Kim Petras’s TURN OFF THE LIGHT is the answer to all your spooky season playlist anxieties ― that’s right, you don’t need to listen to “Monster Mash” on repeat all October. An expansion of her 2018 Halloween-themed EP, Turn off the Light, Vol. 1, listening to these 17 tracks feels like a heart-racing stumble through a haunted house. Complete with creaky doors, whispers, autotune and heavy dance beats, TURN OFF THE LIGHT plays like the soundtrack to the glossiest of nightmares.
The album’s instrumental opener, “Purgatory,” ushers listeners in past ominous iron gates and gray skies, with piano notes that fade into EDM. The feeling that something very strange is about to happen is confirmed on “There Will Be Blood,” where Petras lays out the album’s thematic landscape ― blood, death and twisted relationships. It’s blatantly clear that it’s about to get gory, but it’s so fun to sing “You’re gonna die” along with Petras that you don’t really mind.
The brooding track “Massacre,” borrows the Christmasy melody of “Carol of the Bells” and twists its iconic cheery trills into something sinister. Following the lyrics, “I’ll take you there / Just you and me / Can’t even breathe / Can’t hear you scream,” the “la la las” taunt, covering up her captive’s pain. And the transition from the song’s outro ― the sound of knives being sharpened ― into the next song, “Knives,” is eerily seamless. The listener isn’t given time to relax at any point in this album, and it replicates the feeling of being chased further into a haunted house. The sounds of other rooms linger, but the house keeps pushing you in deeper.
Still, Petras does allow for some palate-cleansing with songs like “Death by Sex.” With not-so-foreboding instrumentation and the smirking repetition of “sex, sex, sex,” her warning that “you’re never gonna make it out alive” isn’t quite so menacing. The opener to Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1 called “o m e n” follows, functioning as an interlude that sucks you back in. “Death by Sex” may have killed you, but this listening experience doesn’t end when you’re dead.
The title track, “Turn Off the Light (feat. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark),” calls back to Vincent Price’s iconic spoken role in “Thriller.” But instead of describing “the funk of 40 thousand years,” Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, gives advice. “Only in the darkness will you find your true self,” she whispers, highlighting the queer perspective Petras brings to Halloween. This standpoint is most explicit in the song “TRANSylvania,” which is both a clever pun and club-ready dance number.
“Tell Me It’s a Nightmare” is a refreshingly real take on fear in which Petras worries about her lover’s commitment. She still kills them in the end, but it’s easy to mistake her insistence that she, “tried to save ya, warn ya, keep you alive,” as a not so intense conversation about saving their relationship instead.
The album closer, “Everybody Dies,” is the song for the end of the haunted house, when you’ve pushed open the exit into the cool night air and fall back into reality. It’s haunting in its sincerity. “Not everybody lives,” warns Petras, “but everybody dies.” Contextualizing all the twists and turns that came before it, Petras knows that the scariest thing isn’t blood, demons or dying, but not fully living.
The album gets repetitive. Blood splatters seem to stain every verse and death lurks in every chorus. But it’s absolutely dance-party-ready. There’s something so satisfying about Petras’s sugary voice narrating a demon haunt ― it’s like Halloween candy.