With her last album, Teenage Dream, Katy Perry shocked the pop world when she had 5 #1 singles off the album (and a sixth that did pretty well too). Each one was a great piece of pop music, but there’s a reason she didn’t release the other 6 songs. They were pretty bad, like “Peacock”, “Circle The Drain”, and “Hummingbird Heartbeat”. So does Katy hit the mark more often on Prism?
Absolutely. Listening to Prism, I kept waiting to get to a track that wouldn’t work as a single…and it never came. We’ve already heard the opening track, “Roar”, the hip hop-influenced “Dark Horse” (this album’s “E.T.”), and “Walking On Air” (a throwback dance track that sounds like “Rhythm Is A Dancer”). “Birthday” recalls “Last Friday Night”, “International Smile” reminded me of “Teenage Dream” (but not as good), and, like the piano ballad “Not Like The Movies” closed out the last album, “By The Grace Of God” takes the similar role here.
Sure, it’s not great that I can compare her new tracks to past ones, but Katy isn’t trying to revolutionize the pop world. Take a look at “Roar”: it’s a simplistic uplifting anthem that you can singalong to before you’ve even finished listening to the song for the first time (and it sounds like Sara Bareilles‘ more interesting “Brave”). Katy’s music isn’t deep or complex. It’s just bubblegum pop that wants to make you feel good, and let’s not pretend that catchy pop music is easy to write. It’s not. It takes a lot of skill to write a melody that’s going to get people instantly singing along.
Katy has some interesting moments here too, like “Legendary Lovers”, which has the sound of a southern hymn disguised under a dance beat, and she channels Annie Lennox on “Double Rainbow”. “Unconditionally” is a stunning love ballad, and then there’s “This Moment” which stands out as a surefire single in a sea of potential singles (I had a similar feeling when I first heard “Firework”, and look how that turned out).
The only issue with Prism is that listening to it as an album from top to bottom, the bubblegum pop becomes a little exhausting by the end. No one can handle that much sweetness. “This Is How We Do” is catchy, but it feels like Katy is trying a little too hard to write a party anthem. That being said, as individual tracks, there’s not a stinker on the whole roster and that’s insanely impressive for a pop artist. I wouldn’t necessarily call Prism a great “album”, but it’s a great collection of pop songs.