Prism by Katy Perry

Prism by Katy Perry

 

Is is too early to label Katy Perry the Queen of Pop? Does she even deserve the sort of title that’s reserved for the likes of Michael Jackson? Starting out with her breakout sophomore record One Of The Boys, Perry has landed hit after hit in the notoriously crowded and competitive American market, even with pedestrian tracks like Firework. She’s become a proper cultural phenomenon, and those hits have become so iconic and commercially successful that even indie groups grudgingly respect her ability to craft lyrics that connects with young audiences and an innate understanding of what ideas will stick.

 

TRACKLIST:
#1. Roar 3:44
#2. Legendary Lovers 3:44
#3. Birthday 3:35
#4. Walking On Air 3:43
#5. Unconditionally 3:49
#6. Dark Horse 3:36
#7. This Is How We Do 3:24
#8. International Smile 3:48
#9. Ghost 3:23
#10. Love Me 3:53
#11. This Moment 3:47
#12. Double Rainbow 3:52
#13. By The Grace Of God 4:28
Deluxe Edition:
#14. Spiritual 4:36
#15. It Takes Two 3:55
#16. Choose Your Battles 4:27

 

PERSONNEL:
Katherine “Katy Perry” Hudson: Vocals

 

PRODUCER:
Klas Ahlund
Benjamin “Benny Blanco” Levin
Christian “Bloodshy” Karlsson
Henry “Cirkut” Walter
Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald
Greg Kurstin
Karl “Max Martin” Sandberg
Tor Erik Hermansen
Mikkel Storleer Eriksen
Greg Wells

 

DATE OF RELEASE:
18th October, 2013

 

SINGLES:
Roar
Unconditionally

 

And you can’t say she hasn’t deserved it. Like MJ, she has that uncommon combination of an evergreen voice that X-Factor contestants across the world would kill for, as well as serious pop smarts combined with a performance instinct that carries her lavish and spectacle-laden live shows. She still needed to prove that she was versatile enough to be a dominating force in the niche market, since almost all of her tracks have vacillated between sugary pop-rock and vanilla dance templates. So the goal in Prism is simple: take her assimilated pop white and split it into the colors of hip-hop, rock, R&B and dance.

 

To this end, opener Roar is a fairly disappointing number. Ms. Perry churns out her usual dose of “empowering” – some would say narcissistic – lyrics, but the also ran honky-tonk pianos and dreadful percussion do her no favors outside of the despicable Top40. That’s partly why the Carnatic-themed Legendary Lovers comes as a bit of a shock – you’re expecting a record full of commercial crap, not legitimate expansion of styles (though to be fair, it’s the sort of experimental pop that will do well on the charts).

 

From that point on, Perry is on fire. Birthday absolutely kills the birthday-as-sex metaphor with a contemporary disco retouch and jaw-dropping vocal range, while Walking On Air is pure nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember the soul-influenced electronica of the early 90s. Then we have a demonstration of Leona Lewis getting beat at her own game with the angsty Unconditionally, followed by – OH MY GOD she didn’t! Dark Horse sees Juicy J lay on a heart-stopping bassline and Perry follows the skippy beats with unerring precision. If Lorde hadn’t emerged with her own brand of minimalist trip-hop, this would get my vote for the most inspired pop collaboration of the year.

 

By the time we get to This Is How We Do, it’s almost too easy for Ms. Perry: she doesn’t even have to come up with a coherent subject or melody, because a stream-of-consciousness pseudo-rap about “slow-cooking pancakes”, “playing ping-pong all night”, and other indulgent activities that require random name-dropping will do. The carnival is complete with International Smile, an infectious dance track that tips the hat to the flavor of the season: Daft Punk and the re-popularized vocoder.

 

Prism plays very much like a double album, and on an old-school cassette or vinyl release, Ghost would initiate proceedings on Side B. One affirms her rising superiority, puts her in the league of Michael Jackson, and gives her fans what they desperately want. The other, more personal side really speaks to her need to acknowledge, deal with, and perhaps vent her sorrows and frustrations. She’s had a difficult time dealing with the divorce from Russell Brand (she admitted to considering suicide), but has done a remarkable job shielding her audience from all of the negativity that haunts her away from the spotlight. This precarious balance in her life could have been reflected better on this record, perhaps with a proper transition to the moody and introspective back half.

 

Love Me stands out as a particularly resonant example of how deeply Perry regrets her failed relationships. There’s only so many times that you can write off something as bad luck or blame the other person before you realize the problem may be more fundamental. And that’s when it gets really depressing. So Perry turns to her gospel beginnings (By The Grace Of God) to close the journey. A predictable move, but given what she’s been through, you gotta give the lady some props for turning the experience into something positive.

 

 

 

 

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