In Praise & Defense Of Katy Perry
It’s a widespread myth that all women talk about is men, but there’s another conversation we’re frequently having in-between blurbs about being hungry, if it’s still rosé season, IUDs and careers—and that is which pop star speaks to us most. It might seem silly, but it’s fucking not. Every woman needs a pop song to drink wine to, and there are plenty of factors that influence our allegiances.
Obviously there’s the general sound, but in today’s age of internet feminism, Max Martin and autotune, all of the pop princesses are putting out some glossy, feminist-charged stuff, it comes down to packaging. Do you want your pop laced with cyanide and laser-beams, like Taylor Swift’s? Do you want the mysterious, vocal-running baby sounds of Ariana Grande? Are you a bad gal, like RiRi? Are you a non-interview giving, let them eat cake brand, like Beyoncé? The options are endless. And somehow in the midst of pop becoming a respectable genre again, its crusader, Katy Perry, lost her top spot like the other Boleyn girl—and I’m here to tell you that you’ve been bowing down to the wrong divas.
Obviously Katy Perry is still exponentially popular in the way that mega stars are, but she’s been cast out as a cartoon, and as quirky so often that she’s somewhat lost her credibility in the conversation of who has the most import. Which is ridiculous. Katy Perry resurrected pop from the early aughts doldrums, and we give her no thanks. She was shooting whip cream from her tits, and giving us the freshest pop anthems since Mariah, while Taylor Swift was still pretending to play the banjo, and Beyoncé and Rihanna were just coming into their most recent incarnations as envelope-pushing, secret of the universe-knowers.
Katy Perry didn’t need to manufacture romantic failures and cat fights for Teenage Dream to get off the ground. And Katy Perry arguably also reinvigorated the idea of a pop record being more than just that, but also having cohesive branding behind it so that it becomes a complete experience—something Beyoncé didn’t really try out until 2013’s Beyoncé, and something you could argue Lady Gaga was doing, but on a much more fringe level. And that’s why Teenage Dream is arguably one of the best pop records of all time, and yet somehow Katy Perry gets labeled as ditzy and detached.
The reality is that Katy Perry doesn’t seem to be afraid to be earnest and unsafe, in an era of few missteps, and the tight, god-like control of management teams as big as royal courts. Anthems like “Firework” and “Roar” are much less self-centered and advantageous than hits like “Shake It Off, “We Found Love,” and “Flawless,” but because of that sparkly sentiment, they get less air time. It’s not lost on me that honestly “Shake It Off,” “We Found Love,” and “Flawless” are genuinely better pop songs, but at the same time Perry’s anthemic hits get much less respect because of her willingness to be less contrived about the whole thing.
But there’s one area in which Perry wins over stars like the contrived Swift, untouchable Beyoncé, edgy Rihanna and hard to connect with Grande—it’s with fans. Obviously all of the aforementioned stars have dedicated legions of fans that will most likely declare fatwas with me on Twitter for this whole Perry-festo, but whereas Taylor seems to feed off fans like the PR-succubus she is, and Beyoncé is so high up it’s almost hard for her not to condescend downward, Perry has an honest-faced accessibility.
Case in point — her Instagram. Instead of hired hand, on staff photos, she has a more laid back approach (even though the photos are likely still professional and posted by assistants. I’m not that naive). But instead of gilded tour photos, and highly controlled glimpses into her life, she is a bit, I guess, more real. She eats pizza in Moschino. She holds up peace signs with foreign fans. She is seemingly enraptured by an aquarium. And she gets political.
The last of which I think most recently set her a world above other pop stars. It’s already been highly publicized that Perry joined Hillary Clinton in Iowa at a pivotal moment in the campaign, to support her candidacy and also celebrate both of their birthdays. Both icons, one political, one cultural, filled feeds with photos that can only be described as timeless, in our somewhat time-irreverent present. A photo of the gold “POTUS” necklace that Perry gifted Clinton is indicative of Perry’s innate knack for capturing our world’s hashtag-centric spirit, while putting a spin on it that is both classic and humorous.
What really made me think about the incident as more important that a PR move for either party though was what Perry posted earlier this week. She waited until after the buzz had died down to in a way, debrief the moment for us in an Instagram photo of her and Clinton on stage.
🎂Happy Birthday🎂 to our next great leader @hillaryclinton !!! This past weekend, I was honored to be able to sit down with Maya Harris, one of HRC’s senior policy (aka plans for the future) advisors before joining the stage with Hillary the next day. I wanted to be more informed and educated on her plans and dreams for our country. I never want to be a puppet, and always want to feel my own purpose and ownership in everything I do. Maya and I, and some of my closest girlfriends, had the most incredible, eye-opening 3 hours of conversation about the future. We went over so many points and asked the hard questions on everything from gun control to birth control to health care to affordable education to a realistic approach in finding the middle class again. I was never raised with economic privilege and found money to be the main source of pain for my own family growing up, so I understand why there is a need for such change. I am still learning and educating myself on the world of politics and searching for every strand of authenticity buried deep in it. What I heard and experienced this weekend empowers me to believe that real change is possible and on the way! Ladies! There are so many incredible opportunities for us that are possible: equal pay, paid leave (you don’t lose your job if you want to have a family) and YOUR choice to have a family when and if it’s RIGHT FOR YOU! These are just some of the reasons I am standing with her and will continue to do so. Next year’s election is one of the most important ones in decades, and the choices we make will have a profound effect on women for years to come. So, I stand with her for my daughters and their daughters, and beyond what time gives me. Get informed, get involved and become empowered! Strong women help create strong families! ❤️ See link in bio for 📷 from the weekend👗 by @bcompleted
I think it’s very hard to argue with that level of sincerity, and it is something that we don’t expect from any other pop star but her. It is honest and revealing in a way that most other pop stars refuse to be. Her statement is the best antidote as well to all of the fodder about her perhaps being a little less intellectual than other stars. Nothing negates people alleging that you’re unintelligent than exemplifying your willingness and effort to learn.
More than anything, the whole weekend encapsulated what is true about Perry, and only Perry, as a pop star: she isn’t afraid to be somewhat transparent with us. Yes, Taylor took on Apple. But that was arguably a power play in the midst of her rise to being “the most powerful 25-year-old on the planet.” This posits something different, a genuine desire to use fame as not a platform, but a probe.
I am not saying that Katy Perry has never made a mistake, is perfect or free from rebuke. I am saying that her brand is undervalued. And it is still just that: a brand. Despite all of the earnesty and “realness” I just spent the last few paragraphs espousing to you in Perry’s name, she, just like any other pop star, is still operating a corporation of sorts.
At that same event for Hillary that launched her thoughtful remarks on the election, Perry debuted multiple Hillary-centric versions of her trademark over the top outfits. She was her expectedly eccentric self. Perry goes for theatrics, where Taylor adamantly goes for girlie sex appeal (something that she is perhaps doing because it is new for her). Perry goes for animation, where Beyoncé goes for regal-ness. Perry goes for excitability, where Rihanna goes for edge. It’s all preference, really, and in reality they’re all playing the same game. But like a vote for Hillary, I think a vote for Katy is what’s right for America.