As far as major pop stars go, Katy Perry has always been one of the least interesting. Sure, she has a song about a tipsy lesbian encounter and she did marry Russell Brand that one time, but ultimately Perry is a reliable pop factory, manufacturing track after track of radio-friendly hits that, while catchy and successful, lack the distinctive personality of say, Rihanna or Beyoncé. A lot of Katy Perry tracks sound like they could be sung by anyone, her vocals having all the charm of a bland, autotuned foghorn.
Perry has form for chart-topping but rather predictable lead singles. They’re uptempo and bouncy, surefire number ones destined to be played at bad nightclubs long after they’ve left the radio playlists. But the lead up to Perry’s new single, ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ suggested a departure from all of this. The tasteful blue and pink promo shots showed none of the lurid, gaudy flare that Perry has been known for since her debut single. Rather this suggested something more mature, muted even, the powdery colour scheme hinting at a sound that was more vaporwave than EDM.
So now ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ has dropped, how many of these assumptions were right? Well, in many ways, this is the sound of a new Katy Perry. ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ does feel like a more adult track than Perry’s previous output that has tended to rely on shocks, sex and overblown choruses to hit that coveted number one spot. Here, Perry sounds more like she’s trying to make a song that will endure the test of time rather than a flash in the pan novelty track that will be embarrassing to perform in a few years’ time. ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ might lack the punch of ‘I Kissed A Girl’ or ‘Firework’ but it makes up for it with its stylish production and wry lyrics about disillusionment. Katy Perry is woke now, by the way.
While Perry’s new track is new territory for her, it covers no real new ground, its 80s undertones and reggae-lite flourishes reminiscent of recent singles by Sia and Rihanna. But no one really expects – or wants – Katy Perry to be groundbreaking. What we’ve come to expect from Perry is fun, catchy, bubblegum pop. While the likes of Bey, Rih and Gaga are off experimenting, pulling out all the stops to bag some Grammys, Perry is the star we can rely on to stay loyal to pop purity.
‘Chained To The Rhythm’ is a success because it tweaks the Katy Perry formula just enough to keep it fresh without derailing itself entirely. It’s new but it’s ultimately the same – colourful, hook heavy dance pop that’s the same old fun but now with a pinch of added woke. And in today’s depressing world – isn’t that enough?