Few songs are as specific in their intent as Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” a precision-guided smart bomb of a single deployed by the tacticians at Capitol Records with one goal in mind: to positively decimate the summertime airwaves.
Yes, with its Coppertoned vocals, slinky, sun-drenched beat and odes to Daisy Dukes, bikini tops and Jeep freaking, “Gurls” is the dictionary definition of a summer smash, the kind of song you’re destined to hear blasting out of boom boxes and mega-clubs from Asbury Park to Zuma Beach. It’s no wonder that, when Perry debuted the single earlier this month, she did so by announcing, “Summer starts now!” The message, it seemed, was clear: Get ready for your favorite suntanning song of 2010.
But can Perry succeed in scoring the summer’s biggest hit ? We wouldn’t bet against her. “Gurls” was crafted by the best in the business (the hitmaking team of Max Martin and Dr. Luke, with an assist from Benny Blanco), features a cameo by none other than Snoop Dogg and, through some magical bit of studio engineering, seems to come scented with coconut extract. In fact, it wouldn’t be that huge of a stretch to call it “Hawaiian Tropic Gurls,” though that would eliminate one rather huge part of the song’s surefire success: the shout-out to the Golden State.
As Perry recently told Rolling Stone, “Gurls” is her answer to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind,” the tune that big-upped the Big Apple and became Jigga’s biggest mainstream hit to date. Turns out geography is a big deal to some folks (who knew?!?), and tunes that pay homage to a particular region’s most, uh, precious resources tend to resonate strongest. On her song, Perry coos about the “fine, fresh and fierce” Cali ladies with “sun-kissed skin” that generates enough heat to melt even the sturdiest of popsicles, and it’s likely that the more than 33 million people who call the state home will agree with her assessment — and download the song too.
It would appear Perry’s ploy is already working. Rush-released to radio, “California Gurls” bowed at #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart (her highest-ever debut) and sold more than 294,000 digital downloads in its first week of release, the second-biggest number for a female singer. Oh, and this is all before the high-gloss video — featuring Perry in a candy-colored menagerie of barely there beachwear — has even debuted.
All in all, it’s looking like this really could be Perry’s summer. Precision-guided or not, the success of “California Gurls” is undeniable, and the same can be said for its appeal. There’s a science to these sorts of things, after all.
Vote for the summer jam of 2010 in the MTV Newsroom now, and stay tuned all week for more on the hottest songs of the season.
Is “California Gurls” the song of the summer? Share your thoughts in the comments!