Of all the pop stars making self-help music for girls, Katy Perry reigns supreme.
What would Katy Perry be like if Katy Perry, at age 9, would’ve had Katy Perry to listen to? Would she have been better off?
Welcome to Music Writing for Tween Girls 101. First step: tell them, despite their overwhelming feelings to the contrary, they are worth a shit. Build them up, up, up even while your impossibly cartoonish curves and skimpy outfits tear them down, down, down. Second step: Cash check. Repeat.
It’s a long climb to the top of this mountain made of self-help audio books put to a beat. Along the way you’ll find Ashlee Simpson, her corpse buried under a landslide. Trampling over her is Lady Gaga, telling each of her monsters the wild fame she’s achieved is possible for them all, they just have to dream. Nicki Minaj is here—her debut Pink Friday is packed with so many “Girl Power” tropes it’s a surprise the Spice Girls haven’t sued for copyright infringement. Around the bend, Christina Aguilera belting a not-so-subtle reminder: “You are beautiful, no matter what they say. You are beautiful in every single way. Words can’t bring you down.” Oh, hi Beyoncé. Who runs the world? Girls!
But at the Top of the Heap, the Queen of this Hill, you’ll find pugnacious Perry. She’s friggin’ Tony Robbins in a hot girl costume, Deepak Chopra with glorious cans.
Baby, you’re a firework.
Last Friday night, Perry strutted confidently onto a stage dressed like a Candy Land board game come to life, battery powered peppermints spinning over her boobs, to wow a capacity Wells Fargo Center crowd. She played hit after hit after hit after hit after hit. Tons of them, one after the other, for nearly two hours. She opened with “Teenage Dream,” for chrissakes! (First line: “You think I’m pretty without any makeup on.” Cha-ching .)
And it was terrible.
No, it was amazing.
Amazingly terrible? Terribly amazing?
It’s Katy Perry. There is no middle ground here, no squishy center, no can we all get along ? Not surprising in modern America, where everything, it seems, is split 50/50 between “OMG! BEST! EVER!” and “WTF! FAIL!!”
Whether you think she should be crowned Pop Princess Supreme or beheaded for Crimes of Crass Commercialization depends on your tolerance for unblinking cheese, unwavering goofball and unapologetic camp.
In the midst of a crowd of 14,000 people—“This is the largest audience I’ve ever played for in America,” she told us before offering a sincere thanks—with an impeccably high tolerance, you had no choice but to believe the former.
Come on, let your colors burst.
“Since the age of 9, all I’ve wanted to do is share my perspective and hopefully help people through my music,” Perry’s quoted as saying in the cover story of the current issue of Rolling Stone , going on to say she wants to write songs that become “someone’s mantra for life,” their “motto” or “whatever.”
Incidentally, the two 9-year-old girls sitting next to me Friday sang along enthusiastically to the chorus of Perry’s song about her perspective on exotic birds.
I wanna see your peacock cock cock, your peacock cock.
PW's Music Issue 2014