HEAR AND NOW: A ‘Teenage Dream’ come true
By Dana Venerable, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, November 2, 2010
“Firework” — the single released Oct. 26 off Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” — is nothing like the singer’s bubblegum anthem “California Gurls,” which dominated the charts over the summer. The video, released Oct. 28, trades in cotton candy to take on a more serious message of self-empowerment. Perry’s ability to tackle sometimes difficult matters ranging from body image issues to gay relationships displays the versatility of the artist — which makes “Teenage Dream” such a success.
Released Aug. 24, “Teenage Dream” — Perry’s sophomore effort — debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and has sold over 1 million copies worldwide to date.
The first single off the album, “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg, was released in May and spent six consecutive weeks at number one. “California Gurls” was Perry’s response to Jay-Z and Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind,” as it pays homage to the culture of the West Coast and her hometown of Santa Barbara, Calif. The song is reminiscent of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” — especially with the “Oh oh-oh oh-oh oh-oh” refrain in the chorus — but still casts Perry in her signature style as a retro-dance-pop princess.
The video for “California Gurls” resembles a “Candyland” set transplanted to a coastal setting. The video is colorful and hilarious. At one point, Perry defeats a gummy bear army with whipped cream spewing from her bra.
The title track and second single, “Teenage Dream,” released July 23, is is more subdued than “California Gurls.” Although the guitar intro sounds like Kelly Clarkson, listeners recognize the track as distinctly Perry’s when the lyrics begin: “You think I’m pretty without any makeup on/You think I’m funny when I tell the punch line wrong.” Aesthetically, the video is subtler than that of the first single, but it still holds viewers’ interests with the racy spirit of a girl’s first love.
“Firework,” Perry’s favorite track off of the album, is a self-esteem anthem inspired by Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road.” The track showcases Perry’s talents as a vocalist rather than her sex-symbol status. The video takes some cues from Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” depicting two parents fighting, a gay couple, a girl struggling with her body image and a young cancer patient. As Perry stands singing on a balcony in Budapest, fireworks emerge from her heart and then spread joy to the other characters in the video.
Another track off the album, “Peacock,” begins in a manner similar to Toni Basil’s “Mickey,” with a fast-paced beat perfect for choreographing a cheer routine. But here, Perry does not shy away from sexual innuendo, singing “I wanna see your peacock-cock-cock.”
The ballad “Not Like the Movies” closes the album, telling of a relationship that is more like a novel than a movie, riffing on the popular sentiment that the book is always better. The song is powerful and classy, showing yet another side of the artist.
Perry’s infectious rhythms, lyrics, iconic style and beauty established the success of “Teenage Dream.” The album has helped Perry become a modern musical force who turns out consistently interesting material, avoiding the trap of producing singles that sound like carbon copies — a pitfall not unfamiliar to Perry’s contemporaries, including Ke$ha and Lily Allen. In this respect, Perry’s teenage dream finally came true.