Review: Katy Perry, "One Of The Boys"
Katy Perry's album dropped on Tuesday, and I promptly drove to Flightpath to pick up Wifi and download it off iTunes. Stupidly, though, I downloaded the whole album--it was $7.99 and seemed like such a good deal at the moment--before realizing I had three of the songs already, which weren't part of the "complete my album" discount. So, in the end, I paid for a bunch of songs I already had. Let's be honest. readers (oh who am I kidding?!)--er, Justin: it's just not that great.
While critics are by and large giving her a harder time than she deserves, the complaints are legitimate. As a reader of Katy Perry's blog, I see how her "rocker" image is kind of a facade. I understand some people really admire her style, but as one critic pointed out, her physical appearance is just a combination of Lily Allen (a true trend-setter, in my opinion) and burlesque performer Dita Von Teese. Granted, Perry is far more attractive than either of these fashionistas, but her musical style is just as convoluted.
Disclaimer: I really like Perry as a human being. I love "Kissed A Girl." I think Perry is gutsy and unconventional.
But, no matter how often she checks The Sartorialist, Perry can't help the producers her label (the evil Capitol Records) chose. While I think the album is going to spawn at least one more hit--the addictive but dated "Hot N' Cold"--it is weighed down by musical production that sounds...well, like it was thrown together in 2003. For all intents and purposes, 2003 was a bad year for music.
With all the musical panache of a naughtier (albeit leagues more interesting) Michelle Branch, the tracks on "One Of The Boys" stumble one on the other without instrumental transition. The producers followed a standard pop-rock pattern, one that has been used more in recent memory than Amy Winehouse uses crack: 1) Start glittery, low-key elecronic ting track; 2) slowly integrate a strumming guitar; 3) fade in the electric guitar and abruptly bang out the drums, 4) start chorus and repeat.
I guess I'm being a bit hard on her, too. I just wanted Perry to be successful. I still want her to be successful. She's not a bad girl. She's not a rocker chick at all, really; she's tender and gentle and, at the heart of her lesbian-esque writing tendencies, a vulnerable young girl in the middle of numerous life transitions. As a Christian, I can understand her struggle a tiny bit: I'm a total believer and have seen the power of God work enough times to keep me within the folds of the faith, but there are so many temptations, so many factors that are working to convince Christians their beliefs are a sham. Of course, neither Perry nor I are stereotypical Christians. We are fighting against the stereotypes that say all Christians are judgemental and closed-minded and--ugh--Republican. I think this is where the critics don't understand who Perry is. They have not experienced the paradox of being both a Christian and being judged by members within the Christian community. That's where Perry finds herself "Lost."
But on to the good stuff. There are a number of catchy, authentic-sounding tracks on "One Of The Boys" (sorry, my italics bar isn't working, otherwise these titles would be elegantly tilted instead of annoyingly stilted by these pockmarks we call "quotations"). The aforementioned "Hot N' Cold" is a fantastic pop record, and is one that gets better as it wears on, peaking at the bridge transition: "Someone/call a doctor/got a case of a love bipolar."
"Mannequin," displaying a touch of lyrical brilliance on the part of Perry, leaves Perry softly cooing, "You're not a man/you're just a man-ne-quin" near the beginning and finishing will a passionate repitition by the end. The title track is just as good, with a retro-feel that elevates above saccharine terrotory. Of the ballads, however, I was not as moved. They are clearly not her strongsuit, but not poor by any means. "I Think I'm Ready" has a dainty, feminine feel to it, as if Perry is smiling as she sings, and "Lost" is pretty if you like 2005-era Kelly Clarkson.
I suppose if I had heard all the tracks together--that is, not already listened to "I Kissed A Girl" on repeat for three weeks--I would appreciate the entire album a bit more. "Ur So Gay," though, feels strangely out of place in this rock-tinged album. While I never liked the song that much to begin with, stuck in the middle of passionate pleas for love and early mornings spent over the toilet bowl (as on "Waking Up In Vegas," another track with clever lyrics and poor production that deflates the entire venture into "Hannah Montana" territory), it just sounds childish.
So there you go. A pretty good album from a very talented artist. She can do better. Her producers can do better. The best thing, though, is that Perry knows it. She knows she has to be smarter next time, more cutting-edge and less like her contemporaries. Or, perhaps, we will only see the real Perry when she stops paying attention to her contemporaries altogether.
Labels: Katy Perry