Displays intelligence, individuality and character – but too often morphs into parody.
Al Fox 2010
Love or hate Katy Perry, she knows how to play the game. Coquettish expressions, polarising wardrobe choices and salacious quotes about her high-profile relationship certainly haven’t harmed her status. But vitally, there’s a cut-off point, leaving the music to do the rest. Exhibit A: Perry’s second major-label album Teenage Dream, which employs her knack of turning heads before following through with the substance.
So where the tawdry, attention-seeking I Kissed a Girl was fully absolved by the instantaneous pop majesty of Hot n Cold, there are similarly ample examples of distinction on Teenage Dream to apologise for the cataclysmic airplay beast that is California Gurls.
Firework displays a breezy maturity and serious set of pipes, a true demonstration of Perry’s musicianship without contradicting the kittenish mischief of the bigger picture. The title-track, meanwhile, further attests Perry is at her best when naturally playful. But, disappointingly, Teenage Dream morphs into grotesque parody far too regularly.
Perry’s in no hurry to grow up, as this album’s title implies, but habitually its theme is akin to a group of Year 7 boys giggling at their biology textbooks. Peacock carries so much awkward, shoehorned innuendo it’s difficult not to visualise Joan Sims being chased round a campsite by Kenneth Williams. Even Ke$ha would struggle to pull this off.
But on the evidence of Circle the Drain’s menacing undertones or the rave-influenced quasi-ballad E.T., there’s a resolute aptitude for sober, dark deliberations which introduce a very different Katy Perry to the one with the unsolicited residency in many a showbiz column.
If Teenage Dreams endeavoured to surprise, it’s a partial triumph. There’s intelligence, individuality and character in abundance. But all too often it’s caked in dollar-store body glitter and choked by feather boas. A penchant for the carnivalesque is no shameful pleasure for a 25-year-old woman, but the generous glimmers of sharp, imaginative brilliance that pepper Teenage Dream suggest it’s standing in the way of something far greater.
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