Witness (Album Review)

Katy Perry is one of my mainstream pop addictions and I’ve eagerly waited almost four years for her fourth studio album (fifth if you count her eponymous debut album Katy Hudson which was released under her birth name Katy Hudson) since the release of Prism in October of 2013. What captivated me most with Miss Perry were her eye-popping candy colored music videos and her addicting Top 40 ready choruses and pop beats, though they always felt generic in terms of sound and quality like most pop songs you’d find on the radio. Nevertheless she always got me listening and jamming to whatever pop magic she churned out of her cauldron.

With her newest release, marketed and advertised as a “progressive pop” and “purposeful pop” album, she attempts to turn political messages and themes of liberation and freedoms into chart topping hits. Key word: attempts. Gone is the “innocent” teen-pop maker and in her place is a more progressive and mature, soon-to-be-gone, pop star who doesn’t know what she is or wants to be anymore (watch her Witness live stream). She attempts to make sense of the world around her as evident, for example, in the first single, “Chained to the Rhythm” (co-written by Sia), in which she attempts to make sense of the current political climate we are in (Perry was an avid supporter of Hillary Clinton). But then she went in a different direction with “Bon Appetit,” a Eurodisco, trap-pop ready song featuring Migos (they’re everywhere I swear…) that contains so many sex metaphors with food you’d probably turn into a sitophiliac. Then things got dramatic when she released the Nicki Minaj assisted “Swish Swish” and the Perry-Swift feud re-entered the pop culture mainstream once more (Yo Ryan Murphy, season 3 of Feud idea? You can include Kimye in the mix too!). With three drastically different sounding singles (though not coherent in theme or sound), I was intrigued and looking forward to what Perry was cooking up.

Image from Idolator.com

Witness is classified as a “concept” album of sorts, with each song attempting to represent a liberation from something. Some examples: liberation of sexuality (“Bon Appetit”), liberation from political consciousness (“Chained to the Rhythm”), liberation of sexism (“Hey Hey Hey”), liberation from relationships (“Deja Vu”) to name a few. Yet let me remind you again, the key word: attempts. As Perry attempts to liberate herself and her listeners with messages of self-love, independence and empowerment she instead creates a construed and un-cohesive sound, never knowing or establishing what sort of genre she wants the album to be.

At its essence, Witness plays out like her preceding albums: every one of her albums has a “sex song” – “Peacock,” “I Kissed a Girl,” “Birthday,” and now “Bon Appetit” – or an empowerment song – “Firework,” “Roar,” and now “Hey Hey Hey,” – and I mean hey hey hey, you might as well stick with what has worked in the past? And you might as well stick with the same pop producers that made you famous in the first place, right? Pop gurus Max Martin and Ali Payami are back and produce a few tracks but the real surprise is finding Purity Ring, Miley Cyrus Bangerz-inducing Mike Will Made It and English electronic artist Jack Garratt, just to name a few, credited as producers on some of the tracks. You’d expect with such a hot line-up of producers she’d have a hits ready album but instead what ensues is a hot mess of an attempt at trying to make Witness meaningful and purposeful and unforgettable… Most of the songs sound like they’re written in a sad and dreary sounding manner but with some excellent electronic production, sound more upbeat, an interesting and effective trick but not enough to distract from the scattered sounds and genres throughout. Katy, my girl, is aiming for the skies like the firework she is (or used to be…), but how can you shoot across the sky if you do nothing but just sparkle on the ground?

Grade: C

Best Tracks:

  • Swish Swish, a sassy diss-track with a fire verse from the Queen of Rap herself
  • Hey Hey Hey, this new era’s “Firework” and “Roar” empowerment song
  • Chained to the Rhythm, the Sia co-penned single with a wonderful disco-beat

Quick Info:

Record Label: Capital

Released: 9 June 2017

Format(s): CD, Digital Download, Vinyl

Tour (as of writing): Witness World Tour (2017-2018) [as of writing]

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