Following the August release of the #1 single "Roar", pop princess Katy Perry has released Prism, the follow-up to her record-breaking 2010 album Teenage Dream, which became one of the most successful albums in recent memory; scoring a mind-blowing six top 2 singles (eight counting "Part of Me" and "Wide Awake" from the album's 2012 re-release). Recorded over the last year, Prism sees a return to Perry's pop formula - which has clearly been working for her - however also includes some refreshing and interesting takes of genres such as deep house, R&B, CCM, and trap.
"Roar", the album's lead single - sounds like a song that was likely recorded during the album's earlier recording sessions late last year. The song; which sees Perry again working with long-time collaborators Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Cirkut, and Bonnie McKee; serves as the album's lead single and opening track. A power pop song that draws influences from glam and arena rock, "Roar" sounds similar to songs on Teenage Dream, however offers a refreshingly mature tone. Looking at tracks in Perry's back catalogue such as "Firework" and "Part of Me", it was evident that Prism would contain a few self-empowering tracks. Perry's pop perfection vocals and the song's powerful message and intriguing production makes the song an obvious hit - however "Roar" doesn't exactly offer anything surprising. Despite this, "Roar" works as a perfect choice as lead single and paints the picture for the rest of Prism. Rating: 4/5
"Legendary Lovers", the album's second song, sees Perry again collaborating with Dr. Luke and Max Martin, however this song is very different from Roar. An addicting track containing bhangra and tribal influences - "Legendary Lovers" is an interesting track that offers one of Prism's most idiosyncratic pre-choruses: "Take me down to the river/ Underneath the blood orange sun/ Say my name like a scripture/ Keep my heart beating like a drum". This is followed by a soaring spicy curry chorus: "Legendary lovers/ We could be legendary/ Legendary lovers/ We should be legendary". Following this, Perry dips into more of a trap-inspired round of verses where she discusses seeing through her "third eye" and compliments karma for bringing her legendary lover into her life. "Legendary Lovers" is an interesting and radio-friendly track that makes a great potential single release. But most importantly, the song reveals that Prism will see Perry refreshingly experiment with lots of new genres. Rating: 4/5
"Birthday", the album's third track, is another Luke-Martin collaboration, however despite using the same producers as the record's first two track - "Birthday" is entirely different. Perhaps the album's most R&B sound, the song draws influences from early 90's Mariah Carey tracks. "Birthday" is a sugar sweet and super fun song, and fans that were looking for a follow-up to Perry's candy-filled Teenage Dream album will sigh in relief and pleasure while listening to "Birthday". A clear potential single choice, "Birthday" sounds like a perfect song to impact radio in the Spring time to get listeners ready for warm weather. Its unique and sexy lyrics, such as "But when you're with me/ I'll give you a taste/ Make it like your birthday everyday/ I know you like it sweet/ So you can have your cake/ Give you something good to celebrate" and its hook "So let me get you in your birthday suit/ Its time to bring out the big balloons" will help make the track the birthday and party jam of 2014. Rating: 4.5/5
"Walking on Air", one of two Prism tracks recorded in Stockholm and Prism's second promotional single sees Perry experimenting with deep house, eurodance, and disco. The song, which sounds very 90's (similar to "Birthday") is an upbeat song that contains lyrical genius in its verses "You're giving me sweet, sweet ecstasy/ Yeah, you take me to Utopia/ You're reading me/ Like erotica/ Yeah you make me feel exotica", "This is pure paradise/ Even heaven is jealous of our love/ Yes, we make angels cry/ Raining down on us from above" but lacks lyrical depth and content in its almost cringe-worthy simplistic chorus, "Tonight, I'm walking on air/ I'm walking on walking on air". Despite this, "Walking on Air" is a soaring track that contains an incredible vocal performance from Perry during its bridge. The track is upbeat and fun and will be a hit in the clubs, however likely won't make its way onto radio as a single choice. Rating: 3.5/5
"Unconditionally", a Luke-Cirkut collab, as well as the album's second single and Perry's personal favorite from the album, is a soaring and uplifting power ballad which is predominantly power pop and electronic while drawing influences from rock and Perry's contemporary Christian roots. The song, similar to "Walking on Air", contains great lyrics in its verses and a great vocal performance; however contains a fairly simple chorus: "Unconditional/ Unconditionally/ I will love you unconditionally/ There is no fear now/ Let go and just be free/ I will love you unconditionally". The song is perhaps one of Prism's most uplifting tracks and one of its biggest power ballads and was a good choice for a second single. The song, like many other Perry tracks, will definitely inspire listeners to be themselves; a message that could never become unnecessary. Rating: 4/5
"Dark Horse", Prism's first promotional single and probable spiritual successor to Teenage Dream's "E.T." (with Kanye West) is one of the best tracks on Prism. A trap, grime, and hip hop song, "Dark Horse" is a witchy and dark song with a verse from rapper Juicy J that contains a soaring and unique chorus and some sexy lyrics: "So you wanna play with magic/ Boy, you should know what you're falling for/ Baby do you dare to do this?/ Cause I'm comin' at you like a dark horse/ Are you ready for, ready for/ A perfect storm, perfect storm/ Cause once you're mine/ There's no goin' back". The song contains allusions to ancient Greek personnel and is just generally a great song and if released as a single will become one of the most successful songs of 2014. An album highlight and one of the album's sexier tracks, "Dark Horse" will be a favorite for listeners looking for an experimental song. Rating: 5/5
