KATY PERRY, “WITNESS”, ALBUM REVIEW: Artistic Evolution

Fuck, Katy Perry’s new album is so beautiful.

Listen “Miss You More” and “Save As Daft”. The breathtaking melodies wash tired hearts and heartbreak souls. The infinity of “Witness” and “Roulette” gives new wonder what’s the world beyond the beautiful songs. Immediately two thumbs up as the songs go by.

And her voice is more powerful and more straightforward than ever. Her emotional voice dramatically expresses the world of lyric with comfortable vocal range on each song.  Especially, her vocal performance at “Miss You More” is perfect. Her voice is strong and sorrowful on point. Its climax is very dramatic and makes tearful.
Katy Perry’s voice is magical. Her voice is not so charismatic but easy to identify and has a rich volume of voice. Her dynamic vocal makes a clear difference with the majority of pop idols. Her vocal style is rock with strong driven power despite many of her songs are pop, and the contrast with pop melodies was interesting. And Katy Perry is an all-around singer to be able to fit with many types of songs. This time, her voice is pretty good match with mature music that made a departure from sweet pop.

Many fans won’t be satisfied with Katy Perry’s latest release, Witness. Basically, fans are conservative. The majority of fans have a hard time to accept if an artist tries new things. Katy’s new album is far from the list of her ordinal party songs. She clearly took a departure from colorful candy pop. Listeners can’t dance with this album. Witness is more a listening album.

Change is a risky business for musicians. Number one reason is their music skills are truly tested by their changes. If their new challenges fail (meaning their new music is bad), they can risk their musician life. Number 2 is again, fans are conservative. Many fans don’t give a fuck about quality if music direction makes a big change. A good example is Beyoncé. 4 album brought confusion to her fans. Many Beyoncé fans couldn’t accept her fourth album because the album was much toned down compared with her 1st and 2nd albums with the parade of hit dance songs. But actually, 4 has the highest quality ever that Beyoncé exposed her high artistry. Same with Sasha Fierce. Many fans would choose 2 because of “Single Ladies” and the rest of dance tunes, but her artistry was very high with 1. Beyoncé’s expression skill was beautiful. Both 4 and Sasha Fierce 1 had strong inner energy in the slower melody. Those aren’t dance albums but still maintained a strong identity as Beyoncé. I never mean all slow music is beautiful and better than dance songs. Indeed, there are many good dance songs, and Beyoncé has created many high-quality dance tunes. And she took her change.
Musicians have a freedom to do whatever they want to do because they make music for their own expressions, not to meet the demands from fans. So change is not a bad thing although difficult. The important thing is whether the artists keep their musicianship, identities, and faith. And their skill to create a good album with their desire of new direction. Beyoncé is the successful example of her own artistic evolution with amazing albums as the results and proof. But fans won’t understand easy.

Here comes Katy Perry, risking her career she has built by changing pretty important parts of herself with her fifth album; the style of album and even appearance. Witness is more toward adult pop, not girly pop. From sunny California to misty London. And her new appearance with short blonde hair is…Annie Lennox. Brave her new challenge. Controversy is a must.

But I don’t think Katy Perry’s music changed to the moon from sun. The overall album impression is changed but she has had the similar type of songs with Witness album throughout her career. Examples are “I’m Still Breathing” from One of the Boys, “Teenage Dream”, “Who Am I Living For?” and “Pearl” from Teenage Dream, “Unconditionally” and “By the Grace of God” from Prism.

And 3 bonus tracks of Katy’s last album, Prism.

