We first fell in love with Katy Perry back in 2008 after she kissed a girl and blatantly liked it. In the blink of an eye, the spunky pop phenomenon was charismatically breaking records and penning smash hits left and right.
Fast forward to 2017 and the 32-year-old’s music evolution has sadly been less than impressive to many critics. Her just-released fifth studio album Witness evidently seemed as if it were about to trail the same downward trend similar to her previous record. Truth be told, the LP isn’t as catastrophically terrible as anticipated. A decent portion of Witness is still the same, regurgitated mainstream pop Perry used to stray away from, but it’s far from a flop.
The ambitious, semi-over-the-top build up and year-long writing process for the “Part Of Me” songstress’ latest work left many anxiously awaiting this fresh era of KP. For starters, we want to point out that the album cannot be judged solely by its lead singles either- especially “Bon Appetit,” which contains tacky food-as-sex metaphors and an unnecessary collaboration (further explanation clear as day in video below). We took a few days following the record’s release to slowly digest Witness and the different sensations generated by the album. To gather a clean slate, all preconceived assumptions were eliminated. Out of sight, out of mind.
If you explore closely and do not allow “Swish Swish” to cloud your judgement, you will come to find Witness does indeed have potential ditties with a great deal of depth and substance. “Save As Draft” is a prime example. Lyrically and sonically, the ‘angsty’ track emphasizes on the concept that this album can be classified as a breakup record at its core. Perry’s honesty is winsome and showcases a forgotten vulnerability, a state that has become a rarity, overshadowed by hits made solely to conquer Top 40 radio.
“Miss You More” appears to be an indirect response to ex-boyfriend John Mayer’s “Still Feel Like Your Man.” (Mayer has already confirmed the song is about his former love interest). Realistically, we can assume there are a handful of songs on Witness that have been heavily inspired by the pair’s dwindled romance. But, this soft, electro-ballad sheds light on the tougher feelings surrounding a relationship dissolution, emphasizing on those what ifs. “We didn’t lose, we didn’t win/ Sometimes I wonder what we could of been,” she coons.
One song that instantaneously jumps out at us is “Pendulum,” which was produced by Jeff Bhasker, the genius behind Harry Styles’ solo endeavors. “Pendulum” is equipped with a choir and obsolete, gospel vibe that strangely works in Perry’s favor. The album’s upbeat title track “Witness” too brings us back to old roots with a hint of 80s synth-pop. (Forewarning: You’ll be mimicking the catchy whistle outro for hours on end). Even with a magic touch from hit-master Max Martin who is credited throughout the LP, this tune is incapable of carrying the record’s weight entirely.
“Bigger Than Me” shares a significant similarity to five other tracks on the record with its short amount of range and humdrum lyrics over a steady beat. An underwhelming “Roulette,” galling “Deja Vu,” impotent “Power,” and heavily auto-tuned “Mind Maze,” all feature a generic blare that make them a dime a dozen. “Tsunami” as well, which was incredibly disappointing because with a title so mighty, we were expecting to be blown away.
“Hey Hey Hey” vividly screams lyrical immaturity and we will simply turn the other cheek rather than argue over the fact Marilyn Monroe wouldn’t be caught dead near a monster truck. “Into Me You See” on the other hand, is a quality track and excellent choice to an end an album full of highs and lows. We also appreciate the title’s play on words with ‘intimacy.’ It is slightly comical to hear KP croon about an emotional susceptibility she vaguely appeared to brandish. “Then you came in like a sailor with a heart that anchored me/ And every day, I wake up grateful I’m no longer lost at sea,” As a whole, Witness does come across as relatively impersonal, but is it really that remote? Or, are we merely failing to recognize the beauty of aspiration?
A few underlying thoughts came to mind after another stern listen to the album. There is no denying the fact experimental albums are risky. Let’s reference Lady Gaga’s Joanne for instance. Her most recent, inexplicable country-rock sound was unfamiliar and distinctive compared to previous pop anthems of Mother Monster. Nonetheless, Gaga took pride in her visceral artistry, which has notably evolved over the last decade. The same goes for Perry, who openly described Witness as “purposeful pop.” Perhaps the public’s meaning of that (and ours) differentiates than her very own. Even so, brave, stylistic movements do not translate as complete and utter failure.
Witness pinpoints Perry’s opinion of the world and take on humanity. To her, that is purposeful. Purposeful is about conveying a paramount storyline and a concept that is not centered on subtlety. Of course the industry hypes the importance of commercial success; however, there is more than meets the eye. Be willing to overlook the eccentric execution, change of rhythms and heavy emphasis on electronics and synths. You will discover Perry bearing her heart and soul to the world.
What do you think of Katy’s new album? Let us know, @CelebMix.