Katy Perry made sure everything was polished to perfection on Thursday night, as she previewed her upcoming Prism album to members of the New York media ... except, oddly enough, the songs themselves.
"Some of these are still rough mixes," she told the crowd. "Very rough mixes."
Of course, it's not like you could tell. Because from the venue (an artfully minimal event space in the Financial District) to the victuals (canapés galore), this was a very slick event, a trend that more than carried over to the music itself. Sure, Katy played just 10 of Prism's 13 tracks — the deluxe edition features 16, she informed us — but based on what we heard, it seems that her new album is destined to pick up where her last left off.
In fact, it doesn't seem as if she's strayed very far from her Teenage Dream formula, at least sonically (and really, why would she?). Like she told MTV News last month, there's really no darkness on Prism. Instead, the new songs are voluminous, playful, packed with hooks and brimming with studio shine.
"Birthday," which Perry described as her attempt at writing "something Mariah Carey would have put on her first record," is an upbeat jam that features her cooing "let me get you in your birthday suit," and ends with her coyly whispering "Happy birthday." The roller-skating jam "Walking On Air" — she actually wrote it after watching skaters in Central Park — pumps and struts on an actual Deep House groove, like something lifted from a Crystal Waters track, and "This Is How We Do" is a cocksure, club-ready banger.
"Dark Horse" — which improbably features Juicy J — grooves along on heavy bass, and "Legendary Lovers" simmers slowly before breaking out in an arabesque gallop. "International Smile" seems destined for the dance floors, as does "Love Me," a song she recorded with producer Bloodshy (one half of the duo responsible for Britney Spears' smash "Toxic.") In short, like Teenage Dream, the party starters are definitely not lacking on this album.
If there is a difference this time out, it's Perry's newfound maturity. It's not boring or brooding; it's worldly, carrying an almost refined quality. That's due in no small part to the fact that she recorded some of the album in Stockholm, with producers like Klas Ahlund (who worked closely with Katy's former tourmate, the sensational Swede Robyn), Greg Kurstin and Sia, with which she wrote the track "Double Rainbow." There are also a handful of slower, more complex songs on Prism, like "Unconditionally" (which Perry said was her favorite) and album closer "By The Grace Of God," a deeply personal ballad where Katy admits there were times when she thought about giving it all up.
Like first single "Roar," plenty of Prism deals with issues of empowerment, overcoming adversity and finding strength within one's self. That makes sense, given everything Perry's been through over the past few years, but you've got to give her credit for not going too far, getting too dark. She knows her lane, and she's staying in it, though she's definitely pushing the boundaries of her confines, and running faster than ever before.
At least that's what we gathered from one listen ... perhaps these songs will change when they're actually mixed, though we kind of doubt it. After all, as she's proved time and time again, Katy is a pro, and she knows the formula for success. It's one she seems ready to replicate with Prism.