Katy Perry Is Still on Her Awesome Political Grind in Her New Video
2016 was the year that Katy Perry got political. Well, kind of. The singer always had a liberal streak to her, but before the most recent election that element of her persona seemed to be more for shock value than to make an actual statement (remember when she got famous with “I Kissed a Girl?” Good times).
Since she joined Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail last year, though, Katy’s politics have quickly been thrust to the forefront of her music and appearances… And if you thought that the end of election season would be the end of Perry’s foray into activism, think again.
Around February 7th, the singer started teasing a new single, “Chained to the Rhythm,” on her Instagram and Twitter. She let fans know that they could preview the new jam through a worldwide scavenger hunt to find disco balls hidden in different cities all over the globe. Then, on February 8th, she performed the song at the Grammys.
People were immediately hooked on—and surprised by—the aggressive political commentary on display both in the lyrics of the song and the imagery of the performance. I mean:
Persist armband? A white pantsuit? White picket fence with a cloud projection that turns into flames? Literal rose-colored glasses? The constitution projected onto the stage? It was hard to miss. That said, I think most of us thought that it was for the live performance, despite the song’s fairly obvious political undertones.
Turns out it wasn’t.
Like the absolute queen that she is, Katy didn’t hold anything back in the official video—and I’m not talking about the Hamster version. No, I’m talking about the full, “official,” version that dropped earlier today. Much like with the song’s official release and her Grammy performance, Perry has been teasing the video for about a week now, but I don’t think anyone was prepared.
In singature Perry style, the “Chained to the Rhythm” video is colored in pastel. Much like in Black Mirror’s season 3 opener, “Nosedive,” which examines the dark side of our worldwide social media addiction, the pretty pastels take an uncharacteristically dark turn in the context of Katy Perry’s video. The nostalgic styling and light pinks, blues, and yellows populate a sinister, dystopian amusement park with a distinctly 1960s-meets-future aesthetic called “Oblivia.”
There’s the “Greatest Ride in the World” (which ends up being a hamster wheel that moves too fast):
There’s the shout-out to the shifting norms surrounding of American family life:
There’s this apparent condemnation of heteronormativity and social media all at once:
There’s this apparent nod to 1984, the classic “big-brother” dystopian novel by George Orwell (the “1983” on the sign meaning that we’re on the cusp of a 1984-type scenario):
There’s this condemnation of war, American violence, and American aggression:
Oh, and this nod to the Dakota Access Pipeline Issue works on two levels. First, the proposed pipeline puts the water at Standing Rock at risk of being contaminated and literally becoming a type of firewater (as this gas filling station purports to sell in the video). The second is a nod to the racism at play in the issue since the term “firewater” was traditionally linked with “firewater myths,” or the historically racist lore (created by white colonizers) that the Native Americans were more prone to alcoholism due to an innate moral failing. Like, damn, Katy. Way to pack it all in there.
While the commentary may not be perfect—I’m positive that tons of critical essays will be published in the coming days, and I have some criticisms myself—it is important for what it is. It’s a wake up call and a call to action rolled into one and hidden in a pulsing club-reggae beat which, if we’re lucky, will inspire those who have been complacent so far to get up and do something to stop the injustice.
Take a look for yourself!
All in all, great work, Katy Perry and Skip Marley. Keep it up and #persist.