After a weekend of on-and-off listening to Katy Perry’s new album Smile, I admit I found myself unconsciously humming a line or two in the shower. At times I’d crack a smile, but most of my time spent listening to the 12-song album prompted a skeptical raised eyebrow.
As a whole, the album left me with mixed feelings. It lacked.
To be clear, I’m no Katy Perry diehard, but I have been known to enjoy hits like “Last Friday Night” (2010) and “I Kissed a Girl” (2008).
Since her 2001 debut album, Katy Hudson, the artist has recorded six more albums and made a name for herself with an Emmy nomination, seven Grammy nominations, four People’s Choice awards and various other awards.
Last week also marked the tenth anniversary of her eight-time platinum 2010 record Teenage Dream.
In the last decade, Perry has become commonly recognized as the “clown” of pop. Hence it came as no surprise when the album cover for Smile pictured her dressed in a cartoonish harlequin collar and clown nose.
The titular song’s music video features Perry playing a clownish video game in which she selects “sad clown” as her character — perhaps a nod to her reputation, perhaps simply an attempt at a fun, playful tone.
However, the album’s playfulness feels out of place amid a global pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and a looming presidential election. In the past, Perry attempted to produce “purposeful pop” with her 2017 album Witness, which was met with harsh backlash from fans claiming she was out of step with the political and social climate.
Smile felt like an attempt to recapture the light, goofy nature of songs like “California Gurls.” Instead, it seems like Perry tripped and fell over her own clownish boots.
The simple fact is that Perry isn’t getting any younger. At 35 years old, she’s engaged to Orlando Bloom and gave birth to the couple’s daughter, Daisy Dove Bloom, last week.
As she ages and matures, her music seems to stay frozen in 2010. Occasionally, she’ll break away from her usual upbeat pop vibes.
Whimsical single “Daisies” (presumably a nod to her newborn daughter) speaks of growth and overcoming others’ doubts.
They said I'm going nowhere
Tried to count me out
Took those sticks and stones
Showed 'em I could build a house
They tell me that I'm crazy
But I'll never let 'em change me
'Til they cover me in daisies
In an interview with NPR, Perry said of her new album, “I think this is going to be the beginning of the wholeness of me, not just one part.”
In actuality, it seems more like an attempt to grasp the old Perry and mask her in the semblance of something new. Songs like “Smile” and “Harleys in Hawaii” sure sound a lot like 2010 Perry, while “Not the End of the World” and “Teary Eyes” seemingly teeter on the edge of something new.
Think Katy Perry masked as Dua Lipa but with bigger sad girl vibes. As I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t quite hold up.
In the TikTok era of stars like Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat, past icons like Perry look washed out in comparison.
This month, Taco Cabana debuted “MargaritaPalooza!” a diverse lineup of 12 frozen margarita …
This isn’t to say that none of the new album was enjoyable, but let’s just say you’re unlikely to blast Smile at your next party that you’re not having because of COVID-19.
I’m not confident Perry will be able to continue producing hits, but only time will tell. For now, she needs to realize that to keep up with a thriving pop industry, she’ll have to get with the times.
It’s not 2010 anymore, Katy.