Katy Perry Defies Odds With Socially Aware Pop Smash

Madame Tussauds, Katy Perry. Photo via WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

By AARON KREIN
Arts Editor

Last Thursday when the clock struck midnight, pop songstress Katy Perry made her comeback with the release of “Chained to the Rhythm,” the first single to her highly anticipated, yet-to-be-titled fifth studio album. This came after the unveiling of Perry’s platinum blonde look and a Facebook teaser video showing Perry literally chained to a disco ball.

The song was released to all digital retailers as well as uploaded to YouTube with a lyric video directed by Aya Tanimura. Set in a dollhouse full of hamsters and guinea pigs where human hands are making a tiny hamburger, the track has an infectious mid-tempo ‘80s-pop-meets-reggae beat that reasonably matches the singer’s new look. The pop drop that follows the bridge into the earworm of a chorus, helps make for an irresistible groove and sing-a-long.

A simple explanation of the single would be that it tells of people partying as a way of coping with situations in the world today. Whether the song is meant to reflect current events, especially politically, is unknown, but it definitely isn’t uncharted territory. Numerous hits, such as Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair,” Kelly Rowland’s “Like This,” Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off” and Sia’s “Chandelier” have all tackled a similar message. However, Perry does it in a way that separates from the rest.

From what the lyrics suggest, Perry is stating in the first verse that she wishes more people would be socially aware as opposed to “living lives through a lens” and “being so comfortable” that “we cannot see the trouble.” The chorus suggests we are partying, drinking, and dancing as a way of ignoring dilemmas and thinking “we’re free” when we aren’t.

So, unlike many pop songs, the songs seemed to be discouraging the “rose colored glasses” method of “leaving our situations at the door,” as Blige would say. It’s a very refreshing take that could be easily glossed over.

The track features Bob Marley’s grandson, Skip, who reiterates Perry’s message as well as calls for unity among peers to “inspire.”

Whether Perry is saying we should or should not use escapism is yet to be seen; however, the track could be meant to start a conversation about how as a culture, we use these practices as a way of sweeping problems under a hypothetical rug.

It’s a far cry from the days of “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and “This Is How We Do,” showing that the 32-year-old has definitely achieved growth during her break from the spotlight.

When I first listened to the track, I made the connection almost instantly that the production is very similar to last year’s party anthem, Sia’s “Cheap Thrills.”

However, before we point fingers, it should be known that Perry co-wrote the track with the Australian singer/songwriter as well as Marley, Ali Payomi, and Swedish hit maker Max Martin.

The latter, who undeniably is responsible for the majority of Top 40 tracks since the new millennium, from Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” is taking the place of Perry’s frequent collaborator, Dr. Luke. Being that the producer has been in the mud recently with his court battle against Kesha, it is likely Perry will not work with him on the upcoming album. I’m interested in what direction the album’s sound and message will go without him.

As of this writing, Perry is currently flying high on iTunes at number three on the singles chart and will more than likely debut within the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 next week. However, she hasn’t been able to surpass Zayn and Taylor Swift’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”

Many people question whether the long break, excluding the Olympic ballad “Rise,” will deter her chances of scoring a tenth number-one hit in the U.S. If so, she’ll be the first since 2011, which was Rihanna and her hit “S&M,” to reach this feat. Whether this happens or not, I am looking forward to this new era and what Perry will bring to the table throughout 2017.

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