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Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

September 2, 2010

Katy Perry isn’t an artist you immediately associate with emotional depth. As a personality she’s a bit mad, very American and is engaged to Russell Brand, one of the most eccentric British stars of the past decade and apparently her perfect man. As an artist she’s known for big, fun tunes that you can shout along to in cars, and her first big UK hit was about casual lesbianism. Before I bought Teenage Dream this is how I saw Katy Perry; big, fun, bolshy, probably someone I’d like to go on a night out with. Given this preconception, her new album really surprised me.

There are some upbeat fun songs of the sort we’ve come to enjoy (former number 1 hit California Gurls is a cracker in this respect), and some light hearted romps through suggestive imagery that come as no surprise (Peacock is fun but she may as well have dropped the first 3 letters from the title and been done with it), but this is by no means it. Among the fun, and behind the nude-and-lying-coyly-on-a-cloud album cover, Teenage Dream contains some real gems. The title track is a really nice place to start; its undercarriage is a beat reminiscent of California Gurls but the lyrics and the tone are far more, well, teenager. It’s a love song, but it’s about first loves and taking chances so it feels young and optimistic while having just the right amount of rebellion in it to give it that hypnotic, unrelenting feeling that really gets under your skin, especially if it comes on the radio when you’re driving. It’s also a great middle ground between upbeat songs like California Gurls and the slightly heavier emotional songs, of which three really stood out for me.

Pearl is Katy singing to other girls and telling them to believe in themselves – that they can be a pearl and not just a shell. If it sounds cheesy it isn’t – it’s raw and engaging. The lyrics talk about unfulfilled potential yet they’re also full of sincere encouragement, and it comes across as something really personal for Katy. The One That Got Away is what you’d expect from the title – a song sung in retrospect about love, loss and what-if. It’s very teenager again and feels like it’s meant as a companion for the more optimistic Teenage Dream (‘Songs of Innocence and of Experience’ anyone?). Not Like The Movies is an interesting blend of delicate piano riffs and an intermittent background drumming, all contributing to a rather beautiful song about that feeling we all have that life should be more like the movies – all fireworks when you kiss, stars aligning and finding the ‘one’.

Other songs in the upbeat category include Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), which is like a more summery take on the Waking Up In Vegas morning-after theme, the uplifting Hummingbird Heartbeat and the trance-esq (if a little voice-straining) Firework. On the version that I bought (which may or may not be the deluxe version, I’m not sure) there’s also a handful of remixes and Starstrukk, Perry’s collaboration with 3OH!3, which is great as a) it fits pretty well with the album as a whole and b) I didn’t have that yet and I quite like it.

All in all then, Teenage Dream is pretty damn good. If you like Katy Perry then buy it. If you’re undecided then have a listen and chances are you’ll find yourself liking it. And if you still don’t like it then that’s your business, Katy Perry’s probably too cool to care about your opinion anyway.

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