Release Date: Jun 9, 2017
Record label: Capitol
K aty Perry has given Twitter meme-makers much material lately. With her new blond crop and stripy get-up on SNL, could she be the time-travelling love child of Wrecking Ball-era Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke? And was her drunk-auntie-at-a-wedding-reception dancing alongside Migos on SNL the cringiest music moment of the year/decade? While her "edgy" new image might not appeal to everyone, K Pez still has a flair for tunes that quickly seep into the collective consciousness - and it's kookier than ever. Taylor Swift beef track Swish Swish, with Nicki Minaj, is a house-fuelled banger with undeniable groove and nonsense content, while Bon Appetit, with aforementioned Atlanta trio Migos, offers a trap-pop innuendo-fest of the highest order.
Katy Perry is a changed woman. Well, kinda. For her fourth album under the Perry name - let's pretend her god-bothering 2001 debut 'Katy Hudson' never happened, eh? - she's attempting to bring a little more meaning to her music. Speaking about the album earlier this year, she proudly stated: "I think it's definitely a new era for me.
On Katy Perry’s 2013 album, Prism, there’s a song called “International Smile.” It’s as infectious and stupid-fun as a pep rally, with a buoyant groove and undeniable melody courtesy of pop alchemists Max Martin and Dr. Luke. The cheerleader at the center of it all is rah-rahing her way around the globe, encouraging everyone to join in: “From Tokyo, to Mexico, to Riooooooo!” It’s such a peak Katy Perry moment, you can imagine her eye-rolling the words as she belted them in the vocal booth.
W ith its flesh-kneading video, Katy Perry's Bon Appétit whetted appetites for the star's new album. The bubbling two-step track Swish Swish, featuring a Roland Clark sample (also used in Fatboy Slim's Star 69), and the ever-inventive Nicki Minaj, provides more top-flight, shade-throwing diva product. But Witness's filler can misfire, such as the forgettable Mike Will Made It-produced Tsunami.
After steadily charting nine Number One hits since 2008, anthem-roarer Katy Perry is stumbling through the fog and strobes of a less bombastic pop universe. Fourth album Witness surfs on gentler throbs of house music and lets ballads smush into art-pop soup. It's all a perfect fit for a Hot 100 dominated by the subtle, nuanced, EDM-informed music of artists like Halsey, Camila Cabello and Troye Sivan.
Other pop stars get more attention for their transformations, but Katy Perry has quietly covered quite a bit of ground. Her very first album is called Katy Hudson, because that was her name at the time. It's a christian rock album, and 17-year-old Katy was the album's primary songwriter. She doesn't sound like Katy Perry; actually, she sounds a bit like Alanis Morissette.
Six years ago, when Teenage Dream tied the chart record set by Michael Jackson's Bad with five No. 1 hits off one album, Katy Perry became the modern paragon of the singles artist. Armed with Max Martin and Dr. Luke's calculated approach to ear-wormery, Perry dominated pop radio more than anyone else for the first few years of the decade.
Katy Perry achieved maturation with Prism, the 2013 album anchored on the self-empowerment anthem "Roar" and the club smash "Dark Horse. " Considering how "Roar" scored the closing stages of Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, it would've seemed like a logical move for Perry to build upon its adult alternative affirmation but she's instead chosen to use "Dark Horse" as a blueprint for Witness, the long-awaited 2017 successor to Prism. Perhaps Perry shifted her approach after "Rise," the "Roar"-alike written for the 2016 Olympics that she also performed at that year's Democratic National Convention, failed to crack the Top Ten, perhaps she always planned to construct this album with electronic beats and synths, but Witness is so slick with synths it seems slippery.
“What makes Perry such an enigmatic pop star is that she doesn’t seem to try so hard, even when it’s clear she is.” —Steven J. Horowitz, Billboard, 12 June 2017 “LOL at all your limits” —Katy Perry, “Hey Hey Hey” Close your eyes for a second. Yes, you’re reading an album review, but let’s indulge.
Her contributions to both the pop music canon and societal views of female sexual agency notwithstanding, Madonna's biggest impact on pop culture may be the idea that, for a woman, professional longevity is a party trick best achieved by perpetual reinvention. What most of the pop princesses who've followed in her reign don't seem to realize, however, is that while Madonna may have changed her hair color like clockwork, her creative trajectory was largely the result of an organic evolution, and not about leaping arbitrarily from one trend to the next. That's something the newly bottle-blond Katy Perry seems to understand—perhaps too well.
Problematic faves date back as far as the concept of celebrity itself, and the enduring memory of social media and the Internet now puts flaws up on think-pieces right next to their album reviews. For one reason or another, culture keeps these figures relevant and in-rotation despite their public drawbacks, whatever they may be. Someone who stands to win the problematic faves pop culture bracket is Katy Perry, one of the reasons being that it’s hard to explain why many of us still listen to her.
Katy Perry's hair isn't the only thing that's shortened in recent months. When the singer unveiled in February that she'd completed a new album, her first since 2013's "Prism," she used the phrase "purposeful pop" to describe the music. Such an expression suggested she had taken on a political edge following the election of Donald Trump. Given Perry's established flair for cheeky party tunes such as "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" and vivid young-love songs like the immortal "Teenage Dream," this felt like reason to worry.
"Katy Perry Now Going Door-to-Door Trying to Shock People" does not quite have the ring of one of the Onion's most famous headlines, but it is an approximate description of Perry’s strategy for promoting her new album Witness. The offensive included a protracted campaign around cherry pies for her wink-wink second single "Bon Appétit," and a clumsily confrontational performance of the Taylor Swift diss track "Swish Swish" on Saturday Night Live. It is concluding with a 72-hour livestream on YouTube that will probably get somebody somewhere in trouble at some point.