Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Too many fillers, and not enough thrillers: Prism by Katy Perry...

PRISM is the fourth studio album by Katy Perry, and was released by Capitol Records in October 2013. The record label claims that PRISM a prominently Swedish dance music-inspired record, with most of the tracks on the album revolving around the themes of living in the present, relationships, and self-empowerment.

Katy is the main song-writer and producer on PRISM and once again works with past collaborators Dr. Luke, Bonnie McKee, and Cirkut. The other main collaborators on the album included Max Martin, StarGate, Benny Blanco, Juicy J, Jonatha Brooke, Sia Furler, Bloodshy, and Klas Ã…hlund.


Track-wise; the four most personal songs on PRISM [Unconditionally, Ghost, Love Me, and By The Grace Of God] are by far the best. These songs are all raw and emotional lyrically, the music on them doesn't sound as disjointed as it does on the other tracks, and Katy is vocally strong on them. However - as Unconditionally [#25] showed - I don't think any of Katy's better songs are the best choices for singles, as they don't have catchy lyrics or a pop-friendly hook for radio which is what her sales figures rely on.

I'd class lead single Roar, This Is How We Do, International Smile, and the pre-album turned official single Dark Horse as above average. I don't find them as strong as my previous picks, but the lyrical content is catchy and Katy's vocals are good, so the songs have grown on me. I think that the three unreleased songs would probably be top picks for future singles, as they are what I think of as very radio-friendly.

The other tracks? Out of the rest of the album the only song that has proven to be memorable to me is fourth single Birthday, and that is only because I find it kinda cringy. None of the remaining songs stand out to me in either a great or bad way, so whilst PRISM isn't an album that I'd call bad I think it has way too many forgettable tracks on it to be classed as anything better then average; the 'filler' songs just make all of the tracks lump together and become empty noise.

Out of the three bonus tracks that appear on the deluxe edition, two of them [It Takes Two and Choose Your Battles] are growers; they didn't stand out for me for ages, but now I've come to appreciate the honest lyrics. 

The weak link here is Spiritual. There's nothing about it that stands out that would make me call it a bad or especially cringy song, but this also means that the song is unmemorable to me - five minutes after listening to it I still can't remember any single line from it.

I personally think that the way the soft-rock inspired instrumentals have been infused with dancehall synths just seems clumsy to my ears, so doesn't work for me on a lot of the tracks. Same deal with the vocal effects - I don't mind singers using them with dancier pop as I think it fits in with the music, but as Katy leans strongly towards soft rock I don't think it gels with most of the tracks.

It's a shame, as Katy does have the material here. If she'd had fewer tracks on the regular edition and had used the deluxe edition tracks on it instead of having two versions of the album, then the stronger songs would have saved the otherwise unmemorable ones, making Prism a 4 star album. Quantity doesn't make up for quality in this case.

Read on for a complete album breakdown...

1. Roar

We knew something like this would be coming; a "the bad man hurt me, but now hear me roar" synth pop [with light rock undertones] lead single for her first post-divorce album. Katy says that she wrote the song after undergoing therapy, saying she was "sick of keeping all these feelings inside and not speaking up for myself." It's a song which has grown on me, but it was a predicable move by Katy.

I remember loads of people saying that Kay copied Sara Bareilles' song 'Brave', and Sarah herself says "Katy's a friend of mine and we've known each other a really long time, and I'm upset that there is a negative spin on two artists that are choosing to share positive messages."

2. Legendary Lovers

Katy compares her lover and herself to legendary couples from the past, in this Eastern inspired synth pop track. I really can't think of anything else to add about this song as I usually skip past it, so I couldn't even repeat a line if my life depended on it. We're only on track two and the filler tracks have already started popping up.

3. Birthday

The 80s tinged electro pop music for this track is fun. However I find the lyrics child like and cringy enough, but then she sings about bringing out big balloons which totally ruins the song for me. Here's a snippet so you can tell that the song isn't simply wishing someone a happy birthday.

If you wanna dance, if you want it all,
You know that I'm the girl that you should call.
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.

I think that this song is very similar to Rihanna's Birthday Cake - it's just less explicit. I prefer Rihanna's song as Katy's innuendos are rather childish. This is as cringy as 'Peacock' was...

4. Walking On Air

Another sex song, but thankfully the childish innuendos have been left behind on the previous track. The music is again synth heavy and the vocal effects here obvious. I don't think this style of music suits Katy, so I find the song underwhelming.

'Walking On Air' and 'Dark Horse' were both released digitally before PRISM, and a Twitter contest for fans was launched to choose which one was their favourite for a official single release. 'Dark Horse' won by a large margin, so hopefully this unmemorable song has been forgotten now.

