So, your marriage break-up to one of the most famous men in the world goes mega-public. You’re publicly admonished by Barbara Walters on American TV for being the first late guest to her show since the late Judy Garland. Yoko Ono starts performing bizarre covers of your songs. Then, your latest album gets described as a ‘biohazard’ in the Australian media due to a packaging issue.
It’s not all beer, perfume, and skittles being Katy Perry you know; it’s possibly – whether you like her music or not – an occasionally confusing and frustrating experience. But then, she’s already undergone a transformation from Pentecostal-raised, gospel-singing Katy Hudson (who released a self-titled album in 2001) who wasn’t allowed to listen to ‘secular’ music in her teens, to the global (ahem) brand we know as Katy Perry, all cleavage, perfume lines and songs about kissing other girls, among other things.
In a post-Gaga, post-Miley world, Katy Perry’s version of celebrity isn’t tame exactly, but is already looking decidedly more dignified. In the aftermath of her divorce – a life event that reportedly left her close to suicidal – she went back to the thing that’s kept her going all these years: music.
Returning to a studio in her hometown of Santa Barbara, the place she’d written Teenage Dream, she tried to wrest back some original inspiration. “I go back to the essence of myself out there. I get to reconnect with who I was when I picked up a guitar at 13,” Perry says. “I really understood why I wanted to contribute to the music scene. It really brings me back to my roots: music is so powerful and spiritual — it’s like the sixth sense. It moves people in so many different ways; it creates memories. I can strip away the make-up layers a little bit and get to the essential oils of who I am.”
Unsuprisingly, Perry wasn’t in the best place when recording commenced in November 2012. Even those who don’t claim to enjoy her music would empathise with being dumped via text, essentially in front of the whole world. The only word is ‘harsh’.
“I was in a much darker place. You can see the transition I was going through in the first song I wrote for the record with Greg Wells, By the Grace of God,” she says. “Then, there came a point this past year where I needed to reflect and sit down and be like, ‘Okay, what’s going on inside of me, and what are some things I need to get clear and deal with? How can I help myself get to the next level and grow?’ I guess you just have to be open and ready for it.”
Perry brought to the sessions a love of ’90s-era deep house music. “I was hanging out in Central Park one day with my DJ friend Mia Moretti and we came across these roller skaters just skating around to this deep house music, and I told Mia, ‘I have to write a song like that!’” The results are represented in Finally (described as Wendy and Lisa meets CC Peniston), and new club anthem Walking on Air, created in tandem with Swedish producer Klas Ahlund.
Prism also features a collaboration with Australia’s own Sia (who has her own album of pop-collabs coming in 2014), in the form of Double Rainbow. “I’ve spent some time with one of your Aussies, with a girl named Sia, lately,” Perry told Take 40 Australia in June. “I love her very much. She is so funny.“
Furler, who has focused more on writing for the likes of Perry, David Guetta and Rihanna than her own recording career of late, apparently had the basis of the song come to her during a yoga class and has struck up a close friendship with Perry. And that’s no bad thing; after spending her twenties seeing the best and worst of the media spotlight, a few new friends with a few new ideas arriving from other places could be just the ticket for a popstar looking to complete a musical and media re-invention.
Perry is also thriving in a relationship with fellow musician John Mayer, opening up in the January 2014 issue of Marie Claire about starting over in her love life. “He’s just a fantastic partner,” Perry told the magazine of Mayer. “I’ve been a fan of his for such a long time. He’s got a brilliant, brilliant mind…(It’s) a rad, mature relationship.”
Prism is a Katy Perry album for faithful fans who have stuck with her from the beginning, an unashamedly commercial album of chart pop, albeit with hints at future direction. Whatever she chooses, it’s a fair bet she’ll be doing it her own way.
Perry, Channel Seven and Darren Hayes.
When Channel Seven aired an interview with Perry conducted by Marie Clare editor Jackie Frank on the program Sunday Night, the American singer found an unlikely ally in the form of ex-Savage Garden singer Darren Hayes.
Perry was evidently uncomfortable with Frank’s line of questioning, even asking her publicist to ensure the interview tone be changed to focus more on her music, specifically the Prism album.
Seven, perhaps predictably in the never-ending quest for ratings, ran promotional teasers before the interview aired screaming “What did we ask Katy Perry that had her minders shutting us down?”
While Perry, used to both the more demanding and yet more controlled US media environment, perhaps took much of this in her stride, Darren Hayes – now based in LA – was having none of it. Leaping to Perry’s defence via his Tumblr blog (darrenhayes.tumblr.com), Hayes did not so much blame Jackie Frank as the prevailing tone of Australia’s entire mainstream media.
“I think Jackie’s intentions seemed good and at times she seemed embarrassed that her questions made her guest uncomfortable,” wrote Hayes, before well and truly sticking the boot in.
“I saw something that has been bothering me, as an Australian living overseas, for about 15 years. There is a tone, and a quite nasty one, to the piece that sadly has come to epitomise mainstream Australian media that I must presume is only obvious to those who don’t live there. It is, quite literally, bullying….. Sorry Katy, we’re better than this.”
The blunt and strident tone of the post – particularly the word ‘bullying’ – saw a variety of responses both online and from various quarters of the Australian media.
Christine Sams, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, somewhat disagreed with Hayes’ assessment of the interview, saying “Sunday Night has nothing to apologise for. Katy Perry is a star who has made millions of dollars from her music career, not to mention ticket sales to the documentary about her life which included footage of her receiving a text message from Brand, ending their marriage. Perry was shown sobbing on screen in the film she released to the public… Celebrities can’t have it both ways.”
While the adage that ‘any publicity is good publicity’ may still hold some sway in some quarters and the episode doesn’t appear to have ultimately harmed Perry’s sales or standing in the eyes of her Australian audience, the Sunday Night interview and it’s aftermath saw Perry unwittingly kick-start a debate on Australian media and celebrity cult.
Dark Horse: Southern hip hop care of Juicy J and some wild electro to boot.
Walking on Air: If deep house is your thing, this is irresistible: banging collab with Swedish producer Klas Ahlund.
Spiritual: Since hooking up with John Mayer, it seems the two have written a couple of songs together, and this one works a treat.
Double Rainbow: Slow groove co-written with Australia’s Sia Furler.
With Susannah Guthrie.
This article appears courtesy of STACK Magazine.