Katy Perry cranks up the pop-star-as-sex-symbol image all the way on her second album. From her naked pose on a bed of clouds on the CD cover, to the enclosed booklet of lyrics with a candy cane border on the pages (it even smells like cotton candy!), Perry wraps her music in a heavy layer of fantasy.
The title track starts things off with a tale of a teenage girl on a road trip with her boyfriend. “Let’s go all the way tonight/ no regrets, just love/ we can dance until we die/ you and I, we’ll be young forever.”
“Last Friday Night” is a catchy tune, with a bass line that bounces it along. Perry recalls a night of debauchery, as best as she can after copious consumption of alcohol. She got kicked out of bars, went streaking in the park and had a menage a trios. “Think the city towed my car/ chandelier is on the floor/ ripped my favorite party dress/ warrant’s out for my arrest.” The saxophone solo at the end is a nice touch.
A funky bass line propels “California Gurls.” Perry’s homage to her home state, the song celebrates palm trees and girls in bikinis. “You could travel the world/ but nothing comes close to the golden coast/ once you party with us/ you’ll be falling in love.”
Fellow Californian Snoop Dogg co-wrote the tune and delivers a rap in the middle. “Toned, tan, fit and ready/ turn it up ‘cause it’s getting heavy/ wild, wild West Coast/ these are the girls I love the most.”
“Firework” has a techno, dance-club vibe, but it maintains a humanness that meshes with Perry’s lyrics about celebrating one’s uniqueness and displaying it to the world.
“Circle The Drain” is the most rocking tune, with guitars sharing space in the mix with live and programmed drumming. The song is about a guy with an addiction to pills, told from the viewpoint of his girlfriend. “Thought I was the exception/ I could re-write your addiction/ you could have been the greatest/ but you’d rather get wasted.”
“The One That Got Away” is a bittersweet song about young love that fizzles out. “Talk about our future like we had a clue/ never planned that one day I’d be losing you.”
There are some low points. The vocal delivery of “Peacock” is somewhat irritating. Perry has numerous producers and co-writers on this album and at times their contributions go awry. “E.T.” and “Who Am I Living For,” for example, sound robotic.
“Pearl” is a about a woman whose personality and characteristics are shut down by her man. “She could be a Statue of Liberty/ she could be a Joan of Arc/ but he’s scared of the light that’s inside of her/ so he keeps her in the dark.”
“Not Like The Movies” offers a break from the over-the-top production. With just piano and drums, Perry’s voice is able to take the spotlight. She sings about looking for true love, comparing the fairy tale ideal with reality. “Just like the movies/ that’s how it will be/ cinematic and dramatic/ with the perfect ending.”
There are two unlisted bonus tracks, remixes of “California Gurls” and the title track. Neither matches the pop appeal of the regular versions, but could make it into the rotation in a dance club.
To her credit, Perry does pop well, not trying to drown it in rock, R&B or rap influences. What her future holds remains to be seen, but for now she is capitalizing on her youth and beauty and crafting some of the stronger pop music of the era in the process.
Reviewed by John Larson
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