By Sterling Wong
It’s fair to say that when you set aside the once-in-a-generation phenomenon that is Adele and 21, Katy Perry is pretty much the leading pop star in the world right now. One-and-a-half years after its release, the star is still breaking records left and right with Teenage Dream, as “The One That Got Away” became Katy’s 6th (!) single from the album to hit No. 1 on Pop Songs chart.
With the kind of unprecedented success that Katy has enjoyed with Teenage Dream, it’s an understatement to say that expectations are high for her next album. Can lightning strike twice? Will she be able to come up with pop nuggets as juicy as “Teenage Dream” or “Last Friday Night”?
Complicating things is Katy’s recent divorce from Russell Brand. Many a star has released a more mature, introspective album after a divorce – think, for example, Mariah Carey and her soulful masterpiece, “Butterfly” – so can we expect a darker sound and deeper lyrics for Katy’s third album?
It might sound like a stretch to imagine the girl who sang “Ur So Gay” and “I Kissed a Girl” coming up with something like, say, something like Alanis Morisette’s Jagged Little Pill, but remember that Katy actually has a gospel music background. Also, she once worked with producers The Matrix back in 2004 for what presumably would have been a more Avril-sounding album, so clearly, she’s able to do more than frothy pop.
Compounding the possibility that Katy will diversify her sound for her next album is the fact that she can no longer work with her long-time collaborator Dr. Luke (producer of “I Kissed a Girl” and “Hot N Cold, and all the Teenage Dream singles), because the hitmaker signed a deal that ties him to working with Sony artists only, while Katy’s on EMI. This means that Katy would be compelled to seek out new producers, potentially venturing into new sonic arenas.
It was the case with Rihanna, who after her own dark incident, explored edgier sounds on Rated R with a whole bunch of exciting producers like Chase & Status, StarGate, The Dream, Ne-Yo and Brian Kennedy and garnered plenty of critical acclaim from it. Surely, no one had expected that the girl who did “S.O.S” would come out with something as dark as “Russian Roulette.” Rihanna and Katy are close friends, so if Katy were to take musical cues from somebody, who better to follow than her BFF?
The newly single Katy also turns 28 this year, so this is the perfect opportunity for her to take a deep dive artistically and transition away from bubble gum pop toward more mature musical fare. Pain, while unpleasant, often ends up as the catharsis for the greatest works of art – Mariah’s “Butterfly,” Alanis’ Jagged Little Pill – so here’s hoping that Katy will draw from the struggles of her divorce something artistically inspired.