Katy Perry is a changed woman. Well, kinda. For her fourth album under the Perry name – let’s pretend her god-bothering 2001 debut ‘Katy Hudson’ never happened, eh? – she’s attempting to bring a little more meaning to her music. Speaking about the album earlier this year, she proudly stated: “I think it’s definitely a new era for me. I call it an era of purposeful pop.”
The all-new ‘woke’ Katy isn’t just about giving you decent things to dance to on a Friday night or up-tempo fluff for your gym playlist. Instead, she’s pushing the sleek, chart-friendly empowerment of ‘Roar’ and ‘Firework’ even further, into socially aware electropop territory, like ‘The Fame’ period Lady Gaga doing an evening class at SOAS.
First single ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ nailed the diva-with-a-discourse vibe, fusing an intensely catchy chorus with lyrics that muse on apathy and ignorance. ‘Bigger Than Me’ might not be as big a belter, but her heart’s still in the right place as she muses on her placein the world over icy, shimmering synths: “If I’m not evolving / I’m just another robot / Taking up oxygen.”
The compelling ‘Hey Hey Hey’ sees Katy dressing up Lorde’s languid, spacious sound, adding some serious girl power – “Because I’m feminine and soft / but I’m still a boss” – and using the kind of retro-meets-trashy Americana imagery Lana Del Rey would be proud of, calling herself “Marilyn Monroe in a monster truck”.
Calling in Nicki Minaj’s fast and furious flow for the Fatboy Slim-sampling ‘Swish Swish’, meanwhile, is something of a master stroke, turning a good song into a great one. The high-end guests continue with ‘Bon Appétit’, which features Migos and sees Katy dropping the personal politics to sing about the glory of shagging. And why not? Sure, ‘Witness’ isn’t about subtlety, but if you’re going to deliver important messages about female autonomy to a young audience, it’s surely better to shout than whisper.