Katy Perry's Prism is not Teenage Dream.
She made that point abundantly clear from the moment she first announced her new album, symbolically burning the blue wig she wore during her "California Gurls" phase, then literally laying the era to rest at a mock funeral. This was probably inevitable — after all, Katy isn't the same person she was when she released Teenage Dream (shattering records tends to have that effect) — though that didn't make her reinvention any less surprising. Most times, artists follow up the biggest album of their careers with, well, more of the same.
So, if Prism isn't Teenage Dream, what is it? Seems it depends on who you listen to. Some see the album as Perry's most complete (and competent) statement to date ... while others view it as a less-than-satisfying departure from the saccharine sounds of her breakout disc. Ultimately, you'll decide for yourself — but with Katy's new album set to be released on Tuesday, here's a look at some of the early reviews.
"She sounds like a woman, and an artist, who's finally found herself."
Sure, Katy may have moved on from Russell Brand (or at least that's what John Mayer hopes), though there's no denying that their relationship — and subsequent divorce — informs and inspires the songs on Prism. Though it's the way she uses those tough times that has earned praise from several critics.
"After the traumatic break-up of her 14-month marriage to British comedian Russell Brand, Katy Perry warned her record label to expect some 'dark' material. But, as fans of her mighty new empowerment anthem, 'Roar,' are now well aware, by the time she got into the studio, the pop star was 'already shaking off the dust' and ready to let rip," Helen Brown writes in a five-star review of the album for the Telegraph. "Perry finds her strength and individuality in her raw vulnerability ... Through a mix of electropop bangers and power ballads, [she], takes us through the marriage. The album ends with the tender 'By the Grace of God,' in which Perry hauls herself up from the puddle of tears on the bathroom floor and, staring into the mirror, resolves not to 'let love take me out that way.' She sounds like a woman, and an artist, who's finally found herself."
"Katy's superpower, now more than ever, is minting songs so relatable that their insights quickly scale up to inspirational," Nick Catucci adds in Entertainment Weekly. "Perry's point of view isn't completely universal, of course. So it's practically a revelation when she rides the bass-drenched beat on 'Dark Horse,' featuring Juicy J. And she even raps on the irresistibly bouncy 'This Is How We Do,' not to prove anything, but because her ode to partying till sunrise and 'sucking real bad at Mariah Carey-oke' seems to demand it. Katy Perry aims to please. But now she grasps that she's making the mainstream, not just swimming in it."
" So-called maturity, of course, has its downsides."
Of course, there are those who think Perry's newfound inspirational streak (and increased focus on "spirituality") have detracted from her music. Some critics have openly pined for a return to her candy-colored "California Gurls" heyday ... and, as you can probably expect, they've got their problems with Prism.
"While the pop confections of 2010's Teenage Dream could practically rot your teeth, [new] songs like 'Birthday,' a sexy and playful disco nugget reminiscent of early Prince, are offset by slightly more brackish fare," Sal Cinquemani writes in Slant magazine. "So-called maturity, of course, has its downsides, and can easily be confused with banality. The slew of midtempo pop songs that line the back half of Prism are certainly preferable to phenomenal trash like 'Peacock' or 'I Kissed a Girl,' but they're also much less fun to balk at."
"Some of Teenage Dream's sunny effervescence remains intact here ... but Perry and her longtime collaborators Dr. Luke and Max Martin often go for a darker, moodier intimacy à la high-end Swedish divas Robyn and Lykke Li," Jon Dolan writes for Rolling Stone. "Perry has always done a great job of letting us know she's in on the joke of pop stardom. Sadly, she doesn't always bring that same sense of humor and self-awareness to the joke of pop-star introspection. 'I thank my sister for keeping my head above the water/When the truth was like swallowing sand,' she sings on 'By the Grace of God.' A California girl should know that there are better things to do at the beach."