What Katy Promised
Katy Perry’s latest album, Witness, is not what Katy promised it would be, but it does succeed in its own terms. At the Grammy Awards ceremony this year, Perry announced that her forthcoming album, Witness, would consist of what she called “purposeful pop.” Perry’s use of that vague but potentially activist tag, taken along with her public endorsements of Hilary Clinton and her description of herself as an “advocate,” naturally led to expectations that Witness would be a politically engaged album that would focus on Perry’s resistance to the Trump administration. You may also recall that these unrealized expectations for Witness led to some, fairly heated discussion about whether Perry was the sort of artist who could credibly make protest pop of this kind. As we listen to the album she actually released, though, we find that none of this came to pass. All of that pre-kerfuffle was therefore a waste of breath and ink!
What Katy DidSo, what has Perry delivered instead? What we have here is a messy, self-centered record of the kind we’re already very used to. This may be a good thing for the artist, because many of her admirers, unsurprisingly, still long for the kind of enjoyable, carefree pop that she has always given us. Presumably, many of these fans won’t exactly be disappointed that Perry hasn’t delivered on her promise to make an album that would be mentally, sexually and spiritually liberating. And that’s quite a lot to promise! Before we judge Perry too harshly, though, it’s important to say that, although it is no masterpiece of political insight, Witness is nevertheless her most daring and provocative album so far. Perry has bravely and cleverly drawn on genres like witch house and future pop, but she has carefully integrated these darker elements into an accessible pop album. This may be mainstream pop, but it’s not any old mainstream pop!