Image: Katy Perry
It’s been 10 years this month since Katy Perry released her iconic record, Teenage Dream. Heralded as one of the greatest albums this millennium, Perry broke the record for the most Multi-Platinum singles from one album, placing Teenage Dream as the second album in history to produce five number-one singles and marking Perry as the first female artist to do so. Since then, Perry has embarked on world-wide sold out tours, released another two albums, and earlier this week welcomed her first child with fiancée Orlando Bloom. Now, the singer has kept to her promise of making “two deliveries this summer”, and released her new record, Smile.
Opening with Perry’s 2019 hit, Never Really Over, this is the first taste fans receive from Perry’s sixth studio album. The upbeat song, co-written with Australian musician Hayley Warner, navigates the possibility of a reconciliation between former flames. On the track, Perry reminds us of why she is a formidable force in pop music.
Cry About It Later and Teary Eyes are sonically darker moments on the record, where Perry sings of going to the club to mend her broken heart and dancing through the pain. On Cry About It Later, there are lyrical callbacks to the singers 2010 track, The One That Got Away. On the latter, she sings of her ex-partner having their tattoo removed, and that she is no longer their muse. On the former now she is, “ready to be someones new muse. I think I’m ready for a brand new tattoo.”
The albums lead single, Daisies, is a mid-tempo track which juxtaposes the usual upbeat and bubbly nature of Perry’s previous lead singles. The track is a call to have faith in yourself and to be self-empowering, regardless of what others say. The song has taken on new life this week, with Perry giving birth to her first child, Daisy Dove Bloom. Resilient continues the self-empowerment thematics of Daisies. The song touches on some of the darker times Perry has experienced over the last couple of years, however on the track she knows her strength and her worth and won’t let others’ perceptions and ideas of her phase her.
Not The End Of The World is a standout track on the record. It has E.T. and Dark Horse energy and is Perry at the top of her game. Her commanding vocals in the chorus and the insanely catchy melodies remind us why Perry has broken records throughout her career. The trap inspired track samples Steam’s 1969 hit Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.
Smile, Champagne Problems and Tucked create a disco trilogy on the record. Title track Smile is an 80’s inspired feel good track which makes it impossible to keep still. The self-love anthem touches on failures and rejections and coming through on the other side, smiling brighter than ever. Champagne Problems continues the 80’s vibes, and marks the first love-song on the record. The upbeat dance song references getting through the hard times in a relationship, coming out the other end stronger. The track uses the phrase “champagne problems” as a metaphor for the only problems Perry and her partner encounter are superficial. On Tucked the singer exposes her fantasies, that she keeps tucked away in the depths of her mind. Try to not dance along to the upbeat disco-dance track complete with a stellar guitar riff.
Harleys In Hawaii is a surprise edition to SMILE’s final track list. Perry released the song last year as one of many standalone releases. The track was inspired by the singers time in Hawaii with her fiancée Orlando Bloom. The relatively pared back, slow burning summer track, expertly exhibits Perry’s versatility as a vocalist. The vulnerable and intimate Only Love is a pure and shining moment on the record. Perry is open and honest on the conversational song, where she navigates wasted time and what is important to her at this stage of her life and what she does not want to leave unsaid.
The album closes with What Makes A Woman which sonically and melodically sounds like the sequel to Perry’s 2008 track Thinking Of You. The track lists common assumptions and definitions of a woman, however Perry fights this, saying that it is impossible to define a woman, no matter how hard you try. The record ends with the line “There it is, Katheryn”, referring to Perry, whose real name is Katheryn, finally getting her smile back.
The euphoric dance record is a new turn for Perry, leaving behind the huge hooks and bubblegum pop sounds of the past. Underneath the club beats and big pop sounds, there’s a vulnerability to the collection of songs. The overall conceptual thread of Smile is self-empowerment and self-love, pulling yourself out of darkness and shining bright. Is Smile a call back to the tracks that catapulted Perry’s career to legend status? No, and that’s a good thing. There’s ten years of life between Teenage Dream and Smile. Perry is showing maturity and bringing all that life experience into her latest collection of songs. Whilst some tracks incite more excitement than others, the record is a cohesive exploration of new avenues for the singer.
Smile is out now!