By Hayden Wright
Katy Perry’s fifth studio album Witness arrives today and fans clamoring for a listen will love the electronic soundscape. It might be the singer’s boldest album to date, embracing synthesizers and borrowing more from hip-hop and EDM than her previous mainstream pop efforts have dared.
Until now, Katy Perry’s greatest hits challenge listeners to feel more than think. On “Firework” and “Roar,” infectious melodies and dramatic production lift pat empowerment sentiments to a higher plane. “Hot N Cold” and “California Gurls” are ecstatic pop confections that don’t take themselves too seriously. “Teenage Dream” and “Last Friday Night” evoke real nostalgia without profound or belabored lyrics.
On Witness, Perry stretches to brainier destinations. On “Bon Appetit,” her PG-13 approach to sexuality earns its first R rating. Meanwhile, her more overt political inclinations take the form of self-styled “purposeful pop.” Here are the best songs on Witness:
The album’s opening, title track plays as an invitation and a statement of intent. Perry sings about romantic and creative uncertainty but invites fans along for the ride. Its complex soundscape signals a more experimental approach and it leaves the listener curious about what, exactly, they’re about to “witness.”
Perhaps the most “purposeful” of all the purposeful pop on Witness is “Pendulum,” a soaring manifesto that employs a gospel choir for maximum effect. Perry implores listeners to be themselves and forget the haters—and the lyrics evoke a kind of heroized Hillary Clinton, about whom Katy was inspired to make music.
“Save as Draft”
Katy Perry’s best songs convey something equal parts mundane and profound: On “save as draft,” she sings about drafting an email to a former lover and backing out of sending her true feelings. Perhaps Perry (a massive Britney Spears fan) has the singer’s iconic dot-com song “Email My Heart” in mind. In Perry’s story, she doesn’t hit “send.”
A side-effect of Katy’s promotion for Witness has been re-litigating her five-year beef with Taylor Swift. “Swish Swish” is red meat for feud theorists and features a killer Nicki Minaj verse. The house-inspired dance track makes the most of a Fatboy Slim sample.
On “Tsunami,” Katy tries her hand at moody, ambient synth-rock in the style of Tame Impala. The track echoes Rihanna’s cover of “Same Ol’ Mistakes” and challenges listeners with a more laidback approach to pop. It’s a very of-the-moment shout-out to New Wave aesthetics.