fri 23/06/2017

CD: Katy Perry - Witness | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Katy Perry - Witness

CD: Katy Perry - Witness

US superstar's fifth album may be her best

The bouncy ode to oral sex, 'Bon Appétit', is suitably frisky and rude
An artiste who can clearly see what she's singing

After the persuasive opening singles “Chained to the Rhythm”, “Bon Appétit” and “Swish Swish”, as well as all Katy Perry’s pre-release talk about “purposeful pop”, there was a feeling that Witness might push the boat out, taking Perry’s music into more intriguing terrain than previously. Perhaps it might even achieve the leaps forward made by Beyoncé with last year’s masterpiece, Lemonade, or Madonna’s transformations with producers William Orbit and Stuart Price, in 1998 and 2005 respectively. Unfortunately, while occasionally tasty, it cannot meet those comparisons, yet it’s still Perry’s most enjoyable and consistent album.

There’s a sideline in heartache – power ballad “Miss You More”, which includes lines such as “So strange you know all my secrets, keep them safe”, will have sleb-watchers pondering whether Perry’s ex, Russell Brand, is the subject. But, mostly, it’s full of self-empowerment epics that are her stock in trade, notably the enormous “Hey Hey Hey” which features couplets such as “’Cause I can be zen and I can be the storm, yeah!/Smell like a rose and I pierce like a thorn, yeah!”.

It’s a perfect slice of pop, lightly marinated in calypso

A tried and tested team of hit-spewing producer-songwriters, such as Max Martin, Sia, Jeff Bhasker and Duke Dumont (as well as Jack Garratt and Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor) make sure the whole thing sounds irresistibly gigantic. Happily, it has sonic depth, rather than Perry’s usual compressed earbud candy. “Roulette” is electro-pop for giant beings, while “Pendulum” sounds like a funky 1970s Elton John number inflated to 21st century stadium vastness. The two housey numbers, “Swish Swish” (featuring Nicki Minaj) and “Déjà Vu” are warm and enjoyable, and the bouncy ode to oral sex, “Bon Appétit”, is suitably frisky and rude (“Got me spread like a buffet”).

The stand-out track, by far, however, is “Chained to the Rhythm”, co-written by Sia and featuring Bob Marley’s grandson, Skip. It’s a perfect slice of pop, lightly marinated in calypso with lyrics and a melody that brilliantly muster both existential hopelessness and remaining upbeat against bad odds. It seems to be about everything from political complacency to being blind-sided by hedonism. It’s a song that will deservedly have a long and well-loved life. The rest of the album sits in its shadow, but still has its moments.

Overleaf: Watch the video for Katy Perry "Chained to the Rhythm"

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