It has been three years since Katy Perry’s previous album, Witness, was released to mixed and critical reviews in 2017. Now, she’s back with her sixth album Smile and a fresh sense of self…
Katy Perry is an artist who thrives when she creates optimistic and bubbly pop songs, a style that is much needed and perhaps unsuited to life during a pandemic, but she persisted and created an album full of light-hearted tunes reminiscent of her Prism album.
Not only do the singles feel stronger in Smile, but it feels as though the theme running throughout the album is so much better to listen to and relate to as a listener.
As an artist, you would be forgiven for thinking that Katy Perry had lost her way a little with her previous album, with single Chained to the Rhythm being the only big hit from it. However, Smile has successfully recharged one of pop’s biggest stars and given her a second chance.
Never Really Over acts as the strong opener that every good album needs, peaked at number 12 on the UK singles chart, and is the strong pop song that we’ve come to expect from Perry. Its fast-paced chorus will make you red-faced as you try to sing along (which trust me, is near impossible), but is an addictive and upbeat tune guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Daisies and Smile are two promotional singles well-suited to radio, hence their strong presence on the album, and are probably the most memorable tracks on the record. Daisies shows Perry sing about battling the assumptions of people around her and persisting in what she wants to do even though it seems impossible. This message alone is something that many a listener will be able to relate to and sing at the top of their lungs, making it probably the strongest song on the record.
Similarly, the title track Smile shows Perry’s infectious optimism and how she has found her smile again after having lost it. Perhaps a link to how she might have lost her way in the pop music industry?
Some reviewers have claimed that aside from the singles off the album, this record is largely forgettable. Whilst the everlasting cheerfulness and production can be repetitive across the twelve tracks, there are a few other songs that stand out.
Arguably, Not the End of the World is one of the stronger tracks, with a more electronic sound and sounds like it’s been taken straight off a dystopian or apocalyptic film soundtrack. This works well because it sets itself apart from all the other songs on the album, and is produced completely differently. We’re introduced to a somewhat ‘darker’ version of the sound we’re used to hearing that effectively builds throughout the duration of the track and creates an audible treat.
Only Love is another strong point on the album, introducing softer tones and vocals, highlighting Perry’s vocal abilities over the production that the rest of the album demonstrates. This track might act as a respite before the album’s final track and lifts spirits in a different way. It’s not as audibly strong as the over-produced tracks in the rest of the record, but that is arguably where its power lies. Only Love and What Make a Woman find strength in their silence and focus on the lyrics rather than the sound, which is where any pop star thrives.
Other artists like Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga have found themselves in a more confident position in the industry simply because they have redefined themselves and their sound since their discovery. Katy Perry has largely chosen to stay and sound the same and for some people, this may have become a tiresome sound. Listeners often want something new and fresh, and right now Katy isn’t offering that. In the midst of a pandemic, Katy has given us a jovial record to lift our spirits, but whether it will pay off is another question entirely.
By Faith Pring
Feature Image Credit: Capitol Records