I’ve been pretty fond of Katy Perry in the past- I found her upbeat, feel-good tracks like Hot ’n Cold and her slower, more emotional numbers like Thinking of You equally appealing. While I somehow managed to not hear a single track from this album properly when they were individually released over the last few months, I did read a few throwaway comments on social media here and there from listeners, both thrilled and horrified about Katy Perry’s “complete transformation”. Curiosity prompted me to review this- has she changed for the better or for the worse?
After a few listens, my verdict was-the change is mostly for the better. Without a doubt, Perry explores an interesting side to her music with this album, and goes beyond the girl-next-door pop we have loved her for till date. What I particularly liked was how in spite of her changed style, which involves an increasing use of electropop, she didn’t forget to use her strengths
One of Perry’s best assets has always been her naturally powerful voice. It’s lovely to hear some of the more understated songs on this album which show off the best of her expressive vocals- Miss You More and Save As A Draft are great listens, with striking melodies and emotional lyrics about post-breakup feelings. Déjà vu goes one step further in showcasing Perry’s vocal range and just how much Perry has matured as an artist since Prism – all the elements come together wonderfully to create an upbeat electro-R&B track about a relationship stuck in a rut. Chained to The Rhythm, on the other hand is peak Katy Perry as we knew her before this album- simple and catchy. Of course, changing your style and experimenting can lead to a few failures as well. I can’t imagine why Perry felt the need to intentionally overuse autotune at all- Mind Maze, which has some very original-sounding backing music could have been a pretty cool listen without the unnecessarily-sugared up vocals.
Lyrically, this album isn’t too consistent. On the one hand, we have the aforementioned stronger tracks, and on the other, we have songs with disconnected and aimless lyrics, which do little besides bewilder the listener. The title track, Witness, sadly gives the album a weak start due to this factor. Awkward phrases like ‘Could you go down with me to the mat?’ makes the whole song sound a lot more disoriented than it should. Similarly, Power shows off Perry’s vocals well, but the lyrics about not letting anyone steal her powers sound like an attempt to make an impactful song which just ends up sounding quite clichéd.
Unfortunately, this album also has tracks that were a complete miss altogether. Hey Hey Hey makes Perry sound annoyingly whiny due to its monotonous, repetitive tune, and numerous songs in the second half of the album including Bigger Than Me and Tsunami are unimpressive and unnecessary fillers, and a forgettable mish-mash of styles- this album might have been better off without them. Swish Swish, featuring Nicki Minaj, is probably one of the worst songs on the album, lyrically and musically: besides the cringeworthy use of the word “bish”, we also have lines like, ‘Don’t need opinions/From a shellfish or a sheep’. I personally would be happy if I never have to listen to that track again.
In spite of these shortcomings, however, I have to hand it to her- This album is pretty promising. Yes, Katy Perry has changed, but it’s great to see her exploring new areas with her music, unlike many artists on the charts right now who cling to one style like a safety blanket. And evidently, she knows how to use other genres besides mainstream pop in a way that still brings us the best of her talents. To be honest though, I’m not sure that 15 whole tracks were really necessary in this album, fewer tracks might have made a stronger impact. That being said, I’m looking forward to hearing more tracks from Perry, and seeing what direction she heads in next.