Photo: Courtesy of Capitol Records.
With the release of her third album (and first since her divorce), Katy Perry isn't bursting at the seams with overly saturated colors and chart-dominating material. Prism marks the singer's maturation in the pop scene. She's grown up and away from her teenage dreams, and as much as we'd like to say time calmly nurtured them out of her, the reality is that love shattered them. The bubbly, public personality, who shares the record of the most number-one singles off a single album with Michael Jackson, was haunted by the ghost of her marriage with Russell Brand in private. So, she dyed her hair dark and retreated from the spotlight to get her head back on.
Now she's back with a carefully constructed body of work that, lyrically, doesn't dodge the harsh blow of the world while still beating in the bubbly pop vein of her entire oeuvre.
She begins her transformation with a roar, literally. The anthemic single kicks us off with a self-reflective ode to the reinventing. "You're gonna hear me roar," she repeats. And, for the better part of the first 30 minutes, she does. Songs of weekend debauchery á la the style of "T.G.I.F." ("This Is How We Do") are paired with Perry's cheeky bedroom innuendos in "Birthday," the song most similar to Dream's "Peacock." It could be assumed that the blissful moments of the opening songs, the lightheartedness and relative carefree, dancehall-ready sounds are in response to her relationship with John Mayer, but they might also be a reflection on the early stages of her and Brand's flirtation. Whatever the true story behind them is irrelevant. This is an album of reawakening, of being transparent enough with you and your wellbeing that the light within you shines in a brilliant menagerie of hues (hence its title).
With lyrics reminiscent of the newly enlightened Alanis Morissette, Perry has made an album that takes the nostalgia of mid-'90s dance-pop and spins it through a fantasy Disney princess filter. Songs of suicide and divorce like "By The Grace of God" and "Ghost" (respectively) are songs of growth rather than songs of wallowing. A theme of marching on is threaded through the entire album. Quite literally with one of Prism's standout tracks, "Choose Your Battles" (the final song on the deluxe album), Perry rises as the victor of her own story over a triumphant drum line while belting the power chords of "I'm not fighting anymore." It's a heroic moment that summarizes Prism's entire aura. Girl loses the boy; girl gets knocked down, and like a proper fairy tale, girl rises stronger. Only there's no prince helping in Perry's princess story. She does it all on her own, and that's a fairy tale for the ages.