What does one do after a very public feud with Taylor Swift, one of the biggest names in pop? Well, in the case of Katy Perry (an equally big pop star herself, nonetheless), you go and make “purposeful pop” music.
With the singer’s latest album Witness, that manifesto translates into songs that straddle between gravity and fantasy. But escapism is uncharacteristically muted on her fourth studio effort (fifth if you count the Christian rock eponymous debut).
Perry’s trademark cotton-candy-for-clouds pop formula – one that garnered her five No. 1 singles straight off the 2010 album Teenage Dream alone – is glaringly absent on this 15-track collection.
Instead, what listeners get is the Santa Barbara native putting a leash on her wacky California Gurls self in the studio in favour of a more restrained electronic style. The question, though, is Grounded Katy Perry all that bad?
There’s no simple answer to the above question. Long-time fans might feel robbed of the pizazz that they first fell in love with on I Kissed A Girl and subsequently displayed on hits like Hot N Cold, Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), Firework and Roar.
Post-Facebook kids whose sonic experiences are styled by the likes of Selena Gomez and Arianna Grande meanwhile, might find Perry’s subtle EDM-informed style here derivative.
Whichever camp you belong to, there’s no denying that Witness – as all good no-frills pop album should be – excels at being pretty darn listenable. Sure, it comes in the wake of lacklustre singles that tanked both in the artistic and commercial sense.
But a listen to the album does make one question the executive decision that went behind the record.
The explosive Power – which samples Smokey Robinson’s Being With You – is a far fiercer self-empowerment anthem compared to the senseless Swish Swish. At this point, the latter’s sole purpose it seems, is to provide an unnecessary and spectacularly stupid fodder for the epic Katy-Taylor feud.
Hollywood gossip aside, Witness is as electronic as electropop gets. The hypnotic Roulette is a smashing highlight with its over-the-top production that strangely works. It’s an Eurythmics-like EDM blockbuster that has all the right raves in its banging chorus.
If anything, it’s the smorgasbord of catchy bangers (from the girl power anthem Hey Hey Hey to the sexy Eastern melodies of Mind Maze) that boosts the record’s listenability.
The ridiculous lyrics on parade here will make you think twice about the tracks’ likeability, though. Then again, when has silly wordplay ever taken anything away from modern pop music’s purpose?