Doja Cat Was Right, She Doesn’t Need Us
Doja Cat might have just proven she was right about not needing her fans. Despite recent backlash, her new track ‘Paint The Town Red’ continues to break streaming records. In fact, the latest single from her upcoming album Scarlet just became the fastest solo female rap song to reach 100 million streams in Spotify history.
This means that ‘Paint The Town Red’ has surpassed Nicki Minaj’s ‘Super Freaky Girl’, which broke the record back in September 2022. While it took Nicki 35 days after release to reach the milestone, Doja Cat did it in 26. Plus, the song is also killing it on the charts. It’s currently Number 2 on Apple Music’s Top 100 Global chart where it reached Number 1 in over thirty countries; Number 12 on YouTube’s Top 100 Music Videos Australia, where it’s had 21 million views in three weeks; reached Number 1 in Australia and has been on Spotify’s Top Hits playlist for two weeks (it currently sits at Number 3) — and is currently eyeing the Number 1 spot in the U.K. Beyond all that, ‘Paint The Town Red’ was also the first female solo rap song US Spotify history to reach Number 1.
These are pretty impressive achievements for a second single, especially given the fact that people were convinced Doja Cat shot her career in the foot after fighting with fans on Instagram, Threads, Twitter (or X, if we must), and just everywhere really.
Doja Cat Fan Controversy Recap
In case you need a quick reminder, the Doja Cat fan backlash began when controversy surrounding her boyfriend J. Cyrus went public. After photos of the pair kissing hit the internet, fans quickly started calling Doja out for dating Cyrus, a man facing allegations of emotional abuse and manipulation. Doja responded to these comments by blocking fans, calling them “miserable hoes”, and saying that she never gave “a fuck what you think about my personal life”, that she never has and “never will”. Charming! Safe to say, fans didn’t take kindly to Doja’s comments. And then things got worse.
Doja then said that any fans that call themselves “Kittenz” — a fandom pet name for Doja Cat — needed to get off their phones and “get a job and help your parents with the house”. In response to a fan asking the singer and rapper to say that she loved them, Doja Cat replied: “I don’t though cuz I don’t even know y’all”. The backlash was swift and dramatic. Doja lost thousands of followers on Instagram, and Doja fan profiles mass deleted their accounts dedicated to the artist on Twitter.
Some fans were quick to tell Doja Cat that she’d be nothing without them, which turned out not to be the flex they might’ve thought it was given ‘Paint The Town Red’’s huge success.
Doja Cat Is Letting Her Talent Speak For Itself
As a Doja Cat fan, naturally, I have many thoughts on all of this. I understand that fans can get a bit possessive over artists and music, especially after connecting so deeply with them through COVID lockdown after COVID lockdown. Let’s not forget: Doja Cat was a massive figure on TikTok in 2020 and 2021. The app was flooded with her content and songs, and many of us making viral dance moves to her sounds, so you can understand how some fans landed on the belief that they are the reason for Doja’s success. My take? That’s simply not true, and not a sentiment I can get behind. She’s an incredibly talented rapper — and singer, a rare combo — who very well would have found a path to fame any way she wanted to.
Too many women of colour in music, especially in rap, are expected to live up to their fan’s picture-perfect expectations. It’s a rather toxic way to view your favourite artists, though. After all, these artists are human beings with their own agency, and when they inevitably fall from the pedestal they were put on, the backlash is brutal.
For a while now (and certainly through the promotion of her new album) it’s seemed to me like Doja wanted to break out of the mold she was put into during those TikTok years. This is where I think the alter ego of ‘Scarlet’ came from. Her previous albums have been very pop-rap focused, but it’s been widely reported that the new album heavily showcases Doja’s rapping abilities. Doja shaved her hair and eyebrows, and started saying shocking things, and acting strangely on Instagram Lives.
In an interview with Harpers Bazaar published two weeks ago, Doja Cat explained that as she began moving away from the image the public had of her, she became exposed to the dark side of parasocial relationships. “If someone has never met me in real life, then, subconsciously, I’m not real to them,” Doja said, “they kind of take ownership of that person … and when that person changes drastically, there is a shock response that is almost uncontrollable”.
There are a few fan theories as to why Doja’s shifted her image. A lot of people believed that the ‘erratic’ behaviour was so that she can get out of her label record deal, while others believed that she truly didn’t want to be famous anymore, and others even went so far as likening her behaviour to a Britney Spears-type ‘breakdown’ (such a gross thing to say but Iook, that’s another story for another day).
One thing I’ve always appreciated about Doja Cat is that she’s always aware of the conversation that’s happening around her and doesn’t care what people think of her. She opens ‘Paint The Town Red’ rapping “Bitch I said what I said/I’d rather be famous instead“. Doja doesn’t give a fuck if people online are mad at her, they’re still going to make her famous just by talking about her. And those fans who so boldly put their stake in saying she wasn’t worth anything without them are left eating their words, just what Doja wants.
Doja Cat seems to capture something that a lot of artists struggle to in this streaming era: authenticity, skill, and an understanding of how the culture works. And she does all of that while still having fun. She might not care if her fans love her but she’s still out here making music for those who do (hi!).
In ‘Paint The Town Red’, Doja’s proving she was right all along. She doesn’t care if people are fans of her or not: the music speaks for itself. Amid all the noise, she’s dropped one of the biggest rap songs in streaming history — with or without us, she’s got it sorted.
Ky is a proud Kamilaroi and Dharug person and writer at Junkee. Follow them on X.
Image credit: ‘Paint The Town Red’, Doja Cat