She is definitely not playing to her strengths. For the better part of a decade, Katy Perry filled a historic role in American culture: the national sexy ditz. Like Marilyn Monroe, Suzanne Somers, and Jenny McCarthy before her, she discovered the colossal upside to being dumb, beautiful, and at least somewhat talented: prodigious fame and wealth, secular-goddess status. That each of these personalities came across as vacuous was central to their popularity. For a pop idol (unlike, say, for a political figure), to be brainless is to be harmless. The misspelling of Perry’s 2010 single “California Gurls” was one of many ways she disarmed potential haters: Who could be jealous of such a daft, sweet-tempered pet? When, in her adorable and ridiculous 2013 video “Roar” (the tenth-most-viewed YouTube clip of all time, according to Wikipedia), she vamped in a leopard-print bustier with a pet tiger wearing a necklace labeling her “Kitty Purry,” she cemented her status as our sex kitten without equal.
This Katy Perry, the Katy Perry we loved, was sexy, delightfully dumb, and associated with insanely catchy records (created for her by middle-aged white guys; they’re well-paid, don’t feel sorry for them).
These days, though, she is on a rebranding spree. The new strategy is this: Be a lot less sexy, be dumb in a much less delightful way, and release terrible songs. The new lyrics are no more moronic than those of “California Gurls.” How could they be? But they are a lot more annoying — insistent, blubbering. They’re also amorphously left-wing, frantic in their effort to signal virtue without saying much of anything. “Every day’s the same / Definition of insane / I think we’re running on a loop / Déjà vu,” she sings on one new track. Read More