I had this awesome plan. It was called "The Katy Perry Experiment" and the plan was to listen to nothing but the aforementioned pop tart until my head exploded.
The plan was to start with the recently released record that Columbia rejected back in the early Aughts, move on to her ubiquitous hit album One of the Boys and load up on whatever detritus was floating around the Intertubes. The plan was to figure out—for reasons of critical discourse—what they hell people saw in this broad. But the wife put the kibosh on that one.
"You've made me listen to some un-listenable shit and this is just, well, un-listenable—in a bad way. It's like music for people that have never heard music before," she said. "You are not doing this while I'm around."
As in most things that don't concern whether or not we should buy a new toaster, she was right. I cannot make it through an entire Katy Perry album in one sitting, nevermind an entire month of Katy Perry—but dammit I tried! Sure, Perry has a couple of extremely catchy songs that are impossible to get out of your head, but that doesn't mean you won't think long and hard about self-decapitation. For every decent hook on one of her albums there are three vapid, clunky verses filled with references to consumer goods, hackneyed gender tropes and weird, homophobic homoeroticism. And really, the decent hooks are few and far between.
Don't take this as a diatribe against airhead bubblegum pop, because if you want my Lemon Pipers records you'll have to pry them from my cold dead hands. And don't think for a second that I'm against trangressive, morally repugnant performance art—G.G. Allin is an all-time favorite, and he's best known for flinging his own poo at his audience.
But there is something amoral about using millions of dollars to market what amounts to some executive's prosti-tot fantasies to the young and impressionable, and then expecting them to cough up hard earned cash for the honor of having their intelligence insulted. That this is one of the most successful new artists to come out of the major label system in the last year makes me hope that The Pirate Bay will file-share their offices right out from under them.
This can't be the pony that a billion-dollar corporation wants to bet on, right? This has to be a joke?
To hear Katy Perry tell it, she is both a comic genius and way over our heads. "People who want to tag along for the ride, they'll understand and they'll get the joke and they'll realize that I wrote the fucking joke," Perry told Esquire recently. But, y'know, where's the punchline? I was under the impression that "throw enough turds at a wall, eventually some of that shit will stick" is the defining axiom in major label strategy—it's the oldest joke in the book, and certainly not a joke that Katy Perry wrote.
I'm pretty sure that Moses brought down an 11th commandment that said "Record companies are just gonna guess at this shit," or it might have been Clive Davis—they're about the same age. Even if it started as her joke, the label still had to hire some of the world's top producers to punch it up and make it salable. Maybe it's more meta than all that. Maybe it's some sort of cosmic joke, like a Douglas Adams novel riding a giant dildo on a European awards show. "Ha ha, humanity! You've worked so hard and come so far, but this is how you will be remembered. We are going to destroy your planet and build a galactic off-ramp! You've earned it!"
Regardless, just thinking about the damn joke is making my head hurt.
Needless to say, the results of The Katy Perry Experiment are inconclusive a best. All of the aesthetic arguments in the world don't change the fact that those stupid songs are still stuck in my stupid head. Despite all of the affronts to simple human dignity, Katy Perry's team is smart and setting her up for a long, prosperous career. She's got two No. 1 singles and a monumental media presence—she doesn't really need to be playing rooms the size of the Cannery, but her handlers are pushing very hard for her to be seen as legit. Trotting her out on the Warp Tour, then keeping her in midsized rooms for her first headlining tour and then hitching her car to the No Doubt reunion gravy train is a smart move for an artist looking to dodge over-exposure and the dreaded one-hit wonder tag. So basically, we're stuck with her.
Here's hoping our collective heads don't explode.
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