It’s hard to deny that Katy Perry is a phenomenon. From her massive debut single, ‘I Kissed A Girl’ to her much praised and sold by the pallet-load debut, she hit the international consciousness with as much force as anyone else over the last few years. So, it’s with some trepidation that we pop her sophomore album into the TMF CD player. Will it be career-cementing? Or one of those all-to-common disappointing sloppy seconds?
It’s hard to forget that the current radio-bothering ‘California Girls’ is here – and much like her debut, it sets a tone that is surprisingly absent from much of the rest of the album. Opening (and title) track, ‘Teenage Dream’ is an innocent enough pop nugget – it has all the ingredients in the right quantities to make for a perfect pop song. This continues into ‘Last Friday Night’, a brilliantly fun tale of a night on the piss – ending in arrest warrants, a ménage à trois and a banging hangover. The gaiety continues over the early songs, until we suddenly hit the skids with ‘Circle The Drain’, the point at which the album takes on a far darker, more challenging edge.
It’s a much more grown up sound than we’re used to from Ms Perry, charting the trials and tribulations of a partner who has fallen onto very bad times. Does it fit on a light-weight pop album? It’s hard to say and it’s not alone: from the froth and joy of the opening 20 minutes we’re plunged into songs of heartbreak, disappointment, bitterness and despair; a far cry from the innuendo-laden ‘Peacock’ which is probably the album’s true nadir in that it’s crass and remarkably immature given the rest of what is on offer.
The change in tone and pace is a brave move; whether or not it works really depends on the listener. Each track, as a standalone, is perfectly produced – even at it’s darkest we’re still listening to what is expertly crafted pop music, but with the caveat that this isn’t the sort of thing you’d want your 10-year old dancing around her bedroom to. It’s adult music, despite the fun and frolics that we’re drawn in by.
As the title suggests, the album is very much the diary of a young person growing up and experiencing the highs and lows of adulthood. From the fun of a night out through to the realisation that things just aren’t working, Teenage Dream is actually quite a hard-hitting album that evokes memories of the enjoyment of our formative years and the disappointments that they would eventually bring. It hits home, even if you’re not a Californian girl.