Katy Perry’s sophomore effort, Teenage Dream, is at times like a message in a bottle to the Golden Coast, and other times a love letter to days begone as an 80s mall punk in neon spanx.
The best thing about the album is that it is so damn hooky. (The lead-out smash “California Gurls” being the biggest culprit.) And while Katy’s sexual advances toward boy crushes often come off as forward as a two-dolla hooker, ( See “Peacock” to have those blanks filled in) she is most times endearing (See “Teenage Dream” or “Not Like the Movies”), thanks to a hefty dose of electro-inflected production from the Ke$ha-lite geniuses, Dr. Luke and Max Martin.
Throughout the album, Perry thrashes her side ponytail about to the pulsing beats and melodies like she just snorted a vat of confectioner’s sugar.
Perry has never sounded sweeter, more charming, sassier or more fun. When interviewed about the album’s ambitions by MTV, Perry said she just “followed her gut.”
Perry’s gut has allowed her to create the ultimate summer soundtrack, fueled by all the things that bring us back to our bittersweet youth, including referencing to melting popsicles, fireworks, and building forts out of bed sheets.
The feel of Dream reminds me of the time my junior year of high school that I snuck out the house late at night to drink poorly mixed homemade margaritas and drag race in the nearest White Castle parking lot.
All of this and then making it home in time to fall asleep in homeroom at 7 a.m. the next day.
It’s this kind of music that makes you want to be young forever.
And Perry’s image, which has always been effervescently youthful, adds to the saccharine quality of the tunes. Remember when pop music used to make you feel that way? Like you could blow bubbles in the bank and leave your house skipping to work on days of sunshine?
All of this isn’t to say that the album is somehow void of meat. Throughout the album are sprinkles of darkness that might reflect the somber stages of teenage development. It is also through this that, ironically, Perry exhibits growth both as an artist and as a human being. Her debut, “One of the Boys” had a similar kind of spunk to it, but the lyrics lacked any depth beyond calling would-be hipster suitors gay and kissing girls (and/or mannequins) for attention.
“Not Like the Movies” finds our heroine pounding her fists on the floor about why love is never, well, like the movies. “If it’s not like the movies, then that’s how it should be,” she croons in the weepy chorus.
“Pearl” is about a woman who used to rule the world and lost her power to the turbulent relationships in her life. She sings it like she was the girl who never got picked to play volleyball with the cool kids in P.E.
Through these revealing nuggets of truth, one can sense that while Perry splashes in her warm, wet and wild fountain of youth, she realizes such youth is not always the dream we imagine it to be. It’s a lot like the picture of real life, it’s just that Perry chooses wisely – in an age of destruction and hopelessness – to sugarcoat it.