2013 is the year of pop-princess albums, or at least the fourth quarter of 2013 is. Who have we got? Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears… even Cher and Celine Dion have been lured out of semi-retirement with new albums. I’d better keep up with the action before I end up with a backlog. Miley may have generated plenty of press for her “Bangerz” album, but Katy Perry must surely have the most to prove with her latest album.
After all, “Teenage Dream” came loaded with five US No.1 hits before its deluxe edition was released, making it one of the most potent chart forces in the States for the best part of 2 years, whilst establishing her as one of the biggest stars on the world stage. Talk about pressure. Let’s just hope it’s good!
09 Roar – This took a little while to bed in, but I really love it now. It’s even managed to be a bit of an inspirational track for me over the last few weeks. Nobody has been shit to me lately, just the chorus is quite uplifting and energising. I originally thought it was a bit leaden and ploddy, and while I doubt I’m going to figure it as highly as her big “Teenage Dream” hits, it’s still a great pop song.
08 Legendary Lovers – Eastern mysticism is appropriated for the first uptempo, and it’s a pretty good one. There are plenty of hooks in there, the little sitar sample, the “la la la” bits, the almost folky chorus is pretty memorable. The verses are a bit monotone but like this track as well. The Eastern influences feel a bit disingenuous but a good effort.
08 Birthday – Old-school funk is in this year, thanks to Daft Punk & Nile Rodgers, so Katy’s more than happy to jump on this bandwagon. There’s something quite dated about it, like something Janet Jackson would’ve done about 10 years ago, but it’s such a positive track it’s hard to resist too strongly. The lyrics are a bit cringey though, Katy’s giving her lover a birthday treat with all manner of suggestive moments that usually come out neither sexy nor something you’d ever say to another person you planned on sleeping with. Fun anyway.
09 Walking on air – Goodness, this album doesn’t know where it’s going, does it? Next stop is 90s dance music, with a twist of 2010s EDM pop. It’s pretty basic but a cheap thrill for me, who loves this sort of thing. It’s pretty convincingly 90s, you could almost imagine a mash-up with “Rhythm of the Night”. Her vocals are a bit on the shouty side but there’s plenty to like in this one. Can’t imagine it as a single in its present form though.
09 Unconditionally – Having reviewed this a few weeks ago, I liked it but it wasn’t amazing. But now I think I really love it, it just needs a decent video. I like the big spacious sound, some tribal percussion and the minimum of airy synths in the back. It’s perhaps the first song so far where you can’t think of a recent hit or trend and see how they arrived at the sound. Yeah, really like this one.
06 Dark Horse – Juicy J really isn’t a name for a male rapper, is it? Well this one was showcased about a month ago, and I still haven’t really grown to like this. It’s improved a little with age, mainly for the bridge and chorus, but that totally basic RnB beat just sucks the energy out of any buildup from the chorus. Not terrible but it’s nowhere near the same league with the other songs so far.
08 This is how we do – Now I like this one too, but I hate the lyrical content. Don’t worry kids, you can spend all your money on booze and party all night, international millionaire popstar clearly is the person to ask for this sort of validation. Ugh. But that chorus is pretty good, I like the production on it anyway, even if we’ve heard most of the components before (3oh!3, Justin Timberlake, let’s start there). Yo, respect to all the kidz spending their rent money on booze! Yeah! I respect you because you’re totally irresponsible and don’t care that you’re fucking your life up! You stupid cow. This schtick only worked on Miley’s “We can’t stop” because she seems to believe it and doesn’t know better.
07 International smile – Sucking up again, this time to air stewardesses with nice smiles. Are you after free Kristal or something? It’s a pretty basic uptempo, nothing much to worry about here, it’s nice enough to listen to but totally vacant. Not surprised either, that bit with the pre-flight announcement again seems to be extolling the virtues of getting pissed before the plane’s even taken off.
09 Ghost – Now this could be a single, and finally something she can be proud of after a string of questionable messages. Someone’s broken up with her unexpectedly and she needs closure. I love the 80s synthy start to it, and unexpectedly it just bursts into a great pacey chorus. Not a surprise Dr Luke’s got his fingerprints on this one, that lovely rich synth sound reminds me of some of Ke$ha’s latest album “Warrior“, or more particularly “C’mon“. Really like this, hope this makes it as a single.
07 Love me – Having justified any reckless behaviour her listeners get into, because it’s only money, right? Says millionaire Katy. Now global pin-up Katy is going on about how she feels ugly sometimes but you’ve just got to get on with what you’ve got. How gracious of her! The self-help thing worked great on “Firework” but this is a bit of an eye-roller, and not a particularly engaging track.
08 This moment – More inspirational stuff now, with a nice little 80s tremor in the first verse, I feel like it’s going to break into Starship’s “Nothing’s gonna stop us now”. The self-help thing is starting to grate a little bit, especially with some vocals that are as subtle as a brick. It’s got a nice build to it, sort of reminds me of a bunch of songs. Not a flagship moment but it’s quite nice.
08 Double rainbow – There was some buzz behind this, with the infamous Sia co-writing this one. Not a bad start really, it puts me in mind of “Firework” without trying to imitate it, it’s a lot more low-key. That big spacious percussion is back, I rather like that, reminds me of all sorts of trendy pop stuff around at the moment (not that I’m trendy in the slightest). It feels like it needs a bit more of a push towards the end, it’s a bit reminiscent of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” I think, but again not as an imitation, just similar in tone I think.
08 By the grace of God – Wrapping it up now, a rare straightforward ballad. I like the piano intro, is that a name-check for Iron Mountain? What an odd bit of product placement! When it finally gets the chorus I get my bearings, it’s a midtempo RnB-lite ballad, very nice and sort of feels like a single in the making. I guess so anyway, I never saw the appeal in Rihanna’s “California King Bed” but that worked out OK, this isn’t a million miles away. A nice track to finish on.
“Prism” is quite a nice listen really, I’ve enjoyed listening to it for the last few weeks. It’s accessible and for the most part Katy is a convincing popstar. “Prism” presumably was chosen as a title because of the spectrum of music it covers, almost as a box-ticking affair at the start of the album. Not that it’s a bad thing, the flow is good and the tracklist is balanced.
I wonder if it’s got the hit potential of “Teenage dream” though, which of course would’ve been a massively tall order, but you know what people are like. I think it will please her fans, casual and hardcore. I just wish she wouldn’t self-consciously try to keep it real and tip her hat continually to the common man, it’s annoying, patronising and a bad message. At least when Miley takes her clothes off and Rihanna touches herself in a mosque, it’s clear to most that they aren’t trying to be role models. Propogating a sweetness and light person with half of her songs and championing binge drinking with the other is a mess, and she should know better.
I’ll summarise the album as a collection of the best tracks money can buy, even if I only rarely feel like I’m hearing anything brand new.
Keepers for the iPod: Roar, Legendary Lovers, Birthday, Walking on air, Unconditionally, This is how we do, Ghost, Double rainbow, By the grace of God