Prism: Where did the edgy, experimental vibe go?

By Chris Garrison,

HUB Staff Writer–

Remember when Katy Perry first got big? It happened back in the olden days – the summer of 2008, when the recession was not yet the Great Recession and Hummers were still a viable means of transportation. And from every Hummer’s subs bumped what Billboard called “the song of the summer”: “I Kissed A Girl”.

In those days Katy Perry was thought to be a joke, not worthy of serious attention. The alternative music press hated her dispassionately.

“It’s as mundanely malevolent as stepping in a turd or getting stung by a bee,” Alex Miller wrote in NME for his review of Perry’s first album.

Yes, Perry’s music was juvenile, processed, and crude. But it certainly wasn’t boring.

After all, when was the last time that a song about casual same-sex-sexuality topped the charts and provoked outrage the world over?

Unfortunately, that brash and provocative Katy Perry is no longer with us. Her third album, “Prism”, sounds exactly like every other dance-pop album. The songs are mostly upbeat and sync-heavy, Perry’s vocals are on point, and the production is glossy. A few songs deviate from the formula, but not in any way that could be considered experimental.

The music was always like that, though. The real charm in Perry’s music was in her unorthodox, wittily juvenile lyrics, themes, and ridiculous images. Two years ago this woman was shooting fireworks out of her boobs and demanding to see “your peacock, cock, cock, your peacock, cock.” Now it seems that every song she sings is about overcoming obstacles and falling in love with John Mayer. But the real crime is that these themes are written about so heavy-handedly that the songs sound more like parodies than serious, emotional works.

“Roar”, the opening track, sets the stage for the whole album sonically, lyrically, and thematically. The song is a grocery store anthem, featuring the second-most common chord progression in the West and lyrics that sound like the songwriter dumped a bag of clichés into a blender and poured the milquetoast smoothie onto a page.

The second track, “Legendary Lovers”, is easily the best on the album. It’s a banger that sounds like Bollywood on Molly, with siren-like synths playing Middle-Eastern scales and faux-poetic imagery. The only real flaw in the song is its name.

A few songs – specifically “Ghost”, “Unconditionally”, and “By The Grace Of God” – show vulnerability that Perry hasn’t revealed in the past, though they aren’t particularly noteworthy otherwise.

Katy Perry has definitely matured as an artist on “Prism”, but she hasn’t improved. The record’s themes are tired, the lyrics clichéd, the music predictable, and the character absent. It’s a textbook example of an uninteresting pop album – neither good nor bad, just mundane. Expect to hear the songs at a grocery store or dentist’s office near you.

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