Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”
(CAPITOL) ★ ★ ★ ★
Katy Perry‘s enlisted the help of Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Tricky Stewart, Stargate, Benny Bianco and a blue wig to make an incredibly convincing second album.
The shock-tactics that surrounded the releases from her first album, “One Of The Boys”, served as somewhat of a distraction from how bad most of that record was, but all of that negative energy and shit music has been thrown out for “Teenage Dream”, which doesn’t feel (as) contrived, or forced for that matter. In fact, generally speaking, this is a pretty great pop record full of potential singles. As Mike from PopTrashAddicts said in his excellent review of the record, it really feels as though the likes of Luke, Martin and Stargate actually saved all of their best for Perry. Mainly killer, couple of filler… There’s definitely a lot more on here to be able to substantially say Katy’s actually proven me very wrong. I haven’t been entirely convinced of Perry’s submissions to the world of pop – up until now anyway. “Teenage Dream” makes up for the over-exposure, the blasphemy-as-entertainment comment, and the condescension of (the albeit catchy) “I Kissed A Girl.”
Opening with current smash, the title-track and second single to be lifted off the record “Teenage Dream”, was a good move. Already this is one of the better pop songs of 2010, with an incredibly sweet sentiment that I think was really missing from Perry’s first album, but is exactly the right way to start off the new one. It’s actually the song that sort of humanised her more for me. When I really listened to the thoughtful lyrics, and paid attention to how truly sincere she sounds as she’s singing it, it just made her a little more relatable; she was more of a human being and less of a jealous slut. And this is the song that really convinced me of the former. This is a cute but also honest and open love song that really gives the record a 10/10 beginning. Interestingly, first single “California Gurls” (featuring Snoop Dogg) follows an almost identical bassline to “Teenage Dream”, but much like GaGa did with “Poker Face” and then “Bad Romance”, Perry took something self-made that was already pretty good and made it even bloody better.
You’d be forgiven if you thought “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” sounded like Ke$ha. It’s from the same song-writing and production hit factory as Ke$ha but – thankfully – is only one of two skank-inspired moments on here. It’s still thoroughly enjoyable and that saxophone ending has rubbed me up in only the way images of Rob Lowe, shirtless, playing the Sax in (insert the title of any of his 80′s movie here) can. i.e; Hot.
“Firework” is tipped to be the next single, the first of two surprisingly poppy Stargate productions. There’s a violin section (tick), a ripper of a chorus (tick), and you can bloody dance to it. Tick! One of the biggest, brightest moments on “Teenage Dream”. Tongue (and eventually cock) firmly in cheek for the arrival of “Peacock”, in which Perry demands the revelation of a particular boys “peacock”, or – for those a little slow on the upkeep – the revelation of a particular boys enormous cock. “Magical, colourful, Mr Mystery… Come on baby let me see, what you hidin’ underneath.” Amazing, and will serve as my future mating call.
Tricky Stewart, who produced the classic Madonna/Britney Spears Australian Number #1 single “Me Against The Music”, pops in for “Circle The Drain”, an Alanis Morissette-infused jam that stands as one of my favourites on the record. The final one minute and fifty seconds of the track are some of the most exciting series of seconds on the album. Excellently, it’s about a lover who’s too off-his-face on drugs to make it past the unwrapping of the condom whenever it comes to fornication. A true pearler that seems to only get better with every obsessively repeated listen.
But perhaps “The One That Got Away” is my absolute favourite here. Really sincere and sweet, the best lyrics on here by a long-shot, a little bit heartbreaking and one of the best Max Martin/Dr. Luke songs to date. “It’s time to face the music; I’m no longer your muse. But in another life, I would be your girl. We keep all our promises, be us against the world. In another life, I would make you stay. So I don’t have to say you were the one that got away.”
I liked “E.T.” when it leaked in demo form earlier this year, but the new-and-improved album version takes the song to even dizzier, exciting heights. The song, already paying homage to t.A.T.u in demo form, ups the Russian-ante to +10; bigger beats, stronger synths, re-recorded vocals. The Alien as metaphor for a lover is brilliant; “Infect me with your lovin’, fill me with your poison. Take me, wanna be your victim, ready for abduction. Boy, you’re an Alien!” Then there’s “Hummingbird Heartbeat”, which kinda sounds like a “One Of The Boys” offcut. Particularly sweet, it sits here nicely as the kind of song Katy’s popped on to ensure she doesn’t entirely alienate her original fanbase who might be bigger fans of her holding a guitar in her hand rather than a Popsicle.
The pace slows down for tracks like “Who Am I Living For” and “Pearl”, which – as lovely as they are – feel a little odd just tacked onto the end. Regardless, they’re both quite endearing, in particular “Pearl” which has one of those depressingly-uplifting choruses I’ve been known to be a wrist-slitting fan of. I like the depressing choruses! I guess that makes me a Masochistic Music Enthusiast. Oh the irony.
The pace also completely dies down for the album closer “Not Like The Movies.” Perry’s voice strains in places but my god; those lyrics. This could have been a really big single for someone with a voice more suited to big ballads. It even has a sense of Regina Spektor in there in places – what started off as my least favourite has turned into a song I’ll no longer skip.
I know a lot of people’s gripe with Perry is that they think she’s “too contrived” or whatnot, or that she “can’t really sing.” A lot of the pop acts I listen to are heavily contrived though! And a lot of those singers who tally up highly in my last.fm chart – hell – most of them have voices as thin as rice-paper. I think that, because we got off to such a shaky start with her when she released that first record, people feel a little more obliged to really make a witch-hunt out of knocking her down. And while I wasn’t convinced she was doing the whole pop schtick for all the right reasons, I definitely am now.