A decade has passed since Katy Perry started to sound on worldwide radios with one of the historical pop masterpieces: “Teenage Dream”.
Looking back, the first time Perry recorded her voice singing was in 2001. Her album debut, “Katy Hudson”, was full of contemporary Christian music, nothing close to the daring pop and pop-rock that lead her to be known all around the globe as Katy Perry. “One Of The Boys” was the rockish album that made her well-known in the national fame and opened the doors to the international radios with singles like “Hot n’ Cold” or “I Kissed A Girl”.
However, her full breakthrough was with the popish “Teenage Dream”. The album was nominated to four categories of Grammy Awards in 2011 and eight videos were filmed: “California Gurls”, “Teenage Dream”, “Firework”, “E.T”, “Part Of Me”, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)”, “The One That Got Away” and “Wide Awake”. It was the golden era for the singer on a professional level: awards, nominations, Guinness records, roles in TV shows and films, billions of views on Youtube, singles becoming hymns, and being part of soundtracks… Everything she did was a complete success during those whole three years. Well… almost everything; at the same time, Perry’s sentimental life was falling apart.
Her marriage with the actor Russell Brand turned her pink world into a nightmare. 14 months after the wedding, Brand broke up with Perry by a text message that he sent minutes before the singer went on stage for a gig. This moment was filmed and aired on the “Katy Perry: Part Of Me” documental. A few months later, the composer started a relationship with singer John Mayer and it was another failure, only lasted a year and a half. But, there is always a lesson to learn from bad moments, and Katy Perry went all the way to create “Prism”, the second album that kept her on the top of the mountain. She sang in the half-time of the Superbowl and with “Dark Horse”, a song with the same formula as “California Gurls”, she repeated the success.
Ten years after “Teenage Dream”, Katy Perry starts the sixth adventure of her career with a reason to "Smile".
“Smile”, the album that makes Katy Perry smile again
The new album of the Californian singer is, as she explained, “my journey towards the light”.
Before the “Prism” era, Perry decided to take a risk. Between 2017 and 2018, the singer presented her first experimental album: “Witness”. The LP was not a success. The change to electropop, dance and EDM did not go down to critics and some fans. Sales did not live up to expectations and, except for the famous “Swish Swish”, no song remained on the radio or music charts.
In this case, maybe “Smile” speaks more to the fans with its graphic design or its lyrics than with its sound.
The album cover was controversial since the day it was presented: the graphic design was criticized as simple and unprofessional by the Internet community, who suggested other proposals to the singer and she welcomed them as other options. In that first album cover, Perry represents herself as a sad clown, before all the critics and jokes she received during the “Witness” era. She, in that portrait, suggests a big contrast with the smile that the title of the album draws. The whole concept sends a message: “I am a sad clown who wants my smile back”.
Katy Perry is back to pop music with “Smile”. Nevertheless, this time, she has made a slow progression between the dance and electropop of “Witness” and this new pop album “Smile”, which is the reason why, on a sound level, the album is not very stunning. It is just a transition. It seems like she decided to focus on the lyrics and the whole concept of the story than to experiment with music. Nevertheless, a lot of fans agree that, if this album was released by the current queen of dancepop, Dua Lipa, things would have been different.
“Smile” is composed of twelve songs and four singles. This era started with “Never Really Over” more than a year ago. It is a catchy song with a tongue-twister in the chorus that finally welcomes pop back into her sound. Then, Katy Perry flirted with the exotic and different sound with “Harleys in Hawaii”. It seemed she was again doing some experiments, but, when “Daisies” arrived earlier this year, the singer was proved back with the same formula and strength that she had already used in “Roar”. The last single so far has been “Smile”, a catchy and funky song released only a few weeks ago. Perry finally presented the circus-theme for this new era with the video:
Songs like “Teary Eyes”, “Cry About It Later” or “Only Love” have been the most acclaimed by her fans, and “What Makes a Woman” is the new country-folkish ballad. Katy Perry said to Billboard in July that this song is about “how you are going to have a tough time measuring what truly makes a woman because women are so many things. And I like to say not one thing, not just one thing. And such chameleons, and so adaptable, and so malleable and transformative. And can handle the weight of the world on their backs and do it all in heels. And make it look pretty effortless sometimes. I’ve just experienced the feeling, just, I feel very empowered creating a life and being a working woman whilst doing that,“ she continued. "It’s like, can you create limbs while promoting a record? Hello!…So ‘What Makes a Woman’ will be a song that will kind of secretly be dedicated to her”.
The highlight of the song is, besides the electric guitar which is back now into her music, the last lyric: “There it is, Katheryn”. Katy Perry shows to herself that her smile is still there, and, in music, she can find her raison d’être.
“Smile” doesn't seem to be the album that will take the singer back to the top of the mountain, but her loyal fans are grateful. Perry has also recovered the followers she lost during “Witness” time. Katy Perry just wanted to smile again and the music was the best way to do it. Nothing less.