Generally speaking, Katy Perry’s music videos have served as slightly silly extensions of her larger-than-life pop persona. Clips like “I Kissed A Girl,” “California Gurls” and “T.G.I.F. (Last Friday Night)” are nothing if not exercises in candy-colored excess, and even her latest self-empowerment anthem, “Roar,” came with a campy, Jane-of-the-Jungle accompaniment.
So when she told MTV News that her new “Unconditionally” video would ditch a narrative and focus on “beauty and glamour,” well, we wondered what she had in store for us. Of course, now we know, because on Tuesday night, Katy unveiled the clip as part of “MTV First: Katy Perry ’Unconditionally.'” And needless to say, it’s different from anything she’s done before.
Because rather than go for laughs, Perry plays it straight … in fact, she’s essentially playing herself, adrift in a world of lavish period costumes (“Unconditionally” brings to mind films like “Dangerous Liasons” and “Anna Karenina”) and emotions cinched tighter than a girdle. This is truly her first music video that relies entirely on the power of the image; from softly falling snow and sinewy bodies entwined in one another to underwater photography and a genuinely staggering scene where a car crumples around her, there isn’t an overt message or an audience-pleasing plot. The visuals speak volumes.
In some regards, “Unconditionally” recalls the artfully staged work of director Tarsem Singh, and that car-crash scene will no doubt remind some folks of UNKLE’s mesmerizing 1998 clip for “Rabbit in Your Headlights.” It’s not in the same league as that video (or Singh’s “Losing My Religion,”) but the inspiration is readily apparent. Which is yet another reason this is unlike any work in Katy’s career.
There are no electric-blue wigs or orthodontically-enhanced teenagers this time out. Instead, like the majority of her Prism album, “Unconditionally” is about maturity, restraint, and struggle. Sure, it’s also beautiful to look at, though, for the first time, Perry is content to leave things at that. Watch all you want, and read the visuals however you see fit, but sometimes, art is merely meant to be admired.