Katy Perry - Teenage Dream
It's unlikely that fans of 'One of the Boys' will be disappointed in this sophomore effort.Read more on Katy Perry Listen to Katy Perry on Spotify
For a while there, it looked a little like Katy Perry was embarking on the same well-worn road that fellow popstrels like Britney Spears, have made infamous; where the personal life grabs more headlines than any professional achievements. Ever since Perry and Russell Brand's much-tweeted relationship status has become nigh-on impossible to escape from, tedium-induced amnesia's made it easy to forget that her day job is making kitsch, bubblegum pop with a bit of bite.
Dubbed a 'strutting, winking, über-hetero good-time girl' in last month's issue of Q magazine, 'Teenage Dream' builds on that image and cements Perry's reputation as part pinup, part mischief-maker. Thematically, it's very similar to 'One of the Boys': bright, shiny, and rather kooky. But the sound has progressed from plastic, yet ironic, sugary pop into trashy, edgy electro-pop, somewhere in the orbit of obnoxious crunkcore duo 3OH!3 (who she collaborated with last year on 'Starstrukk'), rather than, let's say, the shambolic cool of LCD Soundsystem. The tongue is still firmly in cheek, though. 'Peacock', easily the most moronic song on the album is also one of the strongest. Stretching the double entendre to its elastic outer limits, it's addictive and energetic with Perry flexing her alliterative skills to the max: 'Word on the street you got something to show me, me / Magical, colourful, Mr. Mystery'. Lead single 'California Gurls' is Perry's ode to her West Coast roots, a dancey, bouncy number, serenading the kind of beach bunnies that feature in the Beach Boys song, not plastic-enhanced bleached blondes or dog-toting socialites. 'Hummingbird Hearbeat' (the exotic bird motif continues) is similar in tone, a happy rush of pop-rock intermingling, barring a few instances of cringey lyrics.
But it's not all fun and games; 'Circle The Drain' is the closest Perry gets to rocking out, baring her impressive vocal chops in a story about a junkie ex caught in a downward spiral, and album closer 'Not Like The Movies', turns out to be more than just the obligatory ballad. It's surprisingly poignant, exposing the lie behind the knight-in-shining-armour type, a staple of every piece of Disney propaganda marketed to every girl – and the disappointment in her voice is palpable. The stand-out moment is 'Who Am I Living For?', which with its Timbaland-style production straddles the line between RnB and electro, and sees Perry at her anthemic best putting in a particularly defiant turn.
On the whole, there aren't any major weaknesses. The title track and 'The One That Got Away' are pretty standard mid-tempo pop songs, the likes of which Britney would fight tooth and claw to nail for herself, but in Perry's colourful hands seem too bland. 'E.T' had the potential to be a serious contender for best track, what with its stomping beats and sexy aura – imagine a more synthed-up version of t.A.T.u's 'All The Things She Said' – but is ruined the moment the chorus explodes, revealing vocoder overkill and the recurring problem of lyrical cringeyness. When being deliberately silly, it works like a dream, but otherwise it verges on nauseating.
It's unlikely that fans of 'One of the Boys' will be disappointed in this sophomore effort. That may have had the unbelievably catchy singles, but 'Teenage Dream' is consistently a step up. More mature, both in sound and content, the liberal use of electro and synth positions it at a distance from the more cartoonish debut, and the coy, kittenish sexuality that was displayed on 'One of the Boys' has transformed into a confident and assertive womanliness. But despite the personal growth, Perry's lost none of her sense of playfulness, as heard on 'Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)', a feel-good tale of total hedonism: 'yeah we danced on tabletops / and we took too many shots / think we kissed but I forgot'. It's a microcosm of the whole album – teenage fun, Cali style, that the rest of us can only dream about.