Okay, so Katy Perry (potentially) has the biggest song of her career readied for release, it’s got big vocals, big production, big hooks, and big message, the whole shebang, and then she go and botches up the release date. -Slow clap.
You see, round about a month ago, Katy Perry appeared on this quite popular telly show called The X Factor and done sung a little tune going by the name of ‘Firework’, which then caused the album version to high-tail itself up to #2 on iTunes just a day later (from #489). And it’s been consistently in the Top 6 downloads since, peaking at #3 on the Official Single Chart to date. But still, you can’t help but get the feeling that if she’d waited a little later, she may have got that #1 that ‘Teenage Dream’ was deprived of for four long and arduous weeks. Anyhoo, none of that matters because now we have the single release and even though the single version is not even in the Top 100 on iTunes, the album version is still at #6, so this is good stuff, until you take into account the song that is currently showing it’s rather unappealing rear to Katy, ‘Like A G6’ is at #5.
And now onto the song in question. It’s clear Katy’s gone and helped herself to a bit of “Anthem of Empowerment” juice that very few people ever bother with these days, you know the flavour – the kind that makes you feel better about being you and who you are, instead of dwelling on what you’re not, and on top of that, it congratulates you for it and then celebrates you for what you are and who you’re not afraid to be.
It’s quite a dangerous area of music to play around with really, because there are always stereotypers who will classify it as a cheesy, confidence-boosting, “Gay Anthem” and be done with it. But the thing is, is that it’s very hard not to accidentally produce those kinds of songs, you could be talking about X, Y and Z and it’s instantly a Gay Anthem before you even release it. The only other act this year (that I’m aware of) who has tried this kind of release (and boy did they succeed) were Scissor Sisters, with ‘Fire With Fire’, which was hideously underappreciated as far as it’s sheer magnificence goes, however, with Katy’s popularity at an all time high there’s no chance of this one slipping out of the Top 10 any time soon.
On the plus side, ‘Firework’ doesn’t come across as one of those cheesy anthems of empowerment adopted by the LGBT community at all (á la Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I Will Survive’ or Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’), and instead combines… ermm… ‘interesting’ lyrics with a monolithic chorus ridden with hooks and a thumping, driving beat.
Even if the first line is deeply underwhelming – “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?”*, ‘Firework’ opens out into a fiercely empowering song without once giving the impression Katy’s just crammed down a bag full of Cathedral City. She bellows over the production – one of Stargate’s finest – to one of the biggest choruses of the year. it’s also nice to see Katy behaving for a change, and like the ‘Teenage Dream’ video, there’s not a squirty cream bottle, a zebra, or gummy bear in sight.
However, you do, or at least I do, at about 0:38, feel like the original melody has sort of jumped ship and Katy and Stargate have swapped tinny synths for some warming, beefy cellos for the bridge. And another thing that I find slightly distracting is that, apart from the heavy beat and Katy’s voice, the chorus is quite simply consisting of a basic melody provided by the strings. But then again, I feel like it paradoxically compliments it for the most-part because anything more complicated would result in a cluttered feel to the track. And once the chorus hits, these earlier issues are but distant memories and seem like snobbish remarks that only snobbishly snobby snobs being snobby would make as Katy wails at the top of her lungs – “Baby you’re a fiiiii-[5 seconds]-eerrrwork”, hitting that all-important “Anthem Level of Loudness” that all songs must conform to if they are to be considered so, according to the law of me.
And then when you think it’s over, Katy makes you feel even better about yourself with the middle eight, claiming you can shine “brighter than the moon, moon, moon”, which may seem like another of her kittenish innuendos but it’s not. So there. Now, feel good, please.
Here’s the video. It’s one o’ those with a gert big message innit? But hey, it’s also pyrotechnic breasts.
It’s one of the best singles of her career so far, and most definitely the one with the most substance. Katy shows that she’s fully grown up, both lyrically and musically**, even if she is singing far beyond her own capabilities.
Rating: 4.5 STARS
Download: November 15, 2010 (OUT NOW)
Featured Album: ‘Teenage Dream’
*Why… yes I do, actually. ALL. THE TIME.
** I wouldn’t get too used to it. Her next single is the woeful ‘Peacock’. OMG I MIGHT DIE.