Katy Perry - Smile

Since 2008 Katy Perry has been a staple in pop music releasing hit singles one after the other from the rock guitar driven ‘Hot N Cold’ to 2017s trap and hip hop influenced ‘Swish Swish’. Perry has continually moved with the times to stay current and maintain her place as a contemporary pop megastar.

With that being said, this latest album ‘Smile’ has a rather non cohesive feel as it
attempts to emulate every genre that has topped the charts in the past two years with hit or miss end results.

Album opener ‘Never Really Over’ is a track that represents what Perry has done best in previous years, feel good pop that is perfect for the summer. This song harks back to hits such as ‘Roar’ with bright and catchy melodies but with fresh 2020 production and rolling triplet chords that drive the chorus forward.

The following two tracks ‘Cry About It Later’ and ‘Teary Eyes’ differ greatly from track one with a darker more bass heavy tone. These tracks blend into each other very well, perhaps a little too well as they share similar tonal and rhythmic ideas. The darker synth pop style suits Perry’s voice
really well and wouldn’t feel out of place on a euro house playlist. These tracks would be ideal for remixing and adding big synth heavy drops.

Another stylistic U-Turn follows with tracks four and five. ‘Daisies’ and ‘Resilient’ have a far more uplifting vibe about them. While songs about mental health and fighting through the hardships of life are important as they put a spotlight on such important issues, these tracks feel like Perry on
cruise control and her versions of ‘Stronger’ by Kelly Clarkson. A style that was cringe inducing in 2011 and definitely still is in 2020.

‘Not The End Of The World’ is a heavily trap influenced song. Many pop artists have tried and failed to cash in on the trap phenomenon and failed terribly, Katy Perry did a great job of this with ‘Swish Swish’ in 2017 and while this is another one of the better attempts at doing trap as a pop artist it does feel like she’s going over the same ground.

Title track ‘Smile’ fits nicely with the album opener and has a similar vibe to Dua Lipa’s most recent singles. The bouncy horns and guitar lines are welcome additions and the formant shifted vocals in the middle eight give this track a very contemporary vibe.

The second half continues to alternate between various pop music trends, ‘Champagne
Problems’ is another dark pop song that Perry nails and really should have been the running style throughout the album. ‘Tucked’ is a largely forgettable album track with a vocal hook that lacks character and movement, understandably it is buried in the second half of the album in between a
great song and single ‘Harleys In Hawaii’ which has latin and reggaeton guitar loops and melodies, the vocal performance here shows off Perry’s range very well.

The final two tracks ‘Only Love’ and ‘What Makes A Woman’ have uplifting and musical theatreesque characteristics about them as if they came straight out of the ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ soundtrack. Although they make sense in the track listing to close out the album being the more melancholic and soft songs, the melodies and instrumentation come off feeling cheap due to their shallow lyrics about love and strength.

The lack of cohesion on this album is easily the biggest flaw here. While the darker songs are most prominent and by far the strongest on the album, they are undercut by the phoney and uplifting cringe of other songs which unfortunately discredit the highlights of this album and make them seem like appropriations of other artists. Half of this album is amazing and filled with honest lyrics and polished production while the other half feels cheap and empty.

Ryan Bird

Smile is released 28.8.2020

Thanks to Warren Higgins at Chuff Media and Natalie Kalolita at EMI Records.