It's been awhile. Let's talk Katy Perry.
Those of you familiar with Katy Perry's last album 'One of the Boys', will no doubt be aware of the differences between her latest offering, 'California Gurls' and, well, just about anything from her debut. While many have been eager to criticise her for the shift, it does beg the question that if 'One of the Boys' had a point to make, that Katy was here to do pop music a little differently, then what's left to do when that point has been made and there's nothing left to prove? The answer, apparently, is to do something a little more obvious.
'Teenage Dream', the new albums title track, is a solid start to proceedings. From the word go we can tell things have changed since the last hour we spent in Katy's company. Gone is the angst and determination to prove herself worthy of the worlds attention, in it's place a feeling of wide-eyed wonderment and the sense that now that she finally has the worlds attention, she's not quite sure how to use it and would rather simply relish it while its there. It's on par with 'California Gurls' in terms of it's arrangement and production (which is of a reasonably high standard throughout) but where 'California Gurls' lacks the sincerity of her last album, 'Teenage Dream' is drowning in it, just in a very different way. We've all had that someone who excites us like we never knew we could be excited. 'I'll get your heart racing in my skin-tight jeans, I'll be your teenage dream tonight' Katy promises over a track so candy-floss sweet it could give you cavities were it not so true to life. This feeling of youthful exuberance and excitement is something that Katy obviously knows very well, writes very well and should have used as a running theme throughout her entire second album.
Unfortunately, she didn't.
After the title track, things get a little less interesting. 'Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)' is (almost) literally a second-rate 'Waking Up in Vegas', 'Firework', 'Circle the Drain', 'E.T' and 'Pearl' see Katy try on so many different generic pop-song pre-sets it becomes impossible to find sincerity in any of them, and 'Peacock' is so shockingly bad I'm willing to write it off as nothing more than a failed experiment. Meanwhile, 'The One that got Away' and 'Not Like The Movies' work surprisingly well as ballads and along with 'Hummingbird Heartbeat', bring back the childlike naivety and enthusiasm the album promised at the start.
It's hard to tell if it was deliberate or not, but miss Perry and her team of songwriters have quite spectacularly disregarded the aforementioned point her first album tried so hard to make. The majority of the tracks here are generic pop tunes that would be completely indistinguishable from the sound-a-likes churned out by Alexandra Burke or Vanessa Hudgens, were it not for Perrys unique vocal and lyrical traits.
'Teenage Dream' could have been great. It could have been a 21st century pop gem. Katy Perry is a bloody good songwriter with a tremendous pop sensibility, and while there are certainly flashes of that on 'Teenage Dream', it has been eclipsed almost entirely by a half-hearted attempt to secure her place in pop superstardom.
TL;DR: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts...well, Katy Perry would, presumably be a very happy lady.