From sensual to satanic: Doja Cat sparks controversy with hellish aesthetic 

Fans react to the demonic shift in Doja Cat’s new public persona highlighted in “Demons” and “Paint the Town Red”

By Lura Hayes 

Design by Clare GibbSeptember 23 2023

Doja Cat — the musical icon of Generation Z  known for her catchy pop/rap hits — dropped a lit match onto her fanbase by releasing singles “Demons” Sept. 1 and “Paint the Town Red” Aug. 4. The satanic imagery present in both music videos has sparked controversy for the 27-year-old artist. 

In “Demons,” Doja Cat is transformed into a creature reminiscent of something straight from Hell. Adorned with black body paint, neon red eyes and razor-sharp fangs, the artist embodies a demon haunting the house of her video co-star, renowned horror actress Christina Ricci. Explicit references to demonic worship are shown throughout the video, beginning with a series of flashing photos depicting Satan himself. As she crawls across Ricci’s bedroom ceiling, Doja Cat interrogates the audience, “How my demons look?” This contentious shift in public persona alludes to a rebellion against the music industry while simultaneously serving as promotion for her upcoming album, “Scarlett.”


Fans were particularly shocked by this change in aesthetics, given the hyper-feminine aura Doja Cat has presented throughout her entire musical career. Her debut album in 2019, “Hot Pink,” revolves around a celebration femme-coded elements. “Say So” — its most popular song, boasting over 800 million streams on Spotify — became a career defining hit for Doja Cat. The video for “Say So” is the embodiment of all things feminine, featuring diamonds, miniskirts and baby doll pigtails.

Similarly, the artist’s most popular album — “Planet Her,” released in 2021 — is well known for its commentary on gender inequality while celebrating the divine feminine. For example, in the music video for “Woman,” Doja Cat plays a sensual goddess who defeats a group of men plotting to overthrow the queen of a fictitious society. With memorable lyrics like “Provide lovin' overlooked and unappreciated” and “Baby, worship my hips and waist / So feminine with grace,” “Woman” embodied the overarching theme of the album. 


The release of Doja Cat’s latest music, however, defines a new, infernal era for the artist. Similar to “Demons,” “Paint the Town Red” brims with demonic references. In the chorus she sings, “Mm, she the devil / She a bad lil' b—, she a rebel.” The music video also contains striking motifs of demons and horror elements, including a blood-soaked Doja Cat, two naked lovers in black body paint and horns and the artist’s wedding with the grim reaper.


While many criticize Doja Cat for the glorification of satanic worship, others think she is using this imagery as a sign of rebellion against the music industry and internet fandoms. In 2022, the artist claimed she was going to quit producing music. She expressed how frustrated she was with the expectations of fans after a canceled show in a since deleted Twitter rant. 


“I f*ckin quit I can’t wait to f*cking disappear and I don’t need you to believe in me anymore,” Doja Cat said on Twitter in 2022. “I’m a f*cking fool for ever thinking I was made for this.” 


On her Instagram post for “Paint the Town Red”, one fan pointed out this shift in lyricism and aesthetic could stem from her frustrations with fans.


“Some people missed the memo how attention and paint the town red are clearly diss tracks towards all the rumors and how people are reacting towards her,” a user commented


Although controversial, Doja Cat is not the first musical artist to use demonic imagery to express backlash towards social norms. In recent years, rapper Lil Nas X found himself in a similar controversy regarding the music video for “Montero (Call Me By Your Name).” Released in 2021, the video released depicts him sliding down a stripper pole to Hell and giving a lap dance to the devil. This repurposing of biblical references served as a protest against homophobia and created a call to action for LGBTQ+ rights. Following the release of the song’s music video, Lil Nas X posted a note to his younger self on Twitter in 2021. 


"Dear 14-year-old Montero, I wrote a song with our name in it… I know we promised to die with the secret, but this will open doors for many other queer people to simply exist," Lil Nas X said.

The connection between “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and Doja Cat’s new releases is not surprising given their public relationship on both a social and professional level. In Lil Nas X’s album “Montero,” Doja Cat is featured on “Scoop,” a song about the surging popularity of the two artists and their disregard for critics. Lil Nas X sings, “Working overtime to make sure I'll be the scoop, referring to his popularity as a target of criticism. In her feature, Doja Cat adds a similarly confident attitude, singing, “But you thought you'd have a chance after you wanna disrespect me?” 

“Scoop” demonstrates how both artists have little regard for critique of their artistic choices, especially since their current popularity is still on the rise. Their similar outlook implies Doja Cat could be attempting the same goal as Lil Nas X with her presentation of demonic elements.


The reception of Doja Cat’s new music has been polarized so far. Some fans praise her for the artistic elements of the videos and her rebellion against the music industry. On the other hand, many former fans followed the singer’s lead and came for blood. While some of these critics denounce her stray from previous aesthetics, others are simply disgusted with the satanic content. Numerous hate comments on her Instagram post announcing the release of “Paint the Town Red” — a snippet of the music video where she dances on a cartoon picture of a green devil’s head — objected to the content from a religious perspective. 


These sentiments gained traction when TikTok user @ajayllah_bae posted a video, claiming the singer was possessed by a succubus on her birthday. She blamed Doja Cat’s change in persona on her supposed possession.


“Doja Cat is not acting out,” @ajayllah_bae said in the viral TikTok. “Something has attached to her soul and won’t let her go! Her 27th birthday party was a ritual for her soul.” 


Despite, or perhaps because of, the contention, Doja Cat remains an icon in today’s music world. “Paint the Town Red” reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week of Sept. 11. Some, such as Billboard writer Rania Aniftos, argue the song’s success stems from its controversy.


“They say all press is good press, and the question of whether or not Doja has actually been possessed by the devil has certainly helped the song’s growth by getting people to stream and see what all the drama is about,” Aniftos said in a recent Billboard article previewing Doja Cat’s upcoming album.


With the full release of Doja Cat’s new 15-track album “Scarlett” in its entirety Friday, fans will encounter even more demonic references. The track list notably includes song titles such as “97,” referring to the angel number that symbolizes spiritual enlightenment, and “Balut,” referring to a delicacy eaten in Southeast Asia containing a fertilized duck egg. The full album, including “Demons” and “Paint the Town Red,” was released on Spotify and Apple Music and is already charting Apple Music top 10 lists in over 100 countries.