5. Unconditionally

Katy's favourite song on the album and it was inspired by her trip to Africa, and relationship with John Meyer. I'll let Katy explain the song;

"I love this song because not only can it be a romantic, intimate song, but it can be about the type of love that a mother has when she sees her first child, or best friends or partners..... It's a transcendent love, it's not just relationship status." She mentioned that the song was influenced by the love shared among the people she worked with while working with UNICEF in Madagascar during April 2013, stating "I was kind of inspired by the love that I saw..... we'd go in these cruisers up the mountain for two or three hours, to the middle of nowhere, to check out these schools that they'd build, and I went to the top of this mountain, I saw all these children, and the love that they had towards each other". She noted: "It was this unconditional love between all of them. It was that kind of pure love that's unaffected by the trends of the world."

This is a simpler percussion and bass lead power ballad, a welcome break from the more louder synth-pop tracks with largely unmemorable lyrics that are in front of it.

6. Dark Horse [feat. Juicy J]

Inspired by the film 'The Craft' and is sung from the perspective of "a witch warning a man to not fall in love with her, and if he does she would be his last." I like the catchy lyrics on this song, but I would love to hear the original version of it, as I don't feel that Juicy J's rap adds anything to the song.

Katy describes this song as a "juxtaposition", as it mixed her, a pop music artist, with an "urban kind of hip-hop-flavored background soundtrack." Erm, yeah, I suppose that sums it up.

7. This Is How We Do

Katy calls this song a "club banger written in Stockholm", whilst I'll call it Last Friday Night: Part II. It's a bouncy synth-pop song about partying and having fun. It's nothing outstanding, but it's a feel-good number, and has happy sing along lyrics.

8. International Smile

Another synth-pop track, with uninspired-but-catchy lyrics. Katy wrote this song for her friend, DJ Mia Moretti, whom Katy has referred to as her muse. The lyrics refer to Mia traveling the world, sharing happiness and fun with people through her music.

9. Ghost

Katy opens up in this song, referring in the start how her ex-husband finished with her via text, then the song deal with her moving on, and finally closing the song with a heartfelt R.I.P. to him.

The mid-tempo instrumental was used in the TV show 'Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life'. The music is nice and somber, but a small part of me would like to hear this on a piano, rather then the synths we got.

10. Love Me

I suspect that [like with Roar] this song was inspired by her therapy sessions; the lyrics are about her learning to love herself and accept her own flaws, instead of trying to fit into someone else's ideal image of who she should be.

The music starts of similar in tone and speed to Ghost, but picks up and becomes bolder - to represent Katy's new-found confidence I presume.

11. This Moment

after taking the synths moodier and a tad slower in the previous two songs we go back to a bit more cheerier territory, as Katy advises us to slow down a bit an enjoy the here and now. Even though the music is okay and the lyrics are a bit more meaningful then they are on a lot of the other tracks, I still find this song unmemorable at the end of the day.

12. Double Rainbow

This song is aiming to be 'Unconditionally; Part II' both lyrically and musically, with Katy comparing a special love to the rarity of a double rainbow, but I think that it falls a bit flat.

Maybe it's because I find the music a bit clunky or that I feel as though the lyrics and vocals are building towards something but never getting anywhere, but there's something about this song that makes me wrinkle my nose and go "no" - it just doesn't work for me. Yet another unmemorable track.

13. By The Grace Of God

This is probably Katy's most personal and exposing song; it is about how she experienced suicidal thoughts during her divorce [from Russell Brand], and ultimately deciding to move forward with her life.

As the lyrics are so powerful, the song has simple, somber piano lead music which sets the tone wonderfully. A superb closing track.

Deluxe edition bonus tracks

14. Spiritual

A simple "my boyfriend is great" song that I think is very reminiscent to 'Legendary Lovers'. It's also similar to 'Legendary Lovers' in the way that I forget the lyrics five minutes after listening to it. John Mayers co-wrote this.

Like the comparison - Legendary Lovers - the lyrics are accompanied by synth pop music, although I do prefer the music on this song as it is very 80s.

15. It Takes Two

Again we get a synth track to accompany the song, where Katy admits that whilst it is easy to blame the end of her relationship entirely on her ex to hurt him, she feels that it is equally her fault. She even apologizes to him though the lyrics.

Much more mature lyrically then the vast majority of the songs in Katy's back catalog.

16. Choose Your Battles

Another synth pop number to close the deluxe edition of the album - but this one is noticeably slower and heavier on the percussion.

I do think this song would be better in front of 'It Take Two' as this describes the final days of Katy's marriage, where she admits that she's tired of fighting and gives up on trying to save the relationship.

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