Five Hundred Words on Katy Perry’s “Firework”

Let me be clear: it’s not that I hate Katy Perry’s “Firework.” I just think there are better pop songs out there at the moment doing the same thing it’s attempting to do, and doing it better.

“Firework,” if you’re not familiar, is the third single from Perry’s second album, Teenage Dream. Following up on the silly fun of “California Gurls” and the oversexed end-of-summer title track, “Firework” is described well by Derek Steen as one of Perry’s most “important” songs. Its message of inspiration and empowerment (emphasized in the effects-laden music video for the song, directed by Dave Meyers) is a nice enough sentiment, but the song itself is, as I described it in my review of Teenage Dream, “[a] standard-issue mid-album filler track.”

If pop music lovers out there are looking for inspiration to be themselves, to let their freak flags fly as it were, then there are far better and more fun songs to turn to in this early part of 2011.

First, there’s “Raise Your Glass,” by P!nk, a song which not only implores listeners to “raise [their] glass in [they] are wrong in all the right ways” but also actually enacts that which it is describing, with P!nk flubbing the lyrics at one point and letting the song go on anyway. Also, the video for the song, also by Dave Meyers, is much more fun than the clip for “Firework,” and much more light-hearted, which is something every freak and geek needs a lot more of in their life.

Then, there’s “Map of Tasmania,” by Amanda Palmer. The most explicit and vulgar (I guess, depending on your perspective) of the three, it is also the one I would recommend above all others. Deriving its title from an expression referring to the pubic region of the human female, it also begs listeners to embrace their otherness, but it does so with a ukelele and a thumping dance beat. And, really, what’s not to love about that? The video for the song, directed by Michael Pope, is the least polished of the three (and, again, the most explicit), but it’s worth watching. Like “Raise Your Glass,” it’ll have you chuckling, and really, isn’t the whole point of tracks like these to put a smile on your face?

So, that’s that. Let your freak flags fly, dare to be different, and all that jazz. But just keep in mind that the soundtrack to your personal liberation need not be limited to the one song you hear on the radio a whole bunch. Go exploring. Find other freaky flags you identify with. March under their banners for a while. And hey, if you’re a musician, why not record your own ode to individuality as part of this month’s RPM Challenge? Seriously, if you have something to say—anything to say—to the kid out there who needs to know he or she is not alone, then you better fucking say it.