In 2005, Japanese author Masaru Emoto conjectured that human consciousness could directly affect the molecular structure of water — or more simply, as Katy Perry puts it, “if you speak positively to water, you get a beautiful snowflake; If you speak negatively to water, you get a cracked snowflake.” Three years later, the little-known Perry would arrive on the pop scene, and dedicate the following decade-plus of her career to putting out music that would hopefully make the world — and her fans — feel a little more beautiful.
She assured listeners that they were awe-inspiring fireworks, dark horses, roaring champions: and now, electric. On May 14, Perry released “Electric,” a single and music video in collaboration with Pokémon to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the popular franchise. The song will be included on the fall 2021 album Pokémon 25: The Album, which features 14 songs by artists like Perry, J Balvin, and Post Malone. The song, about harnessing your inner power in order to reach your full potential, is classic Perry.
“Look, when I was in junior high it was Pogs and Pokémon cards, and Gushers and Dunkaroos,” Perry tells Refinery29 over the phone. “I didn't have any of those snacks — I wasn't allowed. So we would be doing trades and stuff like that during my seventh and eighth grade years. Cut to right before COVID: I went to Japan, which I used to do every year. Santa Barbara and Tokyo are my favourite places in the world. We had [my partner] Orlando's son, who was nine at the time, so we went to the Pokémon cafe there and met Pikachu, and I think it both ignited the fandom for him and brought me back.”
The video, directed by Raya and the Last Dragon’s Carlos Lopez Estrada, sees present-day Perry and Pikachu exploring the Hawaiian coast, where they come upon a lighthouse. Once there, they both decide to meditate and are transported back in time to Perry’s early career, where they’re determined to help guide her younger self (and her companion Pichu) in the right direction.
“It tells a nostalgic story for me that’s based in truth,” she says. “All those little moments about her singing at the farmer's market, and getting paid with avocados and pine cones and such, and then going to a talent show and needing something to wear, and finding a leopard coat — I lived in a leopard coat for three years at that age. I think my fans, my Katy Kats, will appreciate this nod to my beginning years, because a lot of them have been following me since my MySpace days.”
Putting out a visual with an animated character would perhaps seem like an odd choice for a 13-time Grammy nominee and new mum. To those who have been with Perry since the beginning, however, this is the singer at her core: the playful, quirky, fun-loving artist who’s worn everything from pin-up camp and carousel dresses to full-on headgear.
“Laughter and playfulness are like the soul's medicine,” Perry says. “Lightheartedness, playfulness, empowerment, and hopefully self-awareness in some regard have been some of my defining characteristics. It comes naturally to me. And I'm an adventure mom, for sure. When we go to Disneyland, I’m setting our schedule and picking what we’re wearing. I mean, we're going to go look at dinosaur skeletons soon with my almost- nine-month-old little infant, who won't even remember it.”
Perry attributes her sense of humour to her father, a Pentacostal pastor and a practical joker. But the rest was borne from her own prismatic mind. “[Me and my siblings] were very sheltered, and so when you're very sheltered, you have to have a great imagination as a kid,” she says. “And that was pre-internet, which I'm so grateful for, because that's where my imagination went wild, and created all these dreams, and goals, and ideas of what a future could look like, and now I'm living in it. I'm just glad I had that space. So if you're reading this, get off the internet and take a hike, and leave your phone in the car, and bring your Pikachu stuffed animal — how about that?”
Refinery29: You’ve made many empowerment anthems throughout your career, including this one. How do you want people to feel when they listen to “Electric”?
Katy Perry: “There's a lot in the power of positive thinking and speaking. Hopefully, when people listen to it, they feel like they can do, rather than they can't do. And that they feel like it gives them a little positive pep — I want that posi-pep.
"There's a lot of other chaotic negative news. I don't know when we decided every morning to wake up and just bombard ourselves with the worst possible stories in the world, and then just go about our day. No, I just heard about this horrible tragedy over a cup of coffee. Like, no, are you okay? Can't you start the day another way? I don't know why we are all subjecting ourselves to doing this all the time. Who knew a little iPhone would control our lives? But yeah. So I guess, for me, a little posi-pep is necessary.”
There were subjects that I would write about — of course empowerment, but also yearning and desire, and sometimes unrequited love, and I felt like there was a hole in my heart. And that hole is completely filled now.
Back when you were busking at farmer’s markets in Santa Barbara, what was it that motivated you then to keep going and to stick to it?
“I wanted to create my own identity and a new reality for myself. I didn't love how I grew up and it felt really restrictive. I grew up in a very religious household, and so I was really just trying to break out from that and find my way — my own way. Obviously in order to do that, I had to support myself. I remember when I was nine years old, singing on top of a table at a restaurant. I just had no fear. I was not a shy child. But when I did that, it was like the whole room went quiet, and I was like, ‘Whoa, I can demand people's attention like that? This is kind of a magic trick. This is wild.’
"I was really inspired by these strong women during that time, like Shirley Manson, Alanis Morissette, and Gwen Stefani when she was in No Doubt. When I heard “Just A Girl" for the first time, my mind was blown. I was like, oh my God, you're saying everything. Because growing up in the late '90s, early 2000s, sexism was so prevalent. We've come so far, and still of course have so far to go, but back then, I felt so secondary.”
Has becoming a mum made you think about your music in a different way? Or your career going forward?
“I've been able to tap into some real amazing love. There were subjects that I would write about — of course empowerment, but also yearning and desire, and sometimes unrequited love, and I felt like there was a hole in my heart. And that hole is completely filled now. All the love I ever lost came rushing back to me when I had a child. And so I think I'll be able to speak more on that true love feeling in the future, and having perspective and balance. Having a baby is a mountain to climb, and having a career is a different mountain, and you’ve just got to figure out what climb you're on. And if the paths intersect, just keep putting one foot in front of the other."
When you're having those blue days, what do you look to give yourself energy, confidence, and motivation?
“Orlando has had a Buddhist practice for 20 years, and so I started chanting with him and that's been pretty cool. But before that, I've been a meditator for 10 years and I love it. I love how it's like yoga for the mind for me. It clears out all the cobwebs, and lights up my neural pathways. It's better than coffee by far — and it's not acidic.
"In the video, meditation is what opens up a way for me to be able to guide my younger self. I was proud that I was able to do that because I feel that tool is helpful for people at any age, but especially for young people who are really on the devices, and on social media, and stuff like that. It definitely helps the brain get that release.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.