thu 01/10/2020

Album: Katy Perry - Smile | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Katy Perry - Smile

Album: Katy Perry - Smile

Is it possible to grow up in public when you're at the top of the celebrity tree?

Katy Perry occupies an odd position. By some measure the biggest pop star in the world over the last decade, with streams in the billions, she’s always been an awkward mix of old-school razzle-dazzle showbiz hucksterism, knowing sass and awkward vulnerability.

Katy Perry occupies an odd position. By some measure the biggest pop star in the world over the last decade, with streams in the billions, she’s always been an awkward mix of old-school razzle-dazzle showbiz hucksterism, knowing sass and awkward vulnerability.

And while she often appears likeable and self-aware, there’s a piercing desperation – lyrically and sonically – to so much of her work that clearly assists it in cutting through the noise and babble of information overload culture, but all too often makes it not actually that pleasant to listen to. Her songs tend to embody the sad cycle of self-abasement and self-help positivity that drives a lot of the consumer economy.

Her fifth album kicks off with “Never Really Over” – one of her best singles, and a rather harrowing account of unbreakable cycles. OK, it’s about obsessive relationships, but replace the unnamed lover with Perry’s attachment to her own public image and it becomes a fascinating self-portrait. Musically it’s engaging because Perry is content to mostly stay in her natural vocal register, rather than doing the ear-busting over-reach that characterises many of her signature tracks, as well as “Daisies” and “Resilient” here.

In fact there’s a general (relative) restraint throughout. Though the production does occasionally reach early-2000s levels of maxed-out EDM fizziness, more often it’s toned down. The eerie glide of the great “Cry About it Later” neatly echoes the theme of hedonistic suspension of sorrows. And the last half of the album grooves along nicely: “Champagne Problems” and “Tucked” are the kind of disco funk that Dua Lipa, Doja Cat and co have lately proved works in the ultra-pop sphere, and the closing miniature “What Makes a Woman” suggests Perry might have a good country album in her.

There’s still a bit too much self-help book redemption here, mind. “Not the End of the World” with all its “enjoy the ride” narrative feels out of place both among the mental struggles of the rest of the album and the current state of the actual world. But in the darker corners of this record, there’s a definite sense of a more mature and grown up pop star emerging.

@joemuggs

Listen to "Smile":

Her songs tend to embody the sad cycle of self-abasement and self-help positivity that drives a lot of the consumer economy.

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3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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