Katy Perry Discusses Dipping Into ‘Age of Aquarius’ for ‘Never Really Over’ Video

At YouTube HQ, Perry talked about new-age motifs and revealed that, in this new musical age, the single doesn't necessarily foretell an album.

Katy Perry
Courtesy Capitol Records / Getty Images

Katy Perry unveiled the video for her new Zedd-produced single “Never Really Over” for a group of selected fans at YouTube’s L.A. headquarters Wednesday night. Think: Don Draper sitting in a field finding himself in the final scene of “Mad Men,” but with a lot more choreography.

“I would say that (in) this video, things that I’m touching on are kind of (out of) a time like the age of Aquarius, new age, esoteric, California, healing, hippie, medicinal — all of those key words!” she told the small group of “Katy kats” and industry guests in Playa Del Rey, after showing the video, before its unveiling to the world late Thursday night.

There’s a definite late ’60s/early ’70s motif to the costuming and flavor of the video, shot in Malibu but recalling the northern California heyday of Esalen. The colorful period aspects of the video didn’t mean that Perry meant to poke at the concepts of spirituality and self-discovery in a campy way. “Honestly these are the words that I’ve come to live by and type of things that I’ve wanted to incorporate into my way of life in the past five years,” she said. “And so I just wanted to put that into my music, and my video, too.”

Alternative medicine comes up in the video, and it’s not simulated. “I’m not sure that cupping has ever been in a music video,” she said. “Or facial acupuncture.” Perry had the needles modified to have hearts on the ens, but otherwise it’s the real thing. “The gal came by and said ‘Why don’t you put a hundred in your face?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ll just take 20.'”

The basic relational themes of the song are too unrepentantly regretful to qualify as new-agey, though, and the pulse of “Never Really Over” is a little too strong to count as meditative.

“I had worked on this song when I was on tour, and I don’t typically do that,” Perry told the fans, saying she strongly reacted when Zedd brought her a basic track toward the end of her last outing. “I injected my –isms in it. Specifically the lyric in the second verse that I really love is: ‘I guess I should try hypnotherapy / I’ve got to rewire my brain / Because I can’t even go on the Internet / Without even checking your name.’ And it’s one of those things where everybody’s like, ‘Yeeeah, exactly.'”

She elaborated on her web stalking history. “If you looked up my apps, looking up what I look at — not anymore, but in the past — it was a disaster. And I know you all understand that. You want to show someone something you saw on Instagram, but you’re like, ‘I’ve got to delete all these first, before I hand my phone over.’ It’s really just a song about the choices we have in life to take steps forward or backward, and how your mind is extremely powerful, and if you don’t take those steps forward, as hard as they may be, you can take a step backwards into a loop that you don’t love. … It’s also about acceptance, and the yin-yang of how you can’t ever get rid of the dark, but you can accept that maybe it was a lesson for you to get to the light.”

A fan’s question about her process in developing new albums led to a philosophical discussion about whether it’s necessary to have a new album. As she explained it, the appearance of “Never Really Over” doesn’t mean any full-length set is immediately waiting in the wings.

“Developing an album?” Perry said, echoing the question. “Geez. Everybody’s going to say, ‘Where is Katy’s sixth?’ That is like an inside fan joke, because Katy 5 has yet to actually be realized. You know, it’s amazing the time we live in. I think there are less rules about how you have to release music, and what we’re finding is that people just want music out. They don’t necessarily need it in a long format. They don’t necessarily have the time. We’d like to just put music out, and if there is a reaction — like, a good reaction, or a desire for more — there could be more.”

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Getty Images Courtesy Capitol Records

Her current emphasis, she said, “is just trying to stay honest — trying to be raw and vulnerable and always remembering that that is actually strength. It was super-easy to do when nobody thought that they knew me, (as opposed to) when you’ve just been around for so long that they think they know every single page in the book. As Natasha Bedingfield said, it’s still unwritten. Poet. But  I think that I’m always constantly trying to maintain authenticity, pushing a perspective, posing questions — and not shoving it down people’s throats. Like ‘Chained to the Rhythm,’ it sounded like a fun ‘Copacabana’ sound. Then if you listen to ‘Copacabana,’ it’s about a murder. And ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ is about being zombies in the craziness.”

Perry oversaw a drawing in which two fans were invited to get a tattoo simultaneously with her. Asked if these were Henna tattoos, she answered, “No, honey, we shed blood here.” The drawing took place over the sound of a loud fire alarm that went off as a result of the fire pit from the video being recreated in the YouTube lobby. “The song is fire. Sometimes my powers are too strong,” she quipped, before going into a freestyle dance-club verse to the rhythm of the alarm. She encouraged everyone to stick around and visit an aura reading booth that had been set up inside the space: “Get your aura read, and if it comes out black, please see someone else, outside, or say a prayer.”

The single and video of “Never Really Over” both premiere at midnight ET/9 PT on digital services.