Katy Perry

Capitol, 2017


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Katy Perry’s appearance on Saturday Night Live toward the end of the 2016-17 season raised more than a few eyebrows. Her 2016 Olympics song “Rise” seemed poised to continue on the more mature leanings of Prism, and her support of Hilary Clinton during the 2016 election was further proof that she was distancing herself from the froth that made her career and her more cartoonish antics of the past.

And then…she shows up on SNL to perform a juvenile diss track about Taylor Swift and another song about receiving oral sex, sang while she does yoga on stage. So much for “purposeful pop.”

The thing is, Witness is not a bad album by any means, certainly as enjoyable as Prism, although it obviously strains for relevance, word-of-mouth factor and, as always, chart hits and sales for Max Martin, who of course is heavily involved in this (Dr. Luke is missing this time out, and good riddance, if those allegations are to be believed). And where Prism had “Dark Horse” as its tentative step into the EDM waters of the day, Witness goes full-bore electronica, all club beats and synths and Perry’s smooth, somewhat passionless voice.

But as the singles rolled out for this album, they failed to generate a spark, perhaps because they feel designed by committee or because Perry seems unsure who she wants to be, so she’ll just be everybody and then do randomly eyebrow-raising things to continue to get attention. Savvy star of the last decade that she is, Perry knows that staying in the public conscious is key in her line of work, so she’ll wear cornrows, or a kimono, or do acrobatic yoga on stage, or date John Mayer, or stump for Hilary Clinton, whatever it takes. You can’t fault her for this; Madonna did it too, as did Lady Gaga, as did Taylor Swift for a little while. It’s how you survive, but it’s not how you necessarily want to be remembered.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So Witness shifts from club track to dull ballad to singer-songwriter confessional several times, never really settling on a tone or finding a unique voice. Not surprisingly given the stable of producers and writers on this disc, much of it sounds like it could have been sung by any current pop star you care to name (Ariana Grande comes to mind). The title track alone is so cliché and banal in its lyrics and songwriting that you are both surprised it hasn’t already existed and bored by the fact that it now does. Same goes for “Hey Hey Hey” and “Roulette,” dark, pulsing dance cuts that will fit in on the radio or at the club and sound like the logical successors to “Dark Horse.” Problem is, we didn’t need a successor to a song that was irritating and dull in the first place.

Listening to the album, one has to agree with the choices made for singles, as “Swish Swish,” “Bon Appetit” and “Chained to the Rhythm” are the best and most memorable songs here. The former is the reported Swift diss track, but it adds nothing to the genre (even with diss track queen Nicki Minaj lending a rap to the middle) because it’s too generic to really hit home, coming off more as a boast than a putdown. Plus, the “woo!” in the background immediately made me think of Rob Base and DJ Eazy E’s classic “It Takes Two,” so I had to chuckle. Still, it’s fun and catchy.

There’s too much faceless, repetitive dance music and balladry to call this disc a success, but there are enough moments of success (and, on rare occasions, authenticity, like “Bigger Than Me” and “Into Me You See”) to appeal to Perry fans and pop fans in general. But those expecting anything along the lines of the more politically aware Perry that she presented on the campaign trail will be disappointed, and any references to her breakup with Mayer are addressed superficially on “Save As Draft.” The bulk of the lyrics instead concern standard fare about dancing, sex, empowerment and broad appeals to humanity that you can read on any bumper sticker in San Francisco. Hopefully next time, Perry releases her true purposeful pop album.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2017 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.