Breaking the Chains of Mainstream Pop
Katy Perry ditches the beach and heads to the club in her latest release, Witness. Sonically, the singer’s fifth studio album touches uncharted territory. The pop princess from Teenage Dream has gone rogue in an attempt at experimental electro-pop that artists like Lorde and Halsey have popularized. Four years since the release of Prism, the times have changed and Witness hints that Perry has too.
The lead single, “Chained to the Rhythm,” was released in March alongside a marketing campaign that promised Perry fans a “purposeful pop” album. The catchy song features Skip Marley and calls out those “tone deaf” and “living in a bubble,” much like Sabrina Carpenter’s “Thumbs.” No longer serving up candy, “Bon Appétit” puts Perry on a silver platter “spread like a buffet” and makes for a confusing follow-up single featuring Migos. The singer fuels the fire perpetuating the “Bad Blood” between her and Taylor Swift on “Swish Swish.” The third single samples “Star 69” by Fatboy Slim and features Nicki Minaj for an EDM-inspired diss track lacking in passion. The most recent single, “Save As Draft,” steps away from gritty production for a ballad that will satisfy fans of “Unconditionally.”
The title track kicks off Witness and gives a taste of the future-pop production to follow. It is tame in delivery and easily forgotten in the shadow of the rest of the album. “Hey Hey Hey” comes with a catchy hook and a lesson on feminism as Perry reminds listeners that she’s a boss with a “chubby little wallet.” Perry dives into a sea of synths on “Roulette,” and “Deja Vu” has a vampy production fitting for a basement rave. Perry collaborates with Purity Ring members on “Mind Maze” for moody electronics and a heavy dose of autotune. The singer abandons the thick production for another ballad to lament over an unrealistic love on another album highlight, “Miss You More.” Perry then adds an anthem complete with a gospel chorus that dishes out advice to stay true to oneself, which comes off as ironic considering the drastic changes in style on Witness. She sings, “Don’t try and reinvent your wheel / because you’re too original,” equating life to a “Pendulum” that “all comes back around.”
Witness unfortunately lacks direction. The album has no anchor, as every single has a different purpose. The album has little nuggets of the “California gurl” fans have come to know, but it jumps too far off the beaten path and leaves listeners questioning the artist behind the album.