‘Witness’ By Katy Perry Album Review: New Music Quickly Dissolves Into Confused Social Commentary
One of the most successful pop stars of the past ten years, Katy Perry, reintroduced herself to the world at the 2017 Grammy Awards, during which the singer unveiled her new sound and message with a performance of “Chained to the Rhythm,” the first single from her new album Witness.
Donning an armband with the word ‘resist’ written in large pink and glittering letters, Perry sang out about the perils of pop music and how it can blind an audience intent on achieving hedonistic bliss. In front of a white picket fence that slowly became distorted and looked, by the end, like a mouthful of jagged teeth, Perry alienated nearly her entire fan base live on television.
The new direction “Chained to the Rhythm” appeared to promise – for the future of Perry’s music and, more importantly, the content of Witness – was one of social commentary in the age of Trump and the internet, a long departure from her Teenage Dream days.
But then Perry released singles “Bon Appétit” and “Swish Swish,” featuring Migos and Nicki Minaj respectively, and it began to appear as though “Chained to the Rhythm” was a one off, which, in the context of her album, would be contradictory and hilariously ironic.
“Swish, swish, bish / Another one in the basket / Can’t touch this / Another one in the casket,” Perry taunts in the chorus of her third single – hardly a message of unity or one of any sort of social commentary.
Witness, as a whole, does occasionally venture back to the social commentary Perry attempted to provide early on. Songs such as “Mind Maze” and “Bigger Than Me,” speak of post-apocalyptic worlds where people are disconnected and dispassionate. On those songs, Perry serves as the sole voice of reason and inspiration, hoping to knock the world out of the suffocating cable web that has appeared to engulf all.
In the lyrics, this message is hardly sustained through out. The music, on the other hand, is rooted frequently in a future pop sound reminiscent of the post-apocalyptic world depicted in Blade Runner and countless other ’80s sci-fi films. At the same time, the music calls for dancing, even if at direct odds with “Chained.”
While Witness doesn’t ever call for the same level of hedonism that “I Kissed a Girl” or “Last Friday Night” do, it also doesn’t stick to this new level of social commentator that Perry aspires to be.
“My intuition says there’s a bigger mission I must embrace / So I’m pushing my thoughts to a new place,” Perry sings on “Bigger Than Me.” And while she’s not quite there, she does not that fact in the very next line. “It won’t be easy to break all the patterns / If I’m not evolving, I’m just another robot taking up oxygen.”
Perry has quite a bit of pushing to do in order to break out of the strong mold that has, as she might believe, held her hostage for so long. Because it still has quite a grip.