TBH, the most offensive thing about Prometheus (aside from the plot holes, the cardboard cutout characters, the dumbed-down script, et bloody al) was having to walk past this fucken thing several times. It just screams “vanity project” (and she’s singing in front of a mirror as well, to further drive the point home!).
I can’t decide if this single is a work of latter-day pop genius, or a loathsomely offensive piece of demographic-baiting that is, in its own singular way, as vile as ‘I Kissed A Girl’.
Can it be both? Should it be both? I leave that to finer critical faculties than mine to judge. (I think we’re all agreed, though, that Perry still needs a bucket to carry a tune.)
ETA: Clem Bastow takes on ‘Teenage Dream’ with her usual aplomb.
A few months ago I would have rather fellated a red hot poker than do anything of the sort, but somewhere deep (after you, rear admiral) within me, I had long since admitted that Katheryn Hudson was fast gaining on Lady Gaga when it came to being pop’s heir apparent/transcendent. The thing was that her first two singles - Ur So Gay and I Kissed A Girl - were so abhorrent that to come to terms with the fact they might have been red herrings was difficult. I don’t like going back on my word.
Slowly but surely, though, it became obvious that there was little I could do to stop the creeping dread. First there was Hot N Cold; I started a Facebook group, I Wish I Didn’t Like Katy Perry’s ‘Hot N Cold’ to try and deal with my inner turmoil. It didn’t help. Fortunately MasterChef’s hammering of Hot N Cold made it easy to forget the song’s strengths; it became “the MasterChef song” and thus could be shrugged off.
By the time I heard Waking Up In Vegas, I was powerless to resist any longer. The song - curiously more or less ignored by radio here, at least in comparison to all her other singles - is in so many ways a beauteous pop masterpiece: its subtle lyrical shift from “cash out” (i.e. exchange the chips for money) to “cash out” (i.e. from an ATM); its pealing outro guitar solo (on a par with those too often snuffed out by FM radio fade-outs/talk-overs, like Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights); its perfect Frankenstein’s monster of Nashville crossover, FM rock and Swedish hitmaker pop.
I can take or leave California Gurls; as an ‘answer song’ to Alicia Keys’ Empire State Of Mind, one of the most evocative pop paeans of the last decade, it fails in fairly inglorious fashion. As another instalment in the post-Express Yourself pantheon inhabited most confidently by Ke$ha, it is serviceable.
After all that toing and froing, it was TeenageDream that finally found Perry neck-and-neck with Gaga in my books.
Oddly enough, it’s the song - the title track from her latest (and cotton-candy-scented) album - that people presently seem quickest to dismiss from her current catalogue; they’re going instead for the single-entendres of Peacock or the car-crash appeal of Circle The Drain.
When I first heard it, it felt slight; its opening lines hopelessly, well, teenaged. Soon enough I realised that that’s the point. The song is a masterful update on the idea of the American teenager, told in the intense style of Seventeen Magazine holiday fiction supplements and Bonne Bell packaging vernacular. But the true brilliance emerges when Perry’s voice - previously a coy 21st century update on Doris Day et al - turns all Taylor Dane and adult as she barks “I’mma get your heart racing in my skintight jeans”.
Even during her odious debut, that’s what’s been striking about Perry: her voice isn’t suited to pop. It’s harsh and a little bit too deep and a tiny bit country. From within the body of (thanks, Ned) a human Lisa Frank trapper keeper or adult-sized Polly Pocket playset emerges the voice (and sex drive) of a woman.
Perry’s ouevre is nasty, sticky and a little bit stupid; it’s a kind of Hello Kitty-themed update on Carry On; fruit-scented lube on a rather imposing black dildo. It works perfectly because the American ideal of the teenager - wholesome and optimistic - is of course at odds with its reality of unprotected sex and casual drug use.
TeenageDream takes American Graffiti and drives it through the front window of Toys R Us. In an age where we wring our hands about sexualising teens/tweens, this former Christian Contemporary artist’s fetishising (remember, she’s marrying a noted sexaholic) of teenagerdom, the great American invention, is arguably more subversive than any of Lady Gaga’s meat dresses.