- 28 Aug 20
Pop giant is doing fine.
Katy Perry has given birth to two things this week. The first being an actual human – her first child with partner Orlando Bloom – the second being her sixth studio album, Smile.
The pop star has gone through more than one reinvention in her storied career. This latest iteration of the colourful singer with a voice like a rocket launcher and a penchant for bubblegum pop hooks, however, is more introspective than before.
I wouldn't consider myself a die-hard fan by any stretch, but when I do think about Perry, a singular image comes to mind: a camera poking through a cracked door in her dressing room, capturing Perry bent double and crying. Cut to: moments later, the selfsame pop juggernaut (pun intended) shooting up from below an arena stage with fireworks attached to her bra, a wig on her head, and a 1500-watt smile on her face.
Seeing that has made me forever defensive of her, and it's the moment I conjure any time someone throws the 'vapid pop star' label in Perry's direction. Now, a cynic will say that Perry (or more likely her team) at best intentionally included that moment in her Part of Me documentary, or at worst manufactured it, to elicit the exact reaction I am describing. But I am not a cynic.
To understand Smile, you must first understand where Katy Perry came from. You must be made aware of her humble, Jesus-freak beginnings in Santa Barbara, her puzzling marriage to Russell Brand (who ended things between them in a text message, right before the aforementioned dressing room weep), and her bad brushes with media.
How easy was it for the industry to walk away from Perry after those events, and what were the personal consequences when the very market that manufactured her into the Platonic ideal of a hitmaker turned their back, even for a fleeting moment?
Perry has undergone a lot of personal growth since then, and those missteps are discussed and unpacked – albeit a little clumsily – on Smile. The Smile version of Perry is happy and self-aware. 'Never Really Over' and 'Cry About It Later' reference therapy, impulse control and latent depression, and the title track makes it clear that Perry very much sees herself as climbing up out of the rubble of her roller-coaster of a personal life.
'Champagne Problems' very possibly discusses her temporary split from Orlando Bloom, and album closer 'What Makes A Woman', which is arguably the album's highlight, is a Country-lite callback to Perry's roots. 'There it is, Katheryn', she says, signing off. It's a lovely footnote, one that suggests Perry isn't really trying to please anyone but herself with this record.
Perry is still doing what she does best on Smile – delivering Cotton Candy-coated hooks, and while the lyrical content might not be groundbreaking and the production isn't necessarily new and exciting, I'm happy she's happy and hope she stays that way.
- Out now.