Katy Perry: Teenage Dream

RIYL: Ke$ha, Nelly Furtado, Lily Allen

Katy_Perry_Teenage_DreamShe sounded for all the world like a one-hit wonder when she made her debut with the aggressively obnoxious “I Kissed a Girl,” but surprise, surprise — Katy Perry is currently in the middle of setting airplay records with “California Gurls,” the Snoop-enhanced first single from her new album, Teenage Dream. A few more hits like this, and Perry stands a chance at carving out a Black Eyed Peas-style career, embracing cheerful disposability with a string of shiny, deceptively sharp pop songs.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, here’s Teenage Dream. Simply by virtue of the smash hits she’s scored with “Gurls” and the title track, Perry’s already vanquished the sophomore jinx, but does the album deliver on the promises made by those killer leadoff singles? The short answer: Not really. But compared to a lot of mainstream pop records, its wheat-to-chaff ratio is surprisingly high.

Given who she is and the era we’re living in, it’d verge on unreasonable to expect Perry to put together an album of songs as pop-smackingly delectable as “California Gurls,” so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there’s a fair amount of filler on Teenage Dream. What’s unusual — and fairly troublesome for Perry’s long-term prospects — is the fact that her least appealing moments come when she’s trying to get serious, as on tracks like the meant-to-be-showstopping ballads “Pearl” and “Not Like the Movies.” There aren’t many pop singers who embrace brainlessness as warmly as Katy Perry, and as a result, she’s just not believable when she thinks she really has something to say. Like Teenage Dream‘s cover art indicates, she’s trapped herself in a fluffy prison.

Fluffiness has its own rewards, though, and even if Perry will probably never reach the levels of profundity she strains for so unconvincingly during Teenage Dream‘s duds, she at least has a knack for irresistible anthems to shallowness, stupidity, and narcissism. For a good seven songs or so, Dream finds Perry shooting cotton candy sparks on a beach made from rainbow sand while unicorns shit churros and pee ice-cold beer on everyone. You get the title track, “Gurls,” the fabulously dumb “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” the soaring “Firework,” and “Peacock,” which actually beats the Black Eyed Peas at their own stupid game, plus the cutely aggro “Circle the Drain” and future Hot AC hit “The One That Got Away” — basically, a solid EP’s worth of 21st century Top 40 at its most hollowly addictive. If you care about Katy Perry at all, this is probably exactly what you’re hoping for. How long she’ll be able to keep this up is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime, she’s living a rather pleasant Dream. (Capitol 2010)

Katy Perry MySpace page


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