Katy Perry is the hottest pop star in the world. She has as many number one hits from a single album as Michael Jackson, the Interwebs claim she’s worth $44 million, and she’s starting her own record label. Her 3D popdoc Part of Me, while not a runaway success, recouped its $12 million budget in two weeks, proving that she’s profitable in just about every realm of the entertainment industry. I’m assuming the Katy Perry video game, where she kills drug dealers and gets loaded on the Sunset Strip, is just around the corner. Hopefully, she’ll avoid the comic book industry but you never know.
Why am I writing about Katy Perry? Last weekend I saw Part of Me in the theater and loved it. I know it sounds stupid but I enjoy the popdocs. I despise Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga but loved their foray into the documentary. I think it’s the spectacle of it, viewing what everybody else obsesses over while I sit in my own world, listening to old records, reading, and watching movies very few people care about. It keeps me connected to the cultural zeitgeist, aligned with the mainstream—even if I think the mainstream is sometimes inane. And yes, Katy Perry’s music is extremely stupid, but infectious.
Take, for example, her song Peacock: “I wanna see your Peacock-cock-cock, your Peacock-cock.” The whole song is about a dude’s penis. Finally, towards the end of the track he whips it out and she exclaims, “I just shed a tear.” What the hell is going on? Why is the hottest pop star in the nation, whose records sell to millions of tweens and teenage girls, singing about pressuring somebody to whip their dick out and crying when it happens, like she’s found the Virgin Mary’s face in a chicken nugget?
The whole aesthetic for Perry’s latest album, Teenage Dream, and the tour featured in Part of Me, is candy themed. In Part of Me, Perry discusses how her parents are Pentecostal ministers, travelling around and speaking tongues across America. Raised in Santa Barbara, California, Perry’s early life was sheltered: Lucky Charms weren’t allowed in the pantry because luck is the devil; The Wizard of Oz has a wizard, therefore it’s of the devil; Alice in Wonderland is demonic, and I’m certain they thought Alice was tempting that cat with her short skirt and innocent routine. It’s no wonder she left home at 18, headed for Los Angeles, and became a regular fixture in the party scene. Her breakout single, I Kissed a Girl, was a grandiose act of rebellion against her reverent parents; it was also a number one single.
However, Perry’s career didn’t happen overnight. She started her career as a gospel singer, releasing a record at 15 on Red Hill Records (a Christian record label). From there she honed her trade in Southern California and was first picked up by Columbia Records where she floundered for a few years until Capitol Records poached her. Capitol believed in her vision, although I’m not sure exactly what vision they were agreeing with: young girl dressing up like a child and selling drunken promiscuity?
After a string of number one singles she finally released a movie a few weeks ago (mentioned above) and this is where I come into the story. My only experience with Katy Perry is hearing her saccharine pop dribble at my old job, where it played every 45 minutes in-between Rihanna and that horrible “Call me Maybe” song. I’d see the trailer for Part of Me every time I went to the movies, laughing and saying, “hell, I’ll see that for a good laugh.” Be careful what you say as it tends to come true and I found myself in a deserted theater with my friend laughing at the testimonials her fans sent in about how Perry isn’t afraid to be herself and challenge normality. Really? Dressing up in a candy-covered outfit, complete with a cupcake bikini and red cherries for nipples, challenges normalcy? If anything, the visual aspect of Perry’s material tows the party line, where Americans are told sex is bad…unless it’s for procreation or has a price tag on it.
After watching Part of Me I realized two things:
1. Katy Perry is like Michael Jackson—with her desires to embrace what she missed during childhood—except nobody beat or molested her (that we know of).
2. There’s something seriously wrong with this lady and she needs psychoanalysis.
When grown men and women go to comic conventions or shops and spend their money on action figures or other collectables they’re labeled geeks. Yet when Perry does it everybody wants to be her or fuck her. I don’t see the difference, as both are trying to reclaim something from their youth, yearning for a part of their childhood long past. The only difference is Perry is paid millions to do this and people who purchase action figures are stereotyped as mouth breathers still living with their parents. Maybe if geeks started going to the gym for three hours a day and wrote songs where Marvel figures were allusions for orgasms maybe the tides would turn. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen (please, dear readers, make this happen).
I guess my main complaint about Katy Perry is the combination of imagery, where she’s sold as a sex symbol but dressed up like a child. If Brittney Spears was selling jailbait then Perry is selling pedophilia. After all, who else dresses up like Candy Land and jumps around singing asinine songs but five-year-old girls? In the album One of the Boys there’s a picture of Perry sitting in a kiddy pool with a rubber duck trying to look sexy (see the picture to the left). This juxtaposition, where she’s dressed like a sex object but surrounded by infantile objects, suggests she’s a sexually active little girl, looking for some man to be her daddy. Ok, maybe that was a bit much, but if looked at from a Freudian perspective, Perry is the embodiment of the Ophelia Complex (in Freud), also knows as the Elektra Complex by Jung, where a woman is trying to constantly win her father’s approval. Considering Part of Me claims Perry’s songs, image, and art direction are all her own she’s really putting herself out there for critique. I’m sure academia will have a field day with this in the near future.
As if Perry’s songs (like TGIF, which discusses partying too much, having a three-way, and waking up worried about herpes) and videos weren’t proof of hyper-sexuality coupled with juvenile imagery there’s always the end of Part of Me. In the final concert scene, Perry grabs a large candy cane striped hose (phallus) and sprays white foam all over the crowd. Basically she’s cumming on a crowd of teenage girls, who are eating it up in a frenzy of collective hysteria, and it’s getting all over their faces. Afterwards, she shoots glitter all over them, because Katy Perry’s cum sparkles like Twilight. And it’s all in 3D, so the crowd is experiencing a dry version of having Perry toss a load all over you. Amazing.
At this point you probably think I hate Katy Perry but you’re wrong. I love her music, referring to it on a regular basis as the equivalent of Nazi marching songs but for consumerism. Basically, you’re supposed to put on one of her songs, march right down to the mall, and purchase as many fluorescent colored Miami shirts as you can from American Apparel. If anything, Perry’s good for the American economy, sending droves of suburbanites into a frenzy for the cheap clothes sold at Forever 21 or Wet Seal. We need a good stimulus and maybe Katy Perry is the answer. Maybe she’ll create more jobs than Obama. Regardless, Perry’s music is fun, mindless pop and as my friend says, “she’s great for when you’re at the gym.”