She is perhaps the biggest popstar of our time, breaking countless records and dominating Top 40 radio for almost a decade now. She is undoubtedly that one artist who seems inescapable. You’ve heard her crooning about kissing girls, seen her relive teenage dreams, chase after dark horses and you’ve definitely heard her roar. Now, she wants you to witness… Her umpteenth re-invention. This time not only visually (she’s had about every hair color imaginable) but sonically and spiritually too. She is Katy Perry and she wants you to know she’s a changed woman.
Witness is Perry’s highly anticipated fourth album, following the massive commercial success of debut album One Of The Boys, the record breaking Teenage Dream and arena crowd pleasing Prism. A few months ago, shortly after the election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States, Perry declared she had started a new era. She wanted to release purposeful pop music. Catchy but with a message. Fun but woke. Hence, the album’s lead single, Chained To The Rhythm, produced by legendary hitmaker Max Martin and featuring Bob Marley’s grandson, Skip. In it’s accompanying music video, Perry and her creative team cleverly hid a boatload of references to the confusing political times we’re living in.
However, her declaration of wokeness was quickly mocked online when she released the album’s second single, Bon Appetit. A song allegedly about sexual liberation according to Perry, but according to critics, a blatant attempt at a hit single by adding rap feature du jour, hip-hop trio Migos. Critics got even louder when Perry busted out some questionable looking dance moves during a recent Saturday Night Live performance of the song. She was accused of cultural appropriation and unrightfully mocked for her new short blonde hairdo.
But how much of that criticism is profound in today’s quick to judge Twittersphere? After listening to Witness, it is clear that Katy Perry is just where a lot of us are at right now: searching for answers in a very confusing time. An incompetent former real estate millionaire turned reality star is now President, seemingly reliable news is perhaps fake, musical genres have basically become irrelevant and Spotify/VEVO have replaced the importance of mainstream radio. That’s why it makes total sense this album is a mishmash of genres, producers and lyrics.
Perry is older, wiser and ready for something new. What exactly did anyone expect her to do instead? After being a heavy backer for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, how was she supposed to ignore the election of the opponent? Should she have stayed quiet and released a catchy pop song about love? Whatever the public may decide, Katy Perry clearly has no time to listen to her nay-sayers as she gears up for a massive worldwide world tour in support of this album and a new gig as the highest paid judge ever on American Idol.
On Witness, Perry goes to places she’s never gone before. Say hello to an electronic driven club anthem (Swish Swish, produced by Duke Dumont), 80’s synth-pop (Roulette, produced by Max Martin), experimental vocal effects over a synth-loop reminiscent of The Knife’s Silent Shout (Mind Maze, produced by Canadian indie duo Purity Ring) and a quick glimpse into her lower vocal register (Save As Draft, produced by Max Martin and DJ Mustard). It’s evident Katy has grown as an artist and as a person. This album may not turn out to be as big as her previous three, given the recent scrutiny, but the question is, is that really necessary? Sour critics aside, who’s keeping track? If you ask me, Katy Perry is more than welcome to release anything that she pleases at this point. After nearly a decade of massive chart-topping hits, it’s the least we owe her. Can I get a witness?
Noteworthy highlights on the album:
In this title track, Perry makes it clear she’s ready to break away from pretty much everything. And you’re invited to witness it with her along the ride. Produced by pop master Max Martin, this song is the backbone of the entire record.
Swish Swish Ft. Nicki Minaj
You’ve probably heard this one already, it’s the 3rd official single of the album. It is also Katy’s reply to Taylor Swift, who lashed out at Perry with her 2014 single Bad Blood. Anyone who dares to call out Taylor’s hypocritical faux innocent girl/female empowerment shtick gets props from me. Not to mention the straight-up fire Nicki Minaj verse. Catch me vogueing to this song all summer long.
This is the disco-influenced bop from Katy Perry I didn’t know I wanted, but actually really needed. It’s produced by Hayden James and is truly lighter than air and damn catchy.
“Sink into me slowly/Don’t be scared to dive in deep” purrs Perry over the Mike WiLL Made-It produced laid-back beat. If The Weeknd was a high-pitched female über popstar, this is probably what he’d sing. Deliciously slightly lyrically vulgar but oh so enticing. One for your secret seducing playlist.
Photo credits: Universal