I can remember the days of singing “California Gurls” on the elementary school playground like it was yesterday. Things were simple. Doom seemed less impending. And Katy Perry still made good music.
But 2019 Katy Perry is a different beast. Did you even know she released a song last week called “Harleys in Hawaii”? It’s okay — you’re not missing much.
At one point, Katy was undoubtedly one of the most powerful pop stars in the world. Her 2010 album Teenage Dream shares the record with Michael Jackson’s Bad for most No. 1 hits from a single album, with five.
But now, Katy’s professional persona seems to have strangely devolved over time.
Her follow-up to Teenage Dream, the 2013 album Prism, was nowhere near as iconic as its predecessor. But it did score with hits “Roar” and “Dark Horse.”
Not as much can be said about her 2017 album Witness — which in the opinion of this music beat writer, is one of the worst albums of the decade. The lyrics were clunky. The beats were audibly offensive. And altogether, the project was not cohesive in any way.
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Something happened around 2017, when Katy went for a full career shuffle. She ditched her previously reliable success source of catchy, pop anthems for EDM-influenced music in an attempt to keep up with mainstream radio. Also, she ditched her persona as the sexy, seductive girl in an attempt to fulfill the quirky, girl-next-door shtick — one that does not seem to naturally fit her and she tries way too hard to pull off, even in recent times.
Also, she has very publicly attached herself to the recent American Idol reboot as a judge alongside Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. The original Idol spawned the careers of music legends such as Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson.
However, I could not name a single contestant from the recent Idol seasons. Television is simply no longer the medium for jumpstarting music careers anymore, which can be seen by the rise of smash hits from internet stars such as Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish. Yes, this is a tangent, but another point to reiterate how Katy is evolving her brand in ways that seem unnatural and outdated.
In no way do I want this to seem like I am trying to hate on Katy. I think she is immensely talented, and she’s still one of the most iconic pop stars of the decade. I’m acting like she’s not the second-most followed person on Twitter, only behind former President Barack Obama, or that “Peacock” isn’t my go-to lip-sync jam.
I just find it peculiar how quickly she lost so much of the following she gained throughout her peak years of stardom. However, she’s seemingly ready to bounce back — releasing two singles before “Harleys” (“Never Really Over” and “Small Talk”) that weren’t even bad. In fact, they were pretty decent. However, that didn’t stop “Never” from quickly sliding down the charts and “Small Talk” from gaining very little radio traction.
So, that leaves me with the question: will Katy be able to bounce back? Have her days of chart-topping success passed by? Was Witness so awful people aren’t willing to listen to any of her new music?
Only time will tell.