Katy Perry’s new album Prism isn’t officially out in Australia until next week, but following an inevitable leak of some sorts, Perry made the whole thing available to stream on her website overnight.
So, what’s on Katy Perry’s mind? Is she still bummed out about her split with Russell Brand? Has she gone totally dark and edgy, like that promotional video of her burning her blue Teenage Dream wig suggested? Or has she gone heavy on the power ballads yet again? Questions need answers!
At the time it came out, ‘Roar’ really gave me the shits. Its lyrics were stuffed with the kinds of platitudes you can totally imagine playing over commercials for The Biggest Loser. In recent weeks, though, near-constant exposure to the song has worn me down, and I’ve gone from ambivalent to… maybe sort of liking it? Such is the power of hitmakers Dr Luke and Max Martin.
‘Legendary Lovers’ takes things in a Bollywood direction, with stirring strings, eastern percussion, and a lot of talk of third eyes and hearts beating like drums. Don’t ask me how I know this, but Katy Perry and Russell Brand got married in India… Okay, I know it from a Famous magazine that was in our old bathroom for like three years.
Y’know how Rihanna’s ‘Birthday Cake’ was actually a graphic metaphor for cunnilingus? I’m pretty sure there’s no such double meaning here. ‘Birthday’ is literally about celebrating birthdays. It sounds like a bouncy pop song along the lines of ‘TGIF’, except even more upbeat, like a Robin Sparkles number.
‘Walking On Air’
A friend and I were messaging back and forth about this track: I said I fucking love it, because it sounds like Florence crossed with ‘90s C+C Factory, and he said he hates it for exactly the same reason. Fun fact: ‘Walking On Air’ is one of two Prism tracks produced by Klas Åhlund, who co-wrote a fair chunk of Robyn’s Body Talk, and is the best.
If you only know Katy Perry from songs like ‘Teenage Dream’, you might be surprised to learn just how deep her love of angsty power ballads goes. Seriously, I think she must have an arrangement with her label that goes something like ‘One top ten hit for you, one histrionic power ballad for me’. This is one of those.
‘Dark Horse (feat. Juicy J)’
Prism has covered a lot of ground so far, from ballads to up-tempo dance tracks, and ‘Dark Horse’ takes things into trap music territory. Of course, it’s Katy Perry’s version of trap, so it comes slathered in layers of marshmallow fluff synths, with come-hither melodies. It’s hard to know exactly what Juicy J brings to the table.
‘This Is How We Do’
This is the second Klas Åhlund track, and it’s the balls. It’s a woozy electro pop track about being young, pretty and wasted, cruising around in fast cars, getting day-drunk and eating breakfast in last night’s clubbing dress. I can imagine the kids from The Bling Ring being way into it.
‘International Smile’ also sounds pretty upbeat. I can imagine it scoring a montage partway through The Devil Wears Prada, as Anne Hathaway’s character gets swept up in the glamorous world of international fashion, not yet realising that there’s a hidden dark side.
More so than most pop artists, Katy Perry’s albums are front-loaded with hits, and suffer a severe quality drop in the second half. It seems like we might have hit the point of no return with this one. “I see through you now,” she says to an ex-boyfriend by way of a kiss-off… I’m guessing because he’s a GHOST.
Remember the Sex And The City episode where Charlotte goes to the self-help seminar about the power of positive affirmations? Katy Perry must have attended one of those and sat in the back in an oversized hat and sunglasses, scribbling away in a notebook. How else do you explain lyrics like “I know I have to love myself the way I want you to love me”?
Here’s another one from the book of affirmations. “All we have is this moment,” Perry sings, “yesterday is history.” The ballads on the back half of her albums are so bland and washed-out that listening to them can be a real endurance test, as these last few prove.
Okay, so this song is called ‘Double Rainbow’, and was written by Sia. Sia eats stars and pukes rainbows, and her presence alone means the song has to be pretty awesome… right? Well, it actually sounds fairly slick and forgettable. Hopefully, Sia is saving the great stuff for her own new album. She should hurry up and release that.
‘By The Grace Of God’
Closing track ‘By The Grace Of God’ takes things into piano ballad territory, and is brought to you with the help of the guy who wrote One Republic’s ‘Apologize’, in addition to ‘Ur So Gay’, one of several lowlights in Perry’s catalogue.
The first half of Prism is pretty great, loaded with the kinds of songs that are perfect for drunkenly commandeering the sound system at parties. The second half has a LOT of angst-ridden ballads. Yep, Prism is a Katy Perry album after all.
Katy Perry’s new album Prism is officially out through EMI on October 25.