Listeners put to sleep by Katy Perry’s bubble-gum album, “Teenage Dream,” shouldn’t swear off KP just yet. Perry’s latest release “Prism” is a jolt that displays more than her signature candy-coated, synth-pop sound. The newest release offers a glimpse into the more serious and personal sides of the queen of party pop.
Though Perry still seems to live in a fantasy world of leopard print crop tops, floral loincloths and jungle friends — see the “Roar” music video — she does it with a more mature presence and a deeper meaning. “Prism” is like My Little Pony all grown up: still fruit-scented and pastel-colored, but slower, with a little more direction.
Many of the lyrics on “Prism” are clearly about Perry’s recent divorce with Russell Brand, including the album’s powerhouse lead single, “Roar.”
Some radio listeners already complained that “Roar” is given too much airtime, but every self-respecting tweener and newly single twenty-something is bound to have it on repeat.
Release weeks before the full album, “Roar” moves away from Perry’s old submissive, cutesy image and shows off her serious pipes. The song makes a statement of both pain and power, rarely seen in Perry’s work. The song is about overcoming the pain of divorce and growing stronger than a past ex.
In “Dark Horse,” which features rapper Juicy J, Perry switches tracks completely, employing neither her new adult persona nor her candy-coated child’s play. Instead, she showcases a sexy, dark sound reminiscent of her hit “E.T.” Although its icy rhythms are not as kid-friendly as her other hits, it’s sure to get a lot of attention for its danceable beat and addicting chorus.
Perry takes a surprising twist in the ballad “Unconditionally,” which is a pro-gay marriage number that Perry’s website promotes as being about “all kinds of love.” This isn’t new for Perry, who made splashes with her 2008 electro-rock single “I Kissed a Girl,” a then-controversial expose of her experience with another woman. In a time when marriage equality is dominating pop culture — and rightfully so! — this song is a perfect addition to the movement of recent pop hits.
Despite the older-and-wiser feel of some of her songs, there are some that fall majorly sub-par and remain firmly rooted in tween arrested development.
In “This Is How We Do,” she fills approximately three and a half agonizing minutes with cheesy, amateur lyrics. Perry doesn’t hesitate to drop a few Ke$ha-worthy phrases such as, “Getting our nails did all Japanese-y” and “At the Super Rica, grabbing tacos, checking out hotties.” Any 15-year-old can talk about Mexican food and cute guys, but leave it to KP to make millions off of it.
Despite its faults, “Prism” is sharp and fun; not something you would play at a wedding, but definitely something great to hear spilling out of the speakers your friend’s convertible. The new album is a fresh start for Perry. Hopefully now she’ll ditch the candy cane bras altogether and settle down a bit. She may never abandon her bubble-gum pop persona, but true Perry fans will find her serious side hidden within this album’s pop tunes.
4 out of 5 Stars
Story By Taylor Gall
Special to the Tribune