Katy Perry returns with long awaited fourth album Witness
Although Katy Perry’s fourth album, her first in four years following up 2013’s PRISM, was much anticipated, the campaign promoting the record Witness certainly wasn’t without problems. Like Lady Gaga during her ARTPOP era, the general public and especially the press seems to be not here for it at all. Her remark about Obama and working with allegedly homophobic rappers Migos gained her a stream of criticism. Her SNL performances went viral for all the wrong reasons with accusations of cultural appropriation and as if things could not get any worse, her rival Taylor Swift decided to launch her whole back catalogue on streaming services on Perry’s release date. Will Perry be able to turn things around with her music?
It all started so promising when Katy Perry announced her comeback with new single ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ back in February. Her sound was more mature with a catchy laidback pop chorus and meaningful lyrics. Chart wise it couldn’t match predecessors like ‘Roar’ and ‘California Gurls’ though. Next single ‘Bon Appétit’ featuring Migos was exquisitly produced, but missed an interesting chorus and it turns out this is a big issue throughout all of Witness. ‘Bon Appétit’ is even one of the strongest songs to be found here. Production wise the record is very much on point and probably her most experimental yet, with work by Max Martin, Ali Payami, Purity Ring and many more, but the compositions simply aren’t strong enough.
Opener ‘Witness’ in that sense sets the example for what will follow. It is inoffensive, but also easily forgettable and definitely not strong enough to be the title track to a comeback album after four years. The light ska rhythm of ‘Power’ or the suspenseful ‘Tsunami’ sound slick and stylish, but are let down by the absence of a remarkable melody line. The gospel inspired ‘Pendulum’ and straightforward pop of ‘Roulette’ are decent enough, but probably not strong enough to save this album campaign as a fourth single.
Lyrically, Katy uses a very literal and describing approach with some unusual metaphors, which sometimes works, like on the sassy ‘Swish Swish’, easily the highlight here. Most of the time it does not turn out as playful or catchy. The use of ‘Chinese water torture’ or ‘Rubik’s cube’ seems odd and out of place on ‘Deja Vu’, but ‘Hey Hey Hey’ serves easily the most cringeworthy lyrics. While “‘Cause I’m feminine and soft, but I’m still a boss, yeah, red lipstick but still so raw, yeah, Marilyn Monroe in a monster truck” surely are meant to be edgy and powerful, they mainly come across as try hard. Of course the message is admirable, but the wording simply isn’t.
When listening to Witness as a body of work, one cannot help but wonder how the Perry who became one of the biggest pop stars in the world with the hook overloaded Teenage Dream album, comes up with this after a four year break. I applaud her for trying to push her boundaries in terms of sound, but the result is an uneventful album with bland compositions that sure won’t leave a lasting impression.