Progression is important in an artist. If there was some kind of sheet that kept record of an artist’s musical endeavours whereby boxes would be ticked if certain things had been done and left empty if not, then “Progression (e.g. lyrical, musical maturity)” is one that, in Katy Perry’s case, could be left blank without any real thought having to be expended. And when considering the majority of her sophomore album, especially moments where she feels the urge to come out with something like – “You make me feel like I’m losing my virginity”, or “I wanna see you peacock-cock-cock”, you can certainly fathom why.
But there are rare moments on that very same album where the box labelled “Progression (e.g. lyrical, musical maturity)” can be ticked. One of those moments would be ‘Pearl’, another, to some extent, would be ‘The One That Got Away’ or even ‘Not Like The Movies’. However, ‘E.T.’ falls somewhere in between those two extremes.
Not quite the full-blown electropop party tune á la ‘California Gurls’ or the more rock/pop-orientated ‘Teenage Dream’, or even the empowering electro-stomper ‘Firework’, ‘E.T.’ is Katy Perry on literally, and no pun intended, alien ground. Sure, there’s the same eccentricity all Katy’s singles have had, but, like ‘Teenage Dream’, there’s no obvious gimmick involved. Put simply, it’s a very surreal, dramatic piece of futuristic pop. It’s good to finally know Katy’s moved away from releasing controversial songs like ‘I Kissed A Girl’ and ‘Ur So Gay’ just to get noticed. We should be thankful for this, for at least it’s reassuring that she’s not comparing her lover to… oh, I don’t know… some kind of electronic kitchen utensil. Oh dear, I hope this isn’t giving her ideas.
Anyway, moving on to the shameless inclusion of one Kanye West and another one of his egotistical “poems”. And it appears to me his presence on the song is about as useful as a spherical die. By that I mean, at first it seems like an innovative idea that’ll enhance the normal format – it’ll definitely help her sell more in the US – but ultimately the end product doesn’t really do what it should; it just ends up being another list of the things Kanye is and Kanye can do. And considering he’s just completed his finest work to date in the form of the all-too-often self-indulgent ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’ (which he references in this song), his two verses on ‘E.T.’ are something I’d expect the likes of Flo Rida to come out with: derivative rubbish that does absolutely nothing for the song but and, if anything, detracts from the authenticity of Katy’s excellently re-triggered vocals and monotone production. Proceedings start to find themselves balancing between visually off-putting and downright laughable when Kanye mentions “What’s next?/Alien sex” and above that, the line “I’m gunna probe you” is so arrogantly clichéd it near-on destroys the whole song as you find yourself realising he’s just embarrassing himself.
Here’s the video: I really should say, instead of video, “Here’s the visual masterpiece”, as that, in it’s shortest form, is what it is.
I realise comparisons are going to be drawn, by those too narrow-minded to think that there’s been more than two videos made “in space”, about how it shares quite the resemblance to Lady GaGa’s ‘Born This Way’ video. Well, you could argue, ‘E.T.’ pretty much had to be shot “in space”. ‘Born This Way’ didn’t.
This song is one that’ll split opinion faster than Elly Jackson’s shrill wail or Mika’s shrieking falsetto: some are calling it a worthy contender for Katy’s fourth single release and others dubbing it a waste of time and, by looking at that video – a truckload of money. For me though, it’s genius. However, Kanye’s inclusion has tainted the song and left me feeling like something that was perfect has been spoiled in an attempt to make it more marketable, and that’s not what real music is about: it’s about a love of music, it’s about innovation, credibility and above all else – progression. The authenticity and nuance-coated genius of the original version had plenty of those qualities, none of them relying heavily dependent on singing talent.
Rating: 4.0 STARS
Download: April 3, 2010 (OUT NOW)
Featured Album: N/A [the original, Kanye-unassisted version appears on ‘Teenage Dream’]