Album Review: Katy Perry – Smile

Katy Perry overcomes depression but doesn’t reach new heights
Katy Perry had to come from far after releasing her album Witness back in 2017. The record did receive the worst reviews of her career until that point and did not sell as well as its predecessors. Perry had to accept the reality that she was no longer a pop star on her A game and dealt with a depression due to this less successful part of her career. She got herself back on track after a while and started a long string of singles that come together on her fifth album Smile.

The first of these singles was the absolute pop banger ‘Never Really Over’, which was already released in May of 2019. It opens the album and is the best thing to be found on here. It is an undeniably strong pop anthem with hooks in all the right places, not in the last place thanks to the sample it borrowed from Norwegian pop artist Dagny’s ‘Love You Like That’. Out of the rest of the singles, ‘Daisies’, is the one that comes closest to the quality of her earlier work. It is a tasteful mid tempo belter about being laughed at for dreaming big, but still continuing to do so.

Unfortunately, there is nothing else to be found on Smile that even comes close to the heights Perry has reached in the past with flawless pop tunes that became classics. This does not mean that everything is awful. ‘Cry About It Later’ for example, is a perfectly harmless pop song with a cute chorus, but the repetition in the lyrics and middle of the road melodies prevent it from really going places. The airy ‘Teary Eyes’ has the same faith. There is a good tune in there somewhere, but the way it is produced now it is nothing that Perry hasn’t done better before.

Sure, Perry does try at times to shake things up a little bit. ‘Champagne Problems’ starts off promising with a disco-infused production, but then suffers from another chorus that repeats the same lines. It then tries to build up to an epic post chorus, which just doesn’t live up to the promise created in an otherwise fine production. ‘Not The End of the World’ seems to try and create a similar ‘edgy’ moment like her massive hit ‘Dark Horse’ was. The trap beat is a nice change of pace on this record, but the chorus quickly becomes jarring and fails to sell the fantasy.

It seems that ‘Resilient’ and ‘What Makes A Woman’ were intended as the emotionally powerful moments on this record, but both fell flat. The rhyming on ‘Resilient’ is painful at times and the whole message of crawling back up after a hard time is too cliche filled. ‘What Makes A Woman’ suffers from similar clunky writing. The uplifting, gospel infused ‘Only Love’ does a better job at telling a personal story with an empowering message and is easily one of the strong tracks to be found on the album.

Having said that, ‘Only Love’ would at the same time be one of the more forgettable tunes on any of Perry’s first three records, which simply says it all. She tried to return to her middle of the road, mainstream pop sound, but the compositions simply do not live up to the level she has served us before. It is good to hear her more happy after a tough time, but this album is certainly not the successful comeback story of one of the biggest pop stars of the past decade.

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