By Gregory Hicks, Daily Arts Writer
Published October 22, 2013
In 2010, Katy Perry let loose an album that would shatter many a record with its single releases yet had a massive initial underselling in its first week. Three years later, Prism began taking form, and listeners weren’t about to repeat the mistake of overlooking another Perry record upon its debut. This begged the question, however, of how the Teenage Dream singer was going to satisfy a crowd that had come to see her as an artist capable of spitting out No. 1 after No. 1.
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After toying with the rumor that this fourth studio album would be a darker changeover from the happy-go-lucky dreams of Perry’s third record, the California girl settled for a less contrastable spiritual ambience as Prism’s overall flavor. The album’s divinity is readily apparent in the track titling (“Unconditionally,” “By the Grace of God,” “Spiritual”), but Perry’s revered lyricism tends to come in over-concentrated doses.
Prism’s straightforwardness carries major ramifications with respect to predictability. Take the record’s second promotional single, “Dark Horse.” Prism’s only dark track not only contains “dark” in the title, but also features every melodic sequence and sound featured at your local haunted house. Likewise, this spiritually characterized album actually has a track titled “Spiritual.” Perry’s motifs couldn’t be less subtle.
The “Firework” singer plays to her strengths on Prism’s purely jubilant songs — songs that (combined with the album’s ethereal tracks) constitute the record’s primary nuts and bolts. “Birthday” is Perry’s sequel to “Last Friday Night,” with a near-identical guitar strum, interrupted by sporadic bottle popping and an explosive finale. The lead power-pop single, “Roar,” is the album’s obligatory K.P. empowerment track, sporting an unorthodox bassline that proves to be surprisingly catchy.
The religious infusion gives a somewhat original take to this pop collection, but not enough to label Perry as anything other than easy listening. Time and time again, the former pop-rock singer brandishes a one-track mind with an appetite for No.1 songs at all costs. After One of the Boys, Perry henceforth became a hit-making machine, nearly incapable of working with anybody other than Dr. Luke and Max Martin.
Just because Prism aims to advertise itself as a religious pop album (by way of pointed track titles and excessive reverb) doesn’t mean Perry deserves thunderous applause for having a meager stylistic twist. The record is still just another Max Martin-Dr. Luke production, magnetized to the radio in hopes of the top spot for each single-worthy track. And if that top spot isn’t reached, expect a few hundred remixes until it is.
For music that’s allegedly so supernal, Prism shouldn’t feel so uninspired.