LOS ANGELES – For Kim Petras, 2022 was a big year: The German singer-songwriter received her first Grammy nomination, made her acting debut with the HBO series “Los Espookys” and released a single with acclaimed pop music producer Max Martin.
Inspired by the irreverent attitude of her Grammy-nominated duet, “Unholy,” which she and Sam Smith are set to perform at this weekend’s awards show, Petras decided to dive deeper into the waters of religious language and themes as she worked with Martin to write “If Jesus Was a Rockstar.”
“I just never got a chance to even know about spirituality or be accepted by God. So, to me, it’s like mythology. To me, it’s like a fairy tale or any other story,” she said during a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Petras, who is transgender, understands her subversive engagement with religion as a way of processing trauma.
“I just, since a young age, had to be like, ‘I’m going to hell.’ That was my growing up experience,” she said. “Had I had the chance to be a part of a religion, I maybe would have. And maybe I would have lived more the way that people who protest my concerts want me to live.”
Although she has been making music for more than a decade, Petras’ rise to fame did not happen overnight. And while she is grateful for her success, she recognizes that this level of celebrity makes her and her music more vulnerable to criticism.
“Now it’s more serious. It’s more like, wow, people are really watching and there’s really, truly a lot of eyes on there that may not be my fans, who may not be so kind to me,” she said. “But I feel like, since I’ve steadily been building, I’m able to handle it.”
Before her career took off, Petras released her music as an independent artist under her own label. She credits recording artists like Robyn and Charli XCX, who also released music independently, for inspiring the creation of BunHead Records, a nod to the '90s Japanese manga series “Sailor Moon.”
In addition to celebrating a host of career milestones in 2022, Petras also marked a personal one: turning 30. But the pop star said her philosophy on age is very much in line with the late music legend Prince, who famously did not celebrate birthdays.
“Age does not matter to me,” she said. “I’m never going to stop fully clubbing and loving gay clubs and going to them. That’s just who I am.”
In keeping with who she is, her new single, “brrr,” which is expected to be on her debut full-length album, is replete with lustful lyrics and heavy electronics. But Petras hopes to do more with her music than provide a catchy beat for clubgoers to dance to.
“It’s a scary time for transgender kids and people and I think there are just a lot of things that really need to get figured out,” she said. “I’m scared for the trans community and I just hope I can be a person that makes them forget about those troubles and just makes them have fun for a little bit.”