I feel interesting. I sincerely wished her future direction would be similar to those 3 bonus tracks (“Spiritual”, “It Takes Two”, and “Choose Your Battles”). It was because the best part of Prism was actually 3 bonus tracks of its deluxe version. Being much more artistic, the bonus tracks were musically more mature than the rest of cheerful party pop on the main side. Katy’s attractive vocal was more stretched with messages. I don’t care about the tabloid side, but Katy’s musical chemistry with John Mayer was perfect on “Spiritual”. I thought she didn’t include those 3 fantastic songs on the regular version because they were far different with her normal pop-rock music style. The majority of fans would be disappointed if Prism was the same direction with bonus tracks, but I thought it would be interesting if she followed the direction of those unknown beautiful songs. That would be a truly testing of her evolving musicianship if she did although I loved Katy Perry since her debut (I think she is an unordinary musician). She proved that she was amazing with the different style of music with the three bonus songs. Whether she would go for it or not, it was all depending on her guts. She would have nothing to lose after securing halftime of Super Bowl and successful stadium tours. Katy’s fifth album would be a safe turning point after phenomenal success if she would change.
Though that was all my fantasy.

I never expected Katy Perry would really do with Witness album.

To describe simple, the album cover tells pretty much everything about the music of Witness. Sci-fi-tic, future-tic, cybernetic, cosmic, galaxitic…they’re the key melody themes of Witness. And most importantly, Annie Lennox look-alike image (…I think black long hair is a good fit with Katy though her natural hair is blonde). Many of the songs in Witness are the products of adding Katy’s comical flavors and American taste on Annie Lennox and Eurythmics music. Resemblance usually means bad on the music because of the lack of originality. Usually. But I don’t think Witness case is bad. First, congratulation to her voice and strong persona. If she sings, it’s simply Katy Perry. Her own unique pop-coquettish flavors blossom all over the album no matter what songs she sings. And all songs are pretty good. Maybe many people will say what the hell I’m talking about. If fans seek colorful candy pop songs or dance songs like “Hot N’ Cold”, “California Gurls”, “Dark Horse”, or the entire first album, Witness will be a complete disappointment because Katy Perry’s new album doesn’t have such song. The album even doesn’t have summer anthem. “Hey Hey Hey”, “Swish Swish”, “Chain to Rhythm”, “Bon Appetit” and “Pendulum” are the only “relatively” uptempo songs out of 15 tracks that inherit traditional Katy’s pop but not vivid, rather monotone. But that doesn’t mean that songs are bad with the new album.  I don’t find an average song or less quality. Starting with sci-fi-ish “Witness” with beautifully mysterious yet washing melody like the pure river stream then powerful cosmic & Euro melody in mid-tempo “Roulette”…those are the big scale songs that inherit Prism’s bonus tracks with mystical melodies. Between those two songs is catchy and powerful “Hey Hey Hey” close to Katy’s ordinal pop songs. One of the highlights is “Swish Swish” with Nicki Minaj. Nicki’s creepiness creates a good chemistry with this urban dark dance pop. Nicki contributed a good job to the song. “Miss You More” and “Save As Daft” are so sensitive and directly touch even big guy’s, heart. Each song’s quality and song orders are perfect to make the album more attractive.

The high-level sound quality definitely contributes Witness being dramatic and expand the scale of each song. Katy Perry should have invested big budget in the sound production, I haven’t listened the super-rich sound recently even the sound quality has been increasing year by year.

I consider Witness is accomplished with the craft songs. It’s not hard to imagine that Witness focuses more personal side of Katy Perry than any other her albums, including Prism, her personal album after divorce. If she originally thought about making Prism a dark album, Witness replaced that original idea. The dark and mellow melodies are sublimated to the beauty of music.

Brave Katy’s new challenge. This is her new departure to music independence for her own evolution and better musicianship without minding feedbacks and popularity.

OVERALL POINTS: 91/100

  • Songs: ★★★★+3/4
  • Originality: ★★★
  • Thrills: ★★★★★
  • Song orders: ★★★★+3/4
  • Vocal: ★★★★+3/4
  • Background: ★★★★+3/4
  • Production: ★★★★★
  • Strong songs: “Witness”, “Hey Hey Hey”. “Roulette”, “Swish Swish”, “Miss You More”, “Save As Draft”

EXTRA (NOT COUNTED TOWARD THE OVERALL POINTS)

  • Title: C
  • Album cover: D

KATY PERRY, WITNESS

*Cover photo source: Katy Perry, Witness, album cover

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