×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Album Review: Katy Perry’s ‘Witness’

“Witness” is the confessional album the world has been waiting for Katy Perry to make. And her admission is this: She’s indomitable and awesome. In “Hey Hey Hey,” one of the leadoff tracks, the singer positions herself like a seasoned PR pro: She’s “a hot little hurricane, ‘cause I’m feminine and soft, but I’m still a boss… Marilyn Monroe in a monster truck… I smell like a rose and I pierce like a thorn…” The message is clear: Perry may get off on playing with the archetype of the fleshy pinup girl, but underneath it all, she wants you to know she has a six-pack hard-body soul.

The braggadocio comes front-loaded as, minutes later, in the single “Swish Swish,” Perry’s indulging in tag-team temerity with guest rapper Nicki Minaj. Though this was rumored to be a mutual Taylor Swift diss track, it’s less about subtext, and more of a general superiority complex at play here: “I’m a courtside killer queen, and you will kiss the ring,” snaps Perry.

Not even three songs into “Witness,” you might be asking, wasn’t this supposed to be Perry’s socially conscious album? “It’s a new era for me … of purposeful pop,” she recently promised, referencing the trauma of the 2016 election, which influenced her new music. And you do get a hint of that awareness or humility, eventually, in “Bigger Than Me.” It’s just slightly ironic that in the album’s first single, “Chained to the Rhythm,” she took some subtle digs at a narcotized population that just wanted to dance through the election, because for most of the rest of this album, she’s pretty chained to the rhythm herself.

“Witness” is by far Perry’s most electronic album – ready-to-wear cuts for the clubs, minimal remixing required – but for the thump-thump-thump pop radio of 2017, not the ages. Producer Dr. Luke, the previous mainstay of her career, is gone, and with him the slight rock edge he brought to guitar-driven tracks like “Teenage Dream.” The only holdover from her previous hits at all, at least for more than a song, is executive producer Max Martin. He brings his B+ game to the five tracks he takes a primary producer credit on. But it’s not until the penultimate track, when Jeff Bhasker (currently a hero for his Harry Styles sonic makeover) steps in for one lone track, the infectious “Pendulum,” that your ears perk up, because it has some swing to the rhythm and, with a real bass player and choir, sounds like it was actually touched by human hands.

There is fun to be had here. If you don’t chuckle involuntarily over at least some of the over-the-top oral-sex metaphors of “Bon Apetit,” there is a good chance Perry’s dad is your pastor. (The less ludicrous female-sexuality symbolism of “Tsunami” sounds like something Prince would’ve made Vanity cut as a B-side.) The more earnest stuff that comes to dominate the second half is a mixed bag: “Save as Draft” is a fine warning not to email under the influence of obsession. But maybe she should have killed-as-draft the mawkishness of “Into Me You See,” or returned it to its apparent original author, Yoda.

What we don’t have here is the kind of obvious smash to which all of America would plainly say: Baby, you’re a firework. But the album counts at least as a sparkler — the kind you hold in your hand for 45 seconds in the summer, if not the enduring, inset kind Marilyn extolled.

Album Review: Katy Perry's 'Witness'

More Music

  • Adam Lambert Libertine show, Front Row,

    Adam Lambert Does Double Performing Duty on 'Idol' as New Winner is Crowned

    A new “American Idol” winner was crowned Sunday night, but not before Adam Lambert returned to the stage for the season finale for a pair of performances that included his new single and a duet with eliminated contestant Dimitrius Graham Sunday. The show concluded with Louisiana teen Laine Hardy showered in confetti as he was [...]

  • Beyonce Emilia Clarke

    Emilia Clarke Worried Beyonce Would Hate Daenerys After 'Game of Thrones'' Final Season

    After eight seasons as the Mother of Dragons, “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke has a lot of celebrity fans. But the most impressive? Probably Queen Bey. In a New Yorker interview posted after Sunday night’s series finale, Clarke revealed that she met Beyonce at an Oscars after-party hosted by the musician and her husband, [...]

  • Zia McCabe, Brent DeBoer, Courtney Taylor-Taylor,

    Concert Review: The Dandy Warhols Need No Confetti at 25th Anniversary Show

    When the Dandy Warhols released their first album in 1995, the year’s bestselling record came from Hootie and the Blowfish. Suffice it to say, a lot has changed in the music industry and the world since Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Peter Holmström met in Portland, Oregon and decided to form a band. Yet on Saturday night [...]

  • John Mayer Madonna

    The College Dropouts: John Mayer, Madonna Among Music Stars Who Didn't Graduate

    It’s commencement time at colleges coast to coast, which means seeing successful musicians at podiums receiving honorary degrees — among them, Justin Timberlake at Berklee College of Music and Jon Bon Jovi at the University of Pennsylvania. But the music world is full of stars who never matriculated and still managed to come in at [...]

  • ‘Hitsville: The Making of Motown’ Acquired

    ‘Hitsville: The Making of Motown’ Acquired by Showtime for U.S.

    Polygram Entertainment, Universal Music Group’s film and television division, along with Capitol Music Group, Motown Records and Fulwell 73 announced today that “Hitville: The Making of Motown” has been acquired by Showtime for release in North America with plans for a fall premiere, and Altitude for theatrical release in the UK and Ireland. The feature-length [...]

  • Dimitri Vegas

    Dimitri Vegas Talks 'Rambo V: Last Blood' Role, Working With Sylvester Stallone

    Dimitri Thivaios, better known as dance music’s Dimitri Vegas, is taking his skills beyond the DJ booth, picking up a major film role in the forthcoming “Rambo V: Last Blood.” The Belgium-born Thivaios, who headlines massive EDM festivals like Tomorrowland with his brother Michael (they perform under the banner Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike), has [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content