Perry’s ‘Prism’ shines sporadically, offers lesser follow-up to 2008 hitmaker
To some, Katy Perry is just another pop star; to others, she is an icon. But to me, she’s one of the most controversial musical artists out there. You might wonder why this is, given that, with the exception of her 2008 single “I Kissed a Girl,” Perry has been a relatively controversy-free artist. The reason is this: Perry is an artist that I have both liked and disliked, a singer whose music I have loved, hated, loved to hate and hated to love.
When Perry’s 2008 album “One of the Boys” was released, I was instantly in love with her, yet when 2010’s “Teenage Dream” came out, I had to listen to the album repeatedly before it grew on me. Now, with the release of Perry’s fourth studio album “Prism,” I’m more conflicted than ever. “Prism” is an album filled with tracks that I could put on repeat and listen to all day, and tracks that I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing again.z
Like Perry’s previous albums, “Prism” is filled with a mix of upbeat, teenybopper tunes and a smattering of hit-or-miss ballads thrown in for good measure. “Prism” manages to stand out from Perry’s previous work in the selection of new musical styles that Perry experimented with on the album. Tracks like “Dark Horse,” featuring rapper Juicy J, initially seems like it’d be more at home on a Jesse J album than something from the typically pop-oriented Perry (not to mention “This Is How We Do” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ke$ha album).
“Prism” starts off with the lead single “Roar,” which, thanks to top 40 stations everywhere, listeners are likely well-acquainted with and ready to never hear again. But it’s a good start for the album, kicking things off with a bang and setting things up for the string of dance-pop tracks that follow it (which are all sure to be singles eventually). “Legendary Lovers” comes next on the album, and while it is quite catchy, its tribal beats and vibes are at odds with other tracks, and it seems randomly thrown into the second slot of the album.
“Birthday” is arguably the catchiest of the 16 featured on “Prism” despite having some of the stupidest lyrics you’re bound to hear all year: “So let me get you in your birthday suit, it’s time to bring out the big balloons, so let me get you in your birthday suit, it’s time to bring out the big, big, big, big balloons…” Hmm… I’m beginning to think this song isn’t actually about a birthday at all…
The remainder of the first half is rounded out with more club-ready tracks like “Walking on Air,” which sounds like it was pulled straight from the ’80s, the aforementioned “Dark Horse” and “This Is How We Do,” and “International Smile,” a song sure to drill itself into your head on first listen. Oddly enough, the power-ballad “Unconditionally” is thrown into the middle of this mix, which disrupts the otherwise faster flow and should have been placed further down the track listing, where all of the other ballads and belt-your-heart-out tracks are located.
The latter half of the album (where all those previously mentioned power jams are located) is a bit rockier. While some of these songs work, others fall flat; in particular, “Double Rainbow” is eye-roll inducing with its cheesy relationship analogy, and “By The Grace Of God,” while lyrically sound, is mediocre at best.
Overall, “Prism” is respectable. The new style keeps things fresh and interesting, while Perry’s signature voice and eccentric song lyrics keep things familiar enough to not totally alienate her legion of fans. My main issue with the album is that it’s not up to par with Perry’s previous work. “One of the Boys” had a distinct, vintage-pop sound dominated with incredible singles that people are still singing almost six years later, and “Teenage Dream,” while drastically different from “One of the Boys,” was such a force in the world of pop that it holds a record that to this day only Michael Jackson has beaten.
“Prism” is by no means a bad album, but with that kind of pop star power in her, it seems that Perry could manage to put out an album so much better than this one, which flirts dangerously close to mediocrity. Perhaps like its predecessor, “Prism” will continue to improve with repeated listening, but for now, the best I can say about “Prism” is that it’s simply pretty good.