Katy Perry is unapologetically, unabashedly a pop artist. After scoring number one singles like Teenage Dream, E.T., and Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F), one would think it would behoove Perry to not switch up her hit-making formula. If it aint broke, and so on and so forth.
So its a bit of a surprise to hear some of the darker and, dare we say, more mature material on Prism, her fourth studio album. Though shes not giving up her reign as pop musics queen, Perry is definitely making her way into more intimate and serious territory.
It may not be evident at first. Prism opens with the rousting, chart-topping jam Roar. Its an empowerment anthem traveling through the airwaves under the guise of power popyoull get your boogie on, pumping your fist and singing the chorus at the top of your lungs before the message actually sinks in.
The exotic romance of Legendary Lovers is a winner thanks to its Middle Eastern flavor, and power ballad Unconditionally is an earnest paean to unconditional love. Its surely destined for the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The funky Birthday is a lot of fun and subtly naughty. So let me get you in your birthday suit, she suggests. Its time to bring out the big balloons. Big balloons, huh? Magnum-sized, perhaps?
Dark Horse sounds like a love song run through a Three 6 Mafia filterthat is, if Three 6 Mafia had made love songs. Its only right, then, that Juicy J (the albums only guest) makes an appearance here. The song is all Art of Noize-like chops, screwed vocal bites, ominous bass, and street demon chants, all complimented by the Juice Manes stomping, choppy, trippy flow.
Over bubbly synths and handclaps, Perry takes stuntin cats to task (Shout out to all you kids buyin bottle service with your rent money!) on the playful This is How We Do. And the brilliant Walking on Air is a throwback to 90s Eurodance, jam reminiscent of CeCe Peniston, Robin S., or Crystal Waters.
But after those fun first tracks, things take a more serious turn on Prism. Perry addresses an old flame (clearly ex-husband Russell Brand) who like a stranger/Vanished like a vapor on the moody Ghost. She gives a great vocal performance on the catchy Love Me, whose danceable groove belies its message of self-love and self-worth. She also impresses on the motivational and romantic mid-tempo This Moment.
And piano ballad By the Grace of God is a revelation, a somber and intimate track that finds Perry at her most vulnerableexpressing thoughts of suicidebefore she rises like a phoenix from the flames, asserting herself and reveling in her own strength. Hearing the gravitas of her voice, God reminds you Perry once pursued a gospel music career before breaking out as a pop sensation.
Production was mostly handled by dance-pop hit-makers Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who give Prism the sort of slick sound that seems predestined for radio and chart triumph. Additional production was handled by Stargate, Benny Blanco, Bloodshy, and Klas Åhlund.
Prism is a great album, one that totally captures the many moods of Katy Perry. And though she came in with quite a roar, its actually the quieter, more graceful moments that leave a lasting impression.
By the Grace of God
Walking on Air
Dark Horse (featuring Juicy J)