a dreamy vocal quality that echoes over sparse production, while “Tia Tamera” featuring Rico Nasty samples the Rugrats theme song in a wild display of Doja’s brute flow.

“Wine Pon You” is the highlight of the record, its nostalgic melodies and downcast guitar a tender evocation of Doja’s characteristic artistry, while Konshen’s collaborative influences flavour the track with surprising hints of Afrobeats.

She’s been labelled an edgelord for constantly finding herself amidst online rows and baseless celeb scandals (the latest being her dust up with Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp), but it’s all play in the end, part of a bigger marketing plan that only adds to the famed controversy, and enigma, surrounding who she is. But her recent Grammy nominations alongside continued critical acclaim are testament to the prolific career she’s built for herself as a musician above all else.

Amala was an intro to Doja Cat’s persuasive singularity, her charmingly crass self-confidence, her uncensored, untamed spirit, and we don’t need to look very far to see the lasting influence it has had.