Katy Perry’s Perfectly Calculated TEENAGE DREAM

The assault of Katy Perry this summer has been perfectly executed. It began with the summer ridiculousness of “California Gurls,” a silly, inescapable mishmash of pop bubblegum trash, Beach Boys references, and Snoop Dogg cameos, with the kind of playfully sexual video that Perry has made her forte. It has continued, over the past couple of weeks, with the title track from her new album, Teenage Dream, a sort of nod to songs like Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” with a chorus tailor-made for end-of-summer make-out sessions:

Let’s go all the way tonight

No regrets, just love

We can dance until we die

You and I will be young forever

And today we have the release of that aforementioned new album. Here are a few thoughts on what I think is a quite good follow-up to One of the Boys:

“Teenage Dream”

As a guy who had a lot of fun in his teenage dreams but not a lot of fun in his teenage reality, the title track hooks me straightaway. I also love Henley’s “Boys of Summer” and this really does feel like a close cousin to that song, especially when you consider it’s release date and the music video they’ve produced to accompany it.

“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”

“Think we kissed, but I forgot,” is probably my favorite lyric here. That, or the line about Barbies on the barbecue. This is a perfect follow-up to “Teenage Dream,” in that it speaks directly to the regrets we older folks often have the day after and evening where we try to be young forever. Also, it has a saxophone solo! Modern pop songs simply don’t do that. Sure, it’s processed all to hell, but…

“California Gurls”

There’s a line referencing Snoop Dogg (“Snoop Doggy Dogg on the stereo”) and pop radio stations still take out Snoop Dogg? They’re “sipping gin and juice” and they still take out Snoop Dogg? Yes, and I’m still pissed off about this.

“Firework”

A standard-issue mid-album filler track. Not terrible, but definitely a letdown after the first three.

“Peacock”

Katy tries to be Ke$ha and kind of succeeds. It’s one step away from Britney spewing “All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to / if you seek Amy”. I can’t decide if this is good or not.

“Circle the Drain”

Back to the good stuff after two disappointments. “Wanna be your lover / not your fucking mother” is a bit harsh, but it’s a great pop chorus: it sums up the theme of the verses in a tight, easy-to-remember package.

“The One That Got Away”

I’m a sucker for songs about what would happen “in another life”. This might have something to do with being told “some other time, some other place” during multiple break-ups, but I’m not sure. Also fun: making out to Radiohead. I mean, c’mon? How is that not adorable enough to win you over?

“E.T.”

There’s gotta be a name for the super-heavy beat that features in this song, but I don’t know what it is. What I do know is that I love songs that feature it. Also, Katy singing about making out with an alien? Sold!

“Who Am I Living For?”

A serviceable slow song with a heavy message, which seems to be about what you’d expect at track 9 of a mostly up-tempo 12-song pop album.

“Pearl”

The obligatory song on female pop records about some girl other than the singer and how used-up and broken she is, complete with Dr. Faustus reference: “She was a hurricane / But now she’s just a gust of wind / She used to set the sails of a thousand ships / Was a force to be reckoned with”.

“Hummingbird Heartbeat”

Nice synth hits recall the 80s sound that’ll hook me on pop songs until the day I draw my last breath. I could do without the blunter version of the “Like a Virgin” chorus that starts this one off, but that’s my only complaint.

“Not Like the Movies”

A decent ballad. I’m not a big fan of albums that end with a ballad (probably why I’ll always prefer the end of Pretty Hate Machine, which ends with “Ringfinger,” to the end of The Downward Spiral, which ends with “Hurt,” but I digress…) but I’m okay with this, since we got such an awesome up-tempo track just before it.

All in all, Teenage Dream is everything I was expecting from a ten dollar end-of-summer pop album. It’s up-tempo enough that I’ll be spinning it throughout the autumn, but not so up-tempo that I’ll feel ridiculous listening to it as the leaves are falling. Yes, it’s full of autotune, but I’ve come to accept that that particular piece of recording technology is just de rigueur for the era. In much the same way that Major League Baseball has had a Steroid Era, music is having itself an Autotune Era. It’ll pass, folks. Fads come and go. Until then, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that new music is being made at all in this age where musicians have very little financial incentive to produce anything new at all.