Album Review: Katy Perry // Smile

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On her sixth full length album, Smile, Katy Perry continues to prove that she is a queen of pure pop music. Smile takes us from the dance-floor of Teary Eyes and Tucked, to the feel good anthems of Smile and Daisies, the hip-hop influenced Not the End of the World, to the country leaning anthem of What Makes a Woman. All the tracks have a distilled radio-ready perfectionism which shines in swirling synth textures and in punchy lyrics which are made to be memorizable by the second listen through. 

Smile is an apt title for this twelve song dazzling escapist fantasy, even though the album’s creation took Katy Perry through some difficult times. Katy explains of this period: “I had only dealt with depression in these kinds of short bouts where I felt like I could kind of solve it, and this time I couldn’t solve it. I definitely couldn’t get out of bed. You know the saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I’d like to edit that and say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but sometimes you have to walk through hell to get that strength. So this record really speaks about my own experience of walking through that and coming out alive.”

While the album does come from a more despairing place, none of the songs dwell on the melancholy for long. Teary Eyes has some of the darkest lyrics, but still tells the listener to Just keep on dancin’ with those teary eyes/ Promise one day, baby/ they’re gonna dry. Resilient takes vulnerable moments and juxtaposes them with positive clichés in lyrics like ‘I’ve gone to sleep night after night punching a pillow/ But do you know the darker the night, the brighter the stars glow, while Cry About It Later is pure put-off-the-pain-for-now pop. 

More than being a vulnerable expression of Katy’s not always perfect life, this album is a reflection of the growth that has come out of that time, a journey she evidently wishes to take her listeners on as well. “Even [the lyrics] in Smile: Everyday groundhogs day/ going through motions/ felt so fake. I was just in this negative loop and I had to snap out of it- obviously it wasn’t as easy as snapping my fingers, but once I figured out that there’s another way to look at life I started seeing it with a different view. There’s a lot of hopefulness and resilience as themes for the record so if someone can adopt that while listening to it then that’s great.”

As simple as these deep themes have become in the lyrics of Smile, there’s something to be said of the universal quality that this simplicity brings. And with the theme of the record being clownery, Katy Perry can get away with pure entertainment and with persistent joy, hopefulness, and resilience. “The theme is clownery because I’ve always felt a bit like the court jester and I’ve always had a bit of humour and self depreciation injected into everything I do. I wasn’t taking myself seriously when I was spewing whip cream out of my boobs. Hello! I’m in on the joke! But I continue to use humour as a way to bring some levity to the seriousness of life.”

Other than Never Really Over, which already proved itself as a hit single, Tucked stands out with it’s funk guitar disco vibes as the best song on the album. Champagne Problems is also instantly attractive in a way that screams of a pop mega hit, leaning heavy on the rhythm section with a four-to-the-floor beat and undeniably groovy bass line.

As always, you’ll probably be hearing these songs all over radio within the coming months, but if you want to keep a closer eye on what Katy Perry is up to you can follow her: Instagram // Twitter // Facebook

 

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