‘I did a lot of figuring out who I am and reconnecting with myself and growing,” says Katy Perry, 29, who makes revved-up pop. “I’ve let a lot of light in, and through that it’s inspired me to write certain songs that are full of that wonderful positivity.”
Wonderful positivity. Like Bob Marley. Or John Lennon.
Or Helen Reddy.
Or Kelly Clarkson, whose whopper 2011 hit Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) informs the lead single and Prism’s opening track Roar, a giant rush of empowerment and dust-myself-off outlook. Generations from now, pop-culture historians will note the song’s Rocky movie appropriation – “eye of the tiger” – and its signpost markings of Perry’s approaching adulthood and post-Russell Brand redemption.
Roar! I cannot say that enough.
And neither can the tenacious pop animal Perry and her highly paid crew of hit-makers, including the ubiquitous Dr. Luke (not a licensed physician), Max Martin and Canada’s Henry Russell Walter (a.k.a. Cirkut). The disc’s 13 tracks come at the listener with freight-train force and terrifyingly uniform oomph. The loud album, less girly than her previous three works, rarely lets up – a pop factory, rigorously run. Faster! No breaks! Harder! Take a memo: “We need more hits!”
But back to Reddy, the invincible Aussie best known for her feminist declaration of 1972, I Am Woman. Like Perry, she roared, too. The difference is that where Reddy spoke for approximately half of the human race – “in numbers too big to ignore” – Perry’s album of reflection is done only with a hand-held mirror. It’s her struggle, her win, her “positivity.”
But it’s not her Birthday, a likeable bauble of disco-balling Prince and breathy coos where Perry offers herself as the present and promises to bring out the “big balloons.” She drifts up to the falsettosphere a few times, and if she’s able to hit those notes on stage then I’ll eat my hat and Mariah Carey’s dog whistle, too.
I don’t have my money on Dark Horse, which is something close to moody Southern crunk. It’s overcrowded with similes, and features Juicy J, the MC who offers the line, “She’ll eat your heart out, like Jeffrey Dahmer.”
Unconditionally is an overdramatic, tricked-out ballad about freedom and absolute love. When Perry sings this thing on the deck of the Titanic, she stretches her arms out and knocks Celine Dion right off the boat.
These days, I’m no longer surprised when deluxe-version “bonus” cuts appeal to me more than anything that preceded them. The songs tend to be more traditional, more artful and less stylized to the times. (No wonder they don’t fit on the “album” proper.) In Prism’s case, Spiritual (an airy, catchy ode to surrender and angelic ecstasy co-written by current boyfriend John Mayer) and It Takes Two (Adele-ish in the verse and Whitney-aping in the chorus) are both bonuses worth cashing in.
The week in music:
Top selling albums in Canada for the week ending Oct. 20: Pearl Jam’s 10th album arrived like a bolt of lightning onto the top of the Nielsen SoundScan chart. The grunge rockers’ Lightening Bolt beat out Lorde’s Pure Heroine (holding strong at No. 2), Paul McCartney’s New, Miley Cyrus’s Bangerz and Drake’s Nothing Was the Same.
Top single: Lorde’s Royals tops the Billboard Hot 100’s for the fourth consecutive week, making it the longest ruling single this year from a female artist. And, holy Yeezus, Kanye West should beware of Eminem’s Rap God, which debuts at No. 10.
Also released this week: Cass McCombs’s Big Wheel and Others, Down With Webster’s Party, James Blunt’s Moon Landing, Omar Souleyman’s Wenu Wenu, Watson Twins’ Pioneer Lane, Woody Guthrie’s American Radical Patriot, Wynton Marsalis’s The Spiritual Side of Wynton Marsalis.