Katy Perry review, Smile: Pop star resorts to bright'n'boring basics

Katy Perry review, Smile: Pop star resorts to bright’n’boring basics

Katy Perry review, Smile: Pop star resorts to bright’n’boring basics

Katy Perry review, Smile: Pop star resorts to bright’n’boring basics

Katy Perry review, Smile: Pop star resorts to bright'n'boring basics 1

Rainbows, daisies, dragons, hearts and stars. The imagery crayoned through Katy Perry’s sweetly forgettable sixth album, Smile, comes straight out of the primary school colouring book. Musically as well as lyrically, the whole record blu-tacs itself firmly to bright’n’boring basics.

As a fan of Perry the human being – admiring her sane survival of both her oppressive religious upbringing and her marriage to Russell Brand, who dumped her by text – I find myself delighted that she is making such a safe recovery after frightening struggles with her mental health. In recent interviews she said she had contemplated suicide following the release of 2017’s wearily-worthy album, Witness, and the break-up with current fiance Orlando Bloom. The couple are expecting the birth of their first child any day now and it’s good to hear Perry sounding so stable.

But as a fan of Perry the pop star – a Disney princess with a wicked tongue in her cheek – I miss the mischievous layers of glitter and innuendo she once daubed over her cartoon imagery. And I miss the defiant roar in a voice that has (hopefully temporarily) too often the quirky confidence to colour outside of the lines.


This is not to say there’s no fun to be had with Smile. I played the jingly singles in the car with my kids as we hurtled down country lanes towards the beach on holiday this summer. We often ended up in giggles trying to sing along with the lung-busting, tongue-twisting chorus of “Never Really Over”. Released last May, it was her most emotionally compelling single since 2013’s elemental “Dark Horse”, apparently giving us the inside track on her romance with Bloom. “I can’t even go on the internet/ Without even checking your name…” The hookworm chorus plunged straight into the listener’s brain and twirled your synapses like a forkful of spaghetti.

Nothing else on Smile is that good. The electro-boppalong “Teary Eyes” finds Perry exhorting those who “wanna run like mascara” to dance through their pain, while the echoey meanderballad “Cry About it Later” strikes a more brittle tone: “Tonight I am having fun/Tonight I’m getting some”.

The low points are ”Not the End of the World“ (which borrows too heavily from Steam’s 1969 hit “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” plus the galloping trap of her own ”Dark Horse“) and the uncertain way she toys with gender cliches in ”What Makes a Woman“: “Is it the way we keep the whole world turning in a pair of heels? Yeah that’s what makes a woman (There it is, Kathryn)”. “Harleys in Hawaii” – her dull duet with Charlie Puth – aims at the loveably dopey lyrics of Perry’s past by rhyming Hula-hula with jeweller-jeweller. But it feels weak.

Still, both my kids (big Perry fans at eight and 11) enjoyed singing along with the upbeat “Daisies” and my dramatic daughter liked throwing herself into the optimistic emosh of “Resilient”. “‘Cause I died every winter/ But survived all the weather/ Look at me now, look at me now/ I’m in full bloom.” The reference to her fiance is cute. As is her tribute to the way the couple resolved their issues: “Champagne Problems”.

There’s nothing on this record to equal the giddy delight of Perry’s greatest hits. No fireworks to light up the dance floor, but enough to raise a smile.


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