With fourth release, Perry’s promiscuity overshadows musicality

Prism sees an absence of vivacity, still filled with plenty of potential hit tracks

By Hannah Younkins

In the land of the rich and famous, where former Disney Channel stars feature in awkwardly erotic music videos and where songs about animal noises go viral, normal things like a pop singer releasing a new album run the risk of not being noticed. Officially available as of Oct. 22, Prism is Katy Perry’s fourth studio album, and has received only slightly better than average reviews from professional critics so far.  The album is a decent enough pop album, but it lacks the color and vivacity the title suggests and the sparkle and glitter one expects from Katy Perry (who once shot fireworks out of her breasts) is missing. Aside from everyone’s current favorite song, “Roar,” Prism hasn’t been getting its share of the limelight. But then again, maybe it’s been hidden in the shadow of Kim Kardashian’s colossal engagement ring.

The first song on the album, “Roar,” has reached the number one spot on charts in nine different countries, and rightfully so. With a danceable percussion line, a catchy chorus, and almost universal likeability, “Roar” has earned its status as a pop hit.  It’s the kind of sassy-sweet ballad that Perry has mastered:  a perfect combination of a fun melody and earnest and empowering lyrics about taking charge of your own life  —   or maybe every song just seems empowering in comparison to “Blurred Lines,” it’s hard to tell.

But the rest of Prism hardly compares to the way that “Roar’s” fireworks light up the sky. Throughout the album, there are a slew of generic, mindless pop tunes that could have been produced and performed by any one of the females in the pantheon of pop stars.

“Birthday,” the third song on the album, is cloying and unlike the “big balloons” Perry mentions in the bridge, the song falls flat. “Birthday” is immediately followed by “Walking on Air,” and, at times, it seems like those are the only three words Perry sings in the entire song. It’s boring.

“This is How We Do” is a satirical song that mocks the vapid lives that the rich and famous lead but lacks the lyrical power to usurp Lorde’s “Royals” for the title of best song about the disillusionment of celebrity status.

But one of these lackluster songs does provide some humor; the second-to-last song, “Double Rainbow,” is about being in a loyal relationship with someone that you share a philosophical connection with, and though it’s a bland song, listeners can be amused by trying to guess when Perry’s auto-tuned voice is finally going to sing “What does it mean?”

Yet, in between these uninspiring tracks, there are songs that are full of sincere emotion. The second song, “Legendary Lovers,” features a sitar and a percussion solo section that create the effect of a more refined and less culturally appropriating version of Selena Gomez’s “Come & Get It,” and Perry’s imagery is legitimately romantic.

A second empowering ballad, “Love Me,” is about not falling into the self-esteem-destroying traps set up by the media, which is a message that not enough tween and teen girls get from people aside from their mothers.

“Unconditionally,” recently released as the second single from Prism, is an honest and unassuming love song that requires a few listens for the emotional resonance to catch up with you; it’s Perry’s favorite song on the album and proves that she’s come a long way since kissing a girl back in 2008.

Contrarily, the final song, “By the Grace of God,” is immediately emotional.  A desperate prayer from a preacher’s daughter and former gospel singer, “By the Grace of God” is a song about barely being able to keep your head above water after a personal catastrophe  —  like when your husband Russell Brand says that he wants to get a divorce over a text message.  Perry performed this song as a part of the iTunes Festival in September, and it’s one of the few occasions where a live performance is better than the studio version. Accompanied only by a piano and without any auto-tuning, Perry’s voice is the sole focus of the live song, and it makes the listener realize that there is still talent in the pop music industry.  However, the studio version has a faster tempo and additional accompanying instruments that clutter up the song and dull the emotion down.

Like the way a prism takes white light and separates it into the individual colors of the rainbow so that you can pick out which color is your favorite, Prism is a disappointment, but when you take only a single song into perspective, Katy Perry’s new album is not without its shinning gems. “Roar” has already taken its place as the king of the pop jungle, and it can be guaranteed that it won’t be the only song from the album to achieve hit-status.

First-year Hannah Younkins is a staff writer. Her email is hyounkin@fandm.edu.

print