"This Is How We Do" is the second Prism track recorded in Stockholm and sees the return of Klas Ahlund to the album, who also produced "Walking on Air". The song is obviously intended as a Summer party song, however unlike 2013 Summer hits such as Avril Lavigne's "Here's to Never Growing Up"; the song contains more of a dark electronic production paired with some party feel good lyrics; making the song not exactly match its production. Its pre-chorus, where Perry repeats and insists "It's no big deal!" contains a wobbly synth instrumentation and its chorus will make it a potential Summer 2014 hit with party lyrics that will obviously appeal to teenagers and people in their early 20's. Midway through the song, Perry does some shout-outs when she declares: "This one goes out to the the ladies at breakfast in last night's dress, uh huh, I see you", "This one goes out to all you kids buying bottle service with your rent money", and "This one's for all the people out there goin' to bed with a 10 and waking up with a 2". The song doesn't exactly offer any lyrical genius however is a fun Summer track that will do well on radio and on the charts if released as a single. Rating: 3.3/5
"International Smile" is ridiculously fun and incredibly catchy. At this point on the album, I have no idea what Perry will choose as her Summer 2014 single with all of these possible choices. "International Smile" is a song about Katy's friend Mia and will be a hit for anyone travelling to a warm destination, driving to a local beach, or simply tanning in the backyard. A great chorus paired with unique lyrics and addictingly brilliant lyrics, "International Smile" is - again - an obvious single choice. At the album's hook, Perry inserts a pilot voice reciting flight take-off instructions and the song subsequently enters a super fun Daft Punk-inspired distorted vocal and synth dance break. The song's Beach-ready lyrics and production will make this song a huge hit. Rating: 5/5
"Ghost" is where the album starts to slow down a bit and become more emotional, raw, and mature. The first song on Prism that clearly focuses on Perry's divorce to her husband Russell Brand - "Ghost" is a mid tempo soaring, goose bump-inducing synthpop song with heartbreaking lyrics such as "You sent a text/ Its like the wind changed your mind/ We were best friends/ Yeah we were burning our lives" and "But you hit send/And disappeared in front of my eyes". "Ghost" will be a song looking for anyone trying to overcome a failed relationship and Perry's pop perfection vocals and the song's thumping instrumentation make the song yet another potential single choice. "Ghost" sounds like, when Perry wrote the song, she had reluctantly accepted the divorce however was not quite emotionally prepared to move on, with the hook stating: "So rest in peace, I'll see you on the other side". The song is powerful, but there's still something blatantly vulnerable about it: making it a highly relatable song. Rating: 4.5/5
"Love Me", which is still fairly emotional, sees the album pick up a little more following the heavy "Ghost". The song is a soaring power pop that sees Perry accepting and embracing her flaws and insecurities. "Love Me" is another one of Perry's signature uplifting power tracks, and showcases some of Perry's lyrical strength: "No concealing feelings/ or changing seasonally" and "Sometimes I wish my skin was a costume I could unzip and strip". Similar to "International Smile", the song experiments with a Daft Punk-like sound during the first half of its hook. During the second half of the hook, Katy repeats the chorus over a slower more raw instrumentation. The song may not be the album's biggest standout track but is a great song and it will be interesting to see if Katy selects the song as a single; because it truly could go either way. Rating: 4/5
"This Moment" is a 1980's power ballad-influenced track with parts that contain a wobbly electronic instrumentation. The song's lyrics are more contemplative than the rest of the album; with Perry asking her lover lots of questions throughout the song such as "Can you tell me who called the race?", "So why don't you be here with me?", "Do you ever think we're just chasing our tails?". The song sounds like it may have been written either before or during the early stages of Perry's relationship with John Mayer where he was perhaps resisting his feelings for Perry. "This Moment" doesn't stand out on the album and likely won't be a single, but it's still a good song. Rating: 3/5
"Double Rainbow", despite its title, is not about an over-exposed internet meme. It is a love song that sees Perry comparing a relationship to a double rainbow because her and her lover "see eye to eye" and because her lover was "hard to find". The song is very unique; I've never heard anything much like it - but that's not exactly a good think. The song isn't bad in any way, but many of the lyrics are slightly generic. If I was to compare the song to a previous song by Perry; it would likely be "Not Like the Movies" from Teenage Dream, however "Double Rainbow" doesn't exactly showcase Perry's lyrical strength like the former. Its still a decent song though. Rating: 2.8/5
"By the Grace of God" is the album's closing track and sees Perry at her most vulnerable on the album. The song, a powerful ballad about her failed relationship with Brand, primarily focuses on Perry "picking [herself] up" from the "bathroom floor" after deciding not to "let love take [her] out that way". By "that way", Perry is presumably referring to suicide; which she briefly contemplated after the failed divorce. The song ends Prism on a strong note and lets listeners ponder on the meaning of the song's metaphors and what is next for the superstar. The song sees Perry return to her CCM roots; which allows "By the Grace of God" to be one of Prism's most lyrically and vocally striking tracks. Rating: 4/5
Overall Rating: 79/100
Perry's third album, Prism, will finally help Perry receive the critical praise through the musical potential I have always seen in her. The song's upbeat and fun songs are much more unique than much of her previous work and songs like "Ghost", "International Smile", "Dark Horse", and "Birthday" make Prism perhaps the best pop record of the year. Although Perry's lyrical content may be slightly underwhelming in tracks like "Walking on Air" and "This Is How We Do", Prism will prove to be a hit that will continue to produce radio hits throughout the next umpteen months and Prism provides a musical look into Perry's failed relationship with Russell Brand. But most importantly, Prism reminds the public why she has been so successful: because of her record-breaking catchy tunes with pop perfect vocals and near flawless productions. Prism proves to be truly prismatic.