Katy Perry - Witness
Despite promising first single ‘Chained To The Rhythm’, Katy has somehow lost her identity and fun factor on a forgettable and by the numbers fourth album.
I’ve always enjoyed Katy’s music, she has some of pop’s biggest hits and one of it’s finest albums in the record breaking ‘Teenage Dream’, that’s not to mention that she puts on one hell of a live show, so as you can imagine I was looking forward to her fourth album, after all it’s been nearly four years since 2013’s Prism, an album which despite not reaching the greatness of ‘Teenage Dream’ could still be considered a step in the right direction, unfortunately Witness is no what I expected or wanted.
‘Chained To The Rhythm’ took a few listens to really hook me in when the first single was unveiled earlier this year, but when it did, it really sunk in it’s claws, I truly thought we were in store for a stellar pop album, the rest doesn’t manage to hit those first single highs unfortunately. It’s unlike any album Katy has attempted yet that’s for sure, it’s clear from just looking at the glaring cover that this is a completely new direction, she’s shaved all her hair to a very short, bright blonde look, she’s covering her eyes, she’s changing her image and ditching the playboy style look Katy Perry usually goes for. the change in style isn’t just superficial though, it’s gone for a much more different sonic feel.
‘Dark Horse’ from Prism is most definitely the foundations of the new album, most of the first 10 tracks stick to a heavy club styled beat with forgettable verses mixed in with the title repeated continuously over the chorus, it’s scarily devoid of any personality and they all feel annoyingly similar, the title track ‘Witness’ is actually a great start, it allows Katy to stretch out her vocals on the pre chorus and the chorus itself is incredibly catchy, with a beat that clicks along, never once is it overpowering and keeps Katy central to the listener, unfortunately from there it’s downhill, ‘Hey, Hey, Hey’ and ‘Roulette’ follow a formula which you’ll hear frequently throughout, Katy sounds like she’s practically speaking her verses before the auto tune kicks in, the generic EDM club beat and then of course the title repeated throughout the chorus, this also applies to later tracks ‘Deja Vu’, ‘Power’ and ‘Tsunami’ just to mention a few, the latter even using the lyrics “Just let me ripple until I’m wavy”, Instead of cool it just ends up sounding like your aunt painstakingly trying to be young.
It may sound like I’m being overly critical but I can’t understate how generic and forgettable those dance tracks come across, it’s annoying because this album does show some terrific signs of quality when it strays from the normal, ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ is seriously one of her best pop songs to date, not only insanely catchy but it’s also extremely relevant and has a strong but not overpowering political message.
Katy is also incredibly talented when it comes to her ballads and this is where the album shines brightest, the first moment comes with ‘Miss You More’, it’s use of auto tune is very creative, and it has a soaring chorus in which you can really feel the emotion behind the track, it has a personality and that’s what makes it stand out amongst it’s surroundings.
Other singles ‘Swish Swish’ and ‘Bon Appetite’ both stand out due to their guest features, Nicki Minaj is truly on form as she steals the show on the former, unsurprising considering Nicki saves her best rhymes for her various features (see Kanye’s ‘Monster’ for pure fire), Migos are clearly only placed on ‘Bon Appetite’ because of their current soaring popularity, hence why they’ve been featured with practically everyone at the moment, the tracks food pun’s and word use are more cringe than clever unfortunately.
It’s at the end with the slower numbers that Katy once again show’s off that talent, the highlight of the album has to be ‘Save As Draft’, it’s a powerful ballad that’s not only touching, it manages to soar whilst stripping back the auto-tune, you can literally hear her voice crack in the chorus, it’s easily one of her most emotionally stirring studio performances to date, I can’t wait to hear this live, it’s frustratingly good, it shows how much promise this album could have had if it was more evenly split between club banger and emotional moments.
The album ends on one of those emotional moments with ‘Into Me You See’, a piano led ballad that echoes a song you wouldn’t find a miss in a big Disney movie, the piano is surprisingly dark and downbeat as the chorus drops before those high uplifting keys that show hope pick it right back up, it’s an effective technique and another brilliant showcase, It’s just a shame it all seem’s to come too late.
Witness for me is more frustrating than anything, when it soars it truly showcases some of Katy’s best skills and her brilliant vocal ability, that’s however when the album decides to take a risk which annoyingly it decides against for the majority of it’s near hour runtime, it’s because of this that the opening tracks feel like such a slog to get through, you’ll check to see if the track has changed as one club based generic pop song leads into another, it’s the late second half of the album which will truly have you either dancing with joy or crying alongside Katy, the rest unfortunately won’t having you do much more than shrugging your shoulders.