Release Date: Oct 22, 2013
Record label: Capitol
The lives of many female pop stars must be something of a balancing act in many respects. On one hand, the fierce competition for sales, chart positions and prime promo slots means they have to make themselves unforgettable, something very often achieved by the subtraction of various items of clothing or the addition of some other kind of shock value. On the other, they have to bear in mind that many of their fans are young girls, impressionable young women at risk of believing that flaunting one’s sexuality is the path to validation.
Birkut and I agree, it seems, on everything. One night we sat up talking about Katy Perry and her new album, PRISM. Birkut wondered, in spite of our manifold agreements, why I would listen to — much less enjoy — the work of Katy Perry, especially her new album (which he does not like). Because it was late, I talked a lot without making a lot of sense.
Amidst reports that she would adopt a more grown-up sound, Katy Perry kicked off the campaign for her fourth album by releasing a video of herself setting her signature blue wig on fire. For the most part she's incinerated the old Katy on Prism, abandoning the brazen, Pee-wee's Playhouse-style sexual innuendo of 2010's Teenage Dream album for earnest songs about self-actualization. Instead of "I wanna see your peacock-cock-cock," the overwhelming sentiment is "I'm the one defining who I'm gonna be." It's an understandable reaction to a kid-friendly image, but Perry's ballads are so unadventurous and heavy-handed (chiming U2 guitars and slow-building, reverbed drums), they start to feel like caricature anyway.
Teenage Dream did its job. With its five number one singles, the 2010 album turned Katy Perry into a genuine superstar, the kind of musician whose image rivaled her music in popularity, the kind who could topline her own 3-D theatrical documentary, the kind whose name became shorthand for a sugar-pop sensibility. This meant there was only one thing left for her to do on its 2013 sequel, Prism: to make a graceful pivot from teen dream to serious, mature artist.
From Michael Jackson floating a statue of himself down the Thames to Rihanna’s chartering of a Boeing 747, ostentatious largesse is nothing new in pop promotion. The grand gestures involved always seem particularly apt: no-one was surprised that Jackson had a gargantuan ego or that Rihanna was at the centre of a chaotic, hedonistic hurricane. So it was when a gold-coloured freight truck teased the release of Prism, Katy Perry’s third major-label album, earlier this year.
It's hard to make Lady Gaga look like an underdog. But that's the uncommon position in which California songstress Katy Perry – nee Hudson, briefly Brand – finds herself. Back in August the two singers' new singles – Roar by Perry, Applause by Gaga – came out the same day. The clash was unscheduled, forced by leaks, but the victory was unambiguous.
Estimates vary (some less serious than others), but the archetypical pop single runs approximately three minutes long, the ideal length for radio programmers to maximize both advertising dollars and the number of songs a station can broadcast per hour. While radio edits can render even the most garrulous pop stars airwave-ready, others, like Katy Perry, are an A&R exec's wet dream. Only one song on the standard edition of the singer's fourth album, Prism, exceeds four minutes, and it's an indulgence Perry and company don't even allow themselves until the closing track.
Katy Perry's fourth studio album arrives heralded by both an online video in which the singer symbolically burns a blue wig – like the one she wore on stage during the world tour during which her brief marriage to Russell Brand collapsed – and a lengthy cover feature in Billboard magazine, the bible of the US music business. The latter enumerates Perry's impressive commercial achievements. She has had nine US No 1 singles since 2008 – five of them came from her last album, Teenage Dream, equalling a record set by Michael Jackson's Bad – and somehow contrived to launch three perfumes in as many years, some blessed with names that signify something other than what they were perhaps intended to: "What's that smell?" "It's Katy Perry's Miaow.
Katy Perry's 2010 album, Teenage Dream, was such a massive blockbuster that we've had to wait three years for the follow-up where she reveals the multifaceted artist behind the fun pop sheen. And Prism is as prismatic as all get-out: There's the Blakean feline of "Roar," the trap-rap interlocutor of "Dark Horse" (featuring Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia), the jet-set gal pal of "International Smile." On "Ghost," she lances the boil on her soul that is Russell Brand. On "This Is How We Do," she's a liberated weekday warrior, going from all-night parties with the boys to "Japaneezy" nail appointments to kamikaze Mariah karaoke.
There are a lot of cynical things you could say about Katy Perry that wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate: that her biggest and best songs often succeed because of a steadfast refusal to cater to anyone other than the lowest common denominator; that she’s shown a bandwagoner’s approach to her musical career, chasing trends instead of establishing them; that her greatest successes have come from shouting what are essentially emotional platitudes from the highest of mountaintops. But, what that cynicism ignores is the most basic of things: Katy Perry singles are really, really good pop songs. Perry’s last album was Teenage Dream, which featured six tracks that charted in the Billboard Top 10, including five (five!) number ones: “Last Friday Night (T.
There is a certain quality about the current pop music scene (without getting into the whole ''in the good old days...''' conundrum) that allows it to be listenable and at the same time highly unlikable. It's rather like eating fast food while trying not to ponder the trajectory of the chicken from animal to nugget-- it's already known that there are unpalatable details to the story, not to mention the usual health concerns. Nothing matters anyway, as long as it tastes good and you come back for more.
No matter what you think of her personally, even the most jaded of cynics have to acknowledge that Katy Perry is one hell of a performer—and that’s exactly what her biggest problem is. Prior to the release of Katy Perry’s “third” album (not counting her 2001 gospel album recorded under her birth name, Katy Hudson), the end of Summer 2013 brought a seemingly endless onslaught of “big” pop music releases: brand new hit songs from Perry, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga (and for most of October, all these songs were displaced from the Billboard penthouse by a 16-year-old songstress named Lorde). Each song was revered and loved by each singers’ respective fanbases, but all of them also missing that culture-shaping impact that makes the the best songs not just “click” with mainstream audiences, but also transcend them.
Of all her Top 40 peers — Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Britney, Beyoncé, Ke$ha — Katy Perry has always seemed like the pop star who knows precisely what she does best. She rarely stretches in her endless pursuit of a fabulous time, committed to making you feel good about yourself and the world at large. If you like what she does, no one does it with quite the same élan.
Pop vixen Katy Perry can pull off anything, and we mean anything -- from popping out of bananas and popcorn to seashells and bubbles. Here, we sample the star's performances over the years. Katy Perry's "Prism" is a shimmering, dynamic, heavy-duty modern pop album that's as unapologetically bent on moving bodies as it is on moving units. Longer by one song than her mega-selling 2010 record "Teenage Dream," the 28-year-old's follow-up is so packed with should-be hits that it's easy to believe she added the extra just so she could break more chart records.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN “My music is about to get real fucking dark…. I’ll be shoegazing. You’ll never see my face because my hair is in my face.” That’s Katy Perry speaking to Kristin Wiig in Interview earlier this year. It’s a joke, of course; as if the suits at Capitol would ever permit Perry to make music that could be described that way.
OK, you can pretty much see this as a continuation of the Lady Gaga album review, because this record is, more or less, a total inversion of ARTPOP. Everything that is missing from that record is here, but everything that is good about it is spectacularly absent from Prism. Put very simply, this is much, much better pop than ARTPOP. Just like a great US comedy, it’s a vindication of the massive writer team approach: it delivers bangs per buck, relentlessly.