How MTV VMAs host Doja Cat became 2021’s signature pop star

Sunday - 12/09/2021 14:59
Doja Cat, seen here at the 63rd Grammy Awards, performs pop stardom as a kind of chaotic data dump. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Doja Cat, seen here at the 63rd Grammy Awards, performs pop stardom as a kind of chaotic data dump. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
She’s performing pop stardom as a kind of chaotic data dump, seeing how readily the old systems can accommodate new information.

It says a lot about Doja Cat that she spends much of her first big acting role staring at her phone.

Playing herself in a recent episode of “Dave” — the acclaimed FX series based on the life of the comedic hip-hop star Dave Burd (who records as Lil Dicky) — the happily eccentric rapper and singer strikes up a flirty text-message relationship with Dave after they match on an invite-only dating app.

We never actually see the two meet in the flesh, thanks to a characteristic bungle by the show’s protagonist. But watching Doja Cat carefully project an image of herself through her and Dave’s screens ends up suiting an artist who, more than any of her A-list peers, feels like a product of the internet — of its chat rooms and social-media platforms and of the streaming services that first allowed her to reach an audience as a teenager posting homemade songs from her bedroom in Los Angeles.

Nearly a decade after the earliest of those tunes began to gain traction, Doja Cat, 25, has moved from the digital realm to the wider offline world.

She was nominated for three awards at March’s Grammys, including best new artist and record of the year for “Say So,” her frothy chart-topping disco-pop hit. She’s the face of an elaborate new Pepsi marketing campaign. And Sunday night she’ll host and perform on MTV’s Video Music Awards — perhaps the last of the major televised awards shows with even a chance of attracting a robust and engaged Gen Z viewership.

Set to be broadcast from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the VMAs will also feature performances by Justin Bieber, Kacey Musgraves, Olivia Rodrigo, Ed Sheeran, Normani, the Kid Laroi, Camila Cabello, Ozuna, and the extremely online phenom to whom Doja Cat can probably most relate — Lil Nas X.

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 Keywords: Hollywood

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