It’s been three years since the last proper Katy Perry album, Teenage Dream. At this point you might be wondering how that’s possible given her ubiquity over the years, so perhaps it comes as no surprise that the album spawned six singles, a second album Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection, and two further singles. For those asleep at the back, whenever you hear someone singing about being a Firework during an oddly uplifting advert, you’re listening to a Katy Perry track.
After years of success, Prism doesn’t really seek to break the mould of prior productions, just kind of regurgitate what has come before. Dr Luke returns for production duties, which means the albums deeper cuts have a remarkably similar texture to other Łukasz alumni, Ke$ha and latter day Britney Spears. That’s not to dismiss the good doctor, the awesomeness of Dr Luke is undisputed, having sent Kelly Clarkson to stardom with ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’, revitalised Avril Lavigne with ‘Girlfriend’, and bringing Perry to international attention with ‘Kissed A Girl’.
Here, however, the production is especially weak at times, with odd clunkers like ‘Walking On Air’ that sounds like an 80s Stock Aiken and Waterman track, and plenty of tracks at the tail end of the album start off interesting but don’t go anywhere. Especially Spiritual, which starts off dark and impenetrable but slides into dull crooning in the chorus.
The standout tracks have the same conservatism, looking to repeat past successes. So ‘Roar’ is the new inspirational Firework-esque track, and ‘Dark Horse’ sounds like a softer ‘E.T.’ with Juicy standing in for Kanye. ‘Unconditionally’ should also be a hit, but does a neat impression of every teen-pop ballad ever, while ‘This Is How We Do’ is a lot like any Ke$ha track about drinking and partying, and yet seems to be about drinking rosé, playing ping pong, and making pancakes for boyfriends, which sounds more like a list of things in a Ke$ha parody song.
So lyrically, Perry is as poor as ever. Some lines butcher grammar just to fit the rhyme structure, “Yesterday is history, so why don’t you be here with me”. Others have no relation to reality “Is Mercury in retrograde or is that the excuse that I’ve always made”, which is preposterous. Similes work, but incredibly tenuously, “like a feather, I float” and “like thunder gonna shake the ground” which might make more sense if she meant boats and earthquakes respectively, but The Edge acknowledges that feathers can float and the sonic boom of a thunder strike can shake things, however secondary those properties appear.
Idioms appear lazily threaded into tracks like “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and “I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything”, the latter a wonderful paraphrasing of (among others) a line used by civil rights campaigner Malcolm X, which seems like an odd shout out. A personal favourite, however, has to be her ability to sing hero and zero with three syllables.
Clearly, this is not a good or great album, but it would be difficult for an album so adverse to taking risks to be anything other than mediocre. That being said, there’s sure to be plenty of hits, as Perry just recycles the charms of Teenage Dream with more of the same.
Prism is out now on Capitol Records