Katy Perry Bores More than She Roars on “Prism”

Katy Perry is nothing if not resilient. Her past successes include three studio albums, two of which have reached the Top 10 position in the Billboard Top 100, with her thirdTeenage Dreamreaching number one on the charts and being the first album in history by a female artist to produce five number-one hits. Songs like “T.G.I.F.” “Teenage Dream,” and “Firework” have become ubiquitous for those that have turned on a radio in the past three years with some of the best pop hooks and playful lyrics since fellow pop mega-star Rihanna stepped on the scene.

WhereTeenage Dreamhad Perry soaring to new heights of pop excess,Prism, Perry’s fourth album, finds her exploring more grounded and emotional territory, though only to mild success.

On “Roar,”Prism‘s first big-hit single, we see Perry brandish her underdog narrative across a sweeping sing-along chorus, exclaiming chants like “I am the champion/ And you’re gonna hear me roar!” And yet, for all the tried-and-true formula here, it all comes across as a bit fake and safe from someone whose previous albums and singles sold amazingly well, and did a lot more “roaring” than this song or album does.

Other songs on the album seem sugar-coated and almost tailored for the radio. “Birthday” describes a party with a significant other where Perry presents come-ons as a sort of gift, going as far as doing her best Marilyn Monroe impression and even requesting that the person of honor strip down to their “birthday suit” and “…bring out the big balloons!”

The track fades into the synth-laden ecstasy of “Walking On Air,” reveling in the glitz and glamour of what seems to be an amazing relationship. Both tracks fit the light-as-a-feather template Perry has pioneered so well, yet seem to be more akin to being happy in a relationship than out playing the field.

Where the album begins to dip, however, lies in its emotional heartbreaker ballads, sparse in the upbeat first half of the album but overwhelming in the second half. “Unconditionally” is, what else, a tired cliché of telling someone how you will love them no matter the circumstances. “This Moment” floats by almost on sheer laziness, recycling old maxims like “Yesterday is history/ So why don’t you stay here with me?” And if “Love Me” isn’t self-explanatory just by the title, you need to listen to more pop music.

Luckily, not every song here dives into the fray of formula. “Legendary Lovers” uses the backdrop of an almost Bollywood-like sitar and epic chorus of “la-la-la-la-la”s to create a special moment of pop craftsmanship. On the flipside “It Takes Two” acts as a sort-of apology to comedian and ex-husband Russell Brand, coming across as actually sincere from someone who nearly a year ago was lighting statued likenesses of him on fire at the Grammys.

Even goofball rapper Juicy J stops by to drop a couple of bars about Jeffrey Dahmer and pie on the oddball dark hip-hop stand-out “Dark Horse.”

Where it should be applauded that Perry is finally maturing into the big thirty year-old she is about to become,Prism‘s slog of a second-halfcomes across a warning sign for those that enjoy her more carefree singles. And for those that enjoy those sugary pop singles, Perry gives a shout-out to them on track “This Is How We Do It,” specifically to “All you kids who are buying bottle service with your rent money!” But how long before the kids who are leaving the clubs realize that there’s more beyond just partying? Better yet, with the age of thirty looming in, how long before Katy Perry notices it too?