by Sarah A. Peterson
Since her 2008 launch as One of the Boys, Katy Perry has been evolving.
The flippant sexual experimentation of “I Kissed A Girl” and the relationship rollercoaster that was “Hot N Cold” gave way to full-blown Willy Wonka status on 2010’s Teenage Dream, a candy-coated Pleasure Island featuring party anthems “TGIF” and “California Gurls.”
But gone are the blue hair and candy cane bras. Prism proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the third time’s a charm, ushering in a round of songs that are deeper and sweeter than anything Perry’s done previously.
With silvery moons and blood-orange sunsets, “Legendary Lovers” is a lush and colorful Bollywood send-up that pays tribute to the likes of Cleopatra and Juliet over a haunting orchestration of sitar-backed beats.
The sheer diversity of Prism’s influences is almost mind-boggling. “Birthday” breaks out the disco ball for a laid back Saturday Night Fever vibe, while “Walking on Air” channels ‘90s R&B with background vocals by Sabina Ddumba and the Tensta Gospel Choir.
Perry plays femme fatale on the hip hop-flavored “Dark Horse,” a deliciously ominous collaboration with rapper Juicy J that cuts effectively between Dahmer-referencing rap and Katy’s breathy chorus.
And as for Prism’s love tracks, long gone is the breezy first-love magic of “Teenage Dream.” These numbers run the gamut from dark-as-night breakup ballad “Ghost” to the raw emotion of the achingly lovely “Unconditionally.”
A thread of self-acceptance winds its way through the album as well, bringing into sharp focus Perry’s growth as an artist. Nowhere is this more crystal clear than on “Love Me,” with its message of conquering insecurities in order to thrive.
But the biggest emotional wallop comes courtesy of “By the Grace of God,” which plumbs the depths of suicidal thought and the courage it takes to rise from the ashes of despair.
Katy Perry has crafted a musically diverse third pop album that resonates with feeling, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
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