Katy Perry is known for her spunky pop, sugary dance beats showcasing her girl-power, lyrics peppered with sexual innuendos. Her latest album, PRISM, continues that theme, but also illuminates her new, grown-up vulnerability.
Her previous album, Teenage Dream, was all about predictable radio singles, as she became the first female artist to achieve five number one singles on one album. PRISM already has one Number One hit, “Roar,” which she released this summer and performed at the Video Music Awards. Her performance, however, was overshadowed by Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, which can be said for essentially anyone else who performed that night.
“Roar” is a perfect way to start this album, as it starts with her on the ground and scared, and progresses to her proclaiming “You held me down/but I got up.” By the time she’s cried out “Ro-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-ar” for the millionth time, she’s proved that she’s strong and no one can knock her down anymore.
She starts out the album in a strong, confident place. People expect Perry to bring it in her sassy tracks, and “Dark Horse” and “This Is How We Do” meet those expectations. “Dark Horse,” which features Juicy J, is a cross between hip-hop and electronic music that Perry absolutely rocks as she taunts, “So you wanna play with magic/ Boy you should know what you falling for.” Juicy J’s rap is a bit distracting, but it doesn’t take away from her command of the song and absolute confidence of her power over men. Also, what is up with pop’s recent obsession with Jeffrey Dahmer?
“This Is How We Do,” which sounds like it was written for Ke$ha, is all about Perry having a blast and just being herself. This song will probably do very well on the charts, and will definitely be a crowd favorite in concerts, especially as she jubilantly shouts “It’s no big deal!” over a pulsing drum beat that leads into bubbling keyboard riffs.
She also doesn’t shy away from the sex in this album (as if she ever would). “Birthday” involves literally every cliche about her man getting in his birthday suit and tasting her cake. Clearly this is not an original idea. But she owns it, her voice sweet, high and enticing throughout the hook “make it like your birthday every day.”
“Walking on Air,” which is one of the best songs on the album besides “Roar,” continues on this theme, where Perry is just really sure of who she is and what she’s getting out of her relationship. She’s at home with the electronic vibe as she sings, “We go deeper and harder than ever before.” This takes away the dirty anticipation from “Birthday” and adds a layer that seems to go beyond instant gratification.
Perry really digs into her feelings and past in the second half of the album. There’s really nothing unique about it, however, as it’s still the same shimmery pop without much experimentation on her part.
In “Ghost,” she references the text message rhythm that doesn’t really provide the listeners with anything new musically. But it does allow them to envision her as moving past her heartbreak.
She does a much better job with “By the Grace of God,” which is a ballad about her contemplating suicide. This is a much heavier subject than Perry has tackled before, and she pulls it off as she sails through the song, revealing that she, “Looked at the mirror and decided to stay/Wasn’t going to let love take me out that way.”
This song works so well because she slows down and does not allow it to turn into yet another conventional pop song. She tries to do this in “Unconditionally,” as well, which she wrote when she was temporarily taking a break from ex-boyfriend John Mayer, and in “Love Me,” which is all about her not letting herself disappear when she is in a relationship. “Love Me” is the perfect combination of soft verses building into an upbeat resolution that there will be “no more standing in my own way.”
It would be interesting to see if Perry can push her boundaries a bit more. She will be fine no matter what she does, as she is fully capable of pushing out hit after hit. If PRISM represented her building her life back up again and coming out of a divorce even stronger than she was before, her next album will hopefully showcase an artist who is not afraid to experiment with genres and truly show what she can do with her voice. If she can make that happen, then no one, not even Miley Cyrus, will overshadow her.