Katy Perry's latest offering may not lead to spiritual enlightenment, but it's definitely entertaining
KATY PERRY/ PRISM
With a total of seven US number-one singles from her last two albums under her belt, Katy Perry is undoubtedly the reigning queen of Top 40 radio. Her 2010 album Teenage Dream was such a colossal success that it left fans and critics wondering what sort of infectiousness pop melodies Perry would bring to the table with her follow-up album (which, by the way, took three years to make). Described as her "most spiritual album to date", her fourth effort, Prism, comes in the aftermath of her divorce and has a somewhat darker sound. Appropriately, the video for Burn Baby Blue shows the more sombre, black-maned songstress burning her signature blue wig from her Teenage Dream days. Needless to say, speculation flew: Is Katy Perry going emo rock? What does she mean exactly by invoking the words "spiritual" and "dark" in her lyrics, two adjectives one would would never in a million years have ben associated with a Katy Perry record?
As it turns out, Prism is not that dark and certainly not that spiritual. Given such a dramatic single teaser, the lead single Roar is surprisingly anticlimactic. Bearing Perry's typical radio-friendly catchiness, the effervescent, empowerment anthem is perhaps as spiritual as her previous hit Firework. In fact, most tracks on the record, especially the suggestively-titled tracks like Spiritual and By the Grace of God, fail to convey anything remotely profound or life-altering.
The tone of the album aside, occasionally something musically exciting stands out. For example, Legendary Lovers serves up a slice of Eastern mysticism with its tabla-centric arrangement and lyrics sprinkled with New Age buzzwords: "Under a silver moon, tropical temperature, I feel my lotus bloom, come closer/I want your energy, I want your aura, you are my destiny, my mantra." Dark Horse (featuring Juicy J) gets its inspiration from trap (a combination of hip hop and dubstep) whereas International Smile and This Moment generate a palpable whiff of French synthpop acts like Daft Punk and Kavinsky.
Prism may not reveal much about Perry's advertised darker or spiritual side, but we have to admit that it's those multifaceted musical moments where the album really lives up to its name. Unlike the pure pop extravaganza that is Teenage Dream, Prism boldly dabbles in sounds and styles that are as eclectic as Perry's costumes. Even if you're not into anything other than contemporary pop-dance, you will still be able to enjoy most of what it has to offer.
Desktop Error/ Kwan Jang La
Thailand's perennial favourite experimental rock five-piece Desktop Error are back with a new single, Kwan Jang La (The Fading Smoke), from their upcoming album Keep Looking at the Window. Starting off with slightly askew guitar picking, the track gradually gains its shoegazy momentum as frontman Lek sings: "Passing days are fading, when you walk on through/The fog has lifted/I'm still here, and so are you." The boys bring to the table some fine songwriting, but the song's best moment lies in its sheer musical force between the verses. We wouldn't have minded at all if the whole thing was instrumental.
Paul McCartney/ New
Fans of the 71-year-old rock legend will be pleased to hear that New, the title track from McCartney's latest album, bears a striking similarity to many of his early solo works. Sticking to the kind of warm, melodic numbers he excels at, the song fittingly comes with the uplifting lyrics: "Don't look at me, it's way too soon to see what's gonna be all my life, I never knew what I could be/What I could do, then we were new." For someone in his 70s, his vocals are incredibly fresh, and that is a triumph in itself.
The Saturdays/ Disco Love
After their failed attempt to break into the US market, the British girl group returns to their motherland and cranks out a super catchy jam that brilliantly references the Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Olivia Newton-John and, best of all, Britney Spears ("You take me back in time to 1999/We hear the DJ playing, hit me baby one more time!") Disco Love is a fun electro pop number that doesn't rely on the glossy soaring synths and big drops, and it's all the better for it.
Paris Hilton (featuring Lil Wayne)/ Good Time
"Are you having a good time? 'Cause I'm having a good time," coos Paris Hilton on the new single, Good Time, which follows her debut album seven years ago. Produced by DJ Afrojack, the song is essentially a club banger by the numbers on which pulsing synths take precedence and a guest spot is filled by a token rapper. Musically, it's trying desperately to cash in on the electronic dance music craze, which is understandable. What we can't stand, though, is the painfully insipid lyrics _ "Good times are here, and you know they're here to stay/If you're not here to party, move and get out of the way" _ and the fact that she still can't sing no matter how hard she tries.
Moby (featuring Wayne Coyne)/ The Perfect Life
Taken from Moby's 11th album, the celebratory single The Perfect Life marks a distinct departure from his signature ambient/electronica inclination, and sees him collaborating with the Flaming Lips' frontman Wayne Coyne. The track creates several anthemic moments with its singalong, gospel-like choruses where the two sing in rousing unison: "Oh, we close our eyes/The perfect life is all we need." It may not be Moby's best cut, but still it trumps the new one from the hotel heiress.