Any concerns that Katy Perry would be a one-album wonder have been long-quashed. Simon Cowell is referring to her and Lady Gaga as the planet’s two biggest popstars, ‘California Gurls’ is one of the best-selling singles of 2010 so far, and with a high-profile marriage and a role in the upcoming ‘Smurfs’ movie in the pipeline, the timing of sophomore album ‘Teenage Dream’ couldn’t be more perfect.
Let’s get one thing clear – beneath the crazy, media-baiting exterior there is a serious singer-songwriter in Katy Perry who had been working at her craft for many-a-year before ‘I Kissed A Girl’ took over the planet. That’s why she’s able to be both shamelessly fun-loving and endearingly serious in equal measure; and unlike certain other artists, it’s also why you can actually take her writing credits for all twelve tracks seriously. Take the two singles, for example – ‘California Gurls’ is glorious in its simplicity; an instant summer anthem that’s not boundary-breaking, but just good pop. Then there’s the title track, a euphoric midtempo love song with the occasional risqué lyric that, refreshingly, sounds genuine and relatable rather than attention-seeking.
Elsewhere, ‘The One That Got Away’ is a cute production by pop overlords Dr Luke and Max Martin about a long-lost love, ‘Hummingbird Heartbeat’ is a sweet nugget for those missing the pop-rock sounds of the first album, and ‘Circle The Drain’ is a disarmingly ferocious attack on an ex-boyfriend (“You fall asleep during foreplay, the pills you take are more your forte”). There’s also ‘Last Friday Night’, a cool-as-a-cucumber ode to getting trashed that manages to rhyme “giner ale” with “epic fail”; and ‘Fireworks’, the rumoured third single and an outstanding hands-in-the-air tune that does well with a long-clichéd theme (“You’re a firework, come on show ‘em what you’re worth”).
Truth be told however, this isn’t quite the pop album from heaven we were hoping for, or perhaps expecting. ‘Peacock’ (the first syllable is completely irrelevant) will give parents of teenage fans a heart attack, and sounds a bit too laborious for a track that’s presumably intended to be giggly good fun; and one or two of the more serious tracks misfire slightly, too – ‘Who Am I Living For?’ for example sounds a bit too much like an average B-side; and despite getting better with every listen, ‘E.T.’ isn’t quite the electro-pop anthem it’s perhaps intended to be.
But disappointing as a couple of the tracks are, ‘Teenage Dream’ is never below average, and Perry deserves mountains of credit for the amount of hard work she’s clearly put in to making a cracking pop record. But if we can just make one request: Can that bloody blue wig please be banished forever?