I decided to post a review below of "Prism", mostly intended for people unfamiliar with the album (posting it in this forum so that people who aren't members and do a google search can find it). I'd also be curious to hear what people here think of my review.
I have been a fan of Katy Perry since 2009 when I first heard "Hot n Cold." I became a bigger fan of hers a year later when she released "Teenage Dream." As I have posted about before, the title track of that album has special significance to me, and has helped me feel a personal connection to Katy. I also really enjoyed the other singles from that album, especially "Firework." I gained even more admiration for Katy in 2012 when I saw the "Part of Me" movie, and learned much more about her past and present personal life. After seeing the movie, I correctly predicted that with her next album, she would move in a more mature, adult contemporary direction. An early hint of that direction were the 2 new hit singles from "Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection": "Part of Me" and "Wide Awake". These two singles showcase both her tough side ("Part of Me") and her vulnerability ("Wide Awake"). In fact, both of those songs would have fit in very well with the "Prism" album. Two major themes in "Prism" are inspiration / empowerment ("Part of Me") and introspection ("Wide Awake"). In fact, Katy seems to have been thinking the same way as me. The first act of her "Prismatic World Tour" was titled, appropriately, "Prismatic", and included both "Part of Me" and "Wide Awake", along with 3 inspirational songs from "Prism".
The biggest strength of "Prism" is the diversity of the album. It includes many fun dance songs, along with several introspective ballads. It includes throwback songs ranging from the 70s to the 90s. It contains several inspirational songs, as previously mentioned. It includes a few Christian-influenced songs, and even a song with a unique Indian arrangement. If you are under the impression that all of Katy Perry's songs sound the same (which is not even remotely true), this should be a pleasant surprise. This album should contain something for everybody. If you don't like one song on the album, give another one a try; you should be able to find something that you like. The album is best suited for people who enjoy a diversity of musical styles and eras.
When Katy Perry first began talking about this album, it was widely reported that it would be a "darker" album. However, it did not turn out that way, and the album was entitled "Prism" because it lets the light in. This album is definitely not a dark / angry album. If that is what you were expecting, this is not the album for you. On the other hand, if early reports of "Prism" being a dark / angry album turned you off, you should give the album a chance.
"Prism", combined with Katy's previous albums, shows off the versatility of Katy's voice. She is clearly capable of singing in many different styles. Katy's voice has a very soft and pleasant quality, combined with a lot of power and a lot of range. Katy uses those qualities very well in this album. To my ears, I find Katy's voice to be very soothing when I am stressed, regardless of the song. I find that I can even listen to her songs just to appreciate the pleasant sound of her voice.
"Prism" is available in 2 versions. The standard edition contains 13 songs. The deluxe edition contains the same 13 songs, plus 3 bonus tracks, for a total of 16 songs. I definitely recommend the deluxe version. The 3 bonus tracks are all very soft but with catchy arrangements, which suit Katy's voice very well, and is a combination that works very well for her. These 3 songs also all have very positive messages, and to me, "Prism" is not complete without them.
If I had to have one complaint about "Prism", it would be the order of the songs on the album. The first half of the album is mostly fun dance songs, and the second half is mostly introspective ballads. I would have preferred to see it mixed up a little more. The one exception is the very beautiful power ballad "Unconditionally", which appears early in the album (Track #5). It could be seen as too many dance songs in a row, and too many ballads in a row, which in both cases can somewhat detract from the individual songs. In my opinion, the two best ballads are "Unconditionally" (which, as I said, appears early in the album) and the extremely personal and powerful "By the Grace of God", which is Track #13 (the last song on the standard edition), which can give a somewhat bland feel to much of the second half of the album. And, given the short attention span that most people have these days, by the time one gets to the ballads in the second half of the album, it's easy for one to have lost interest. Just a minor complaint. You can always listen to the album on shuffle, or play the songs in whatever order you want (maybe try listening to the happy track "Birthday" immediately after the more somber "By the Grace of God").
Now, for a track by track review of the album.
1. Roar: This inspirational, empowerment anthem starts the album off on a good note, and sets the tone for the rest of the album! This is a song that encourages people to stand up for themselves, and to not give in to bullies. Although the media frequently describes this song as a female empowerment anthem, Katy Perry herself has said that this song is intended for both genders. There is no gender-specific language in the song. At the "Prismatic World Tour", a video shown before the concert showed children of both genders. In any case, this is a message that both genders need to hear. These empowerment anthems (such as Roar, Firework, and Part of Me) are a definite strength of Katy's, and are an excellent use of her voice. Katy's voice is powerful enough that these songs come across serious and sincere, but her voice is also soft enough that they don't come across as angry.
2. Legendary Lovers: This is another excellent, and very unique song! This song has a very unique Indian arrangement, and is not like anything else currently being released. I mostly enjoy this song for its aesthetic quality: the Indian arrangement, Katy's voice, and the imagery in the bridge "Take me down to the river, underneath the blood orange sun . . ." which puts a beautiful and romantic image in my mind. The rapid fire verses also make this song a lot of fun, and I'm amazed at how clear Katy's voice is in those verses. I am honestly not sure what the intended interpretation of this song is. Various sources have various sexual or religious interpretations, or some combination of the two. Part of me (no pun intended) wants Katy to explain her intended interpretation of the song, while part of me wants her to leave it open-ended so that I can just appreciate the aesthetic quality of this song. I really hope that Katy decides to release this song as a single so that it reaches a wider audience, who will hopefully appreciate its uniqueness.
3. Birthday: This is a very fun 70s disco throwback song! The arrangement is sure to please anyone who grew up during that era, or anyone else who can appreciate music from various eras. This is probably the most risqué song on the album, although it is quite mild compared to what other artists are producing those days, and even compared to songs on Katy's previous albums. The lyrics are sort of a double entendre that can be interpreted about a birthday party. The only somewhat explicit line in the song is "let me get you in your birthday suit". Everything else is quite time, since any sexual interpretations would go over a kid's head, who, as I said, would interpret the song as being about a birthday party. One other thing that I really like about the song is that I find it quite touching that Katy sounds so happy in this song after a difficult time in her life.
4. Walking on Air: This song continues the multi-decade dance party theme, and is a 90s throwback dance song! I was born in 1979, so I was a teenager during the 90s, so this style of song brings back a lot of memories! I suspect that this song would be primarily of interest to people from my age group, but anybody who can appreciate music from other eras should enjoy this one! Like other songs on this album, various sources have various sexual and/or religious interpretations of this song. Honestly, I do not think that this song has any deep meaning (neither sexual nor religious), and it's just intended to be a fun, feel-good dance song. Just picture all of your problems and stress melting away when you hear this song. Vocally, Katy shows a lot of range in this song. There is also a gospel choir near the end of the song, which adds to the vaguely religious imagery in the song, but again, I wouldn't look too deeply into it.
5. Unconditionally: This is one of the best songs on the album, and Katy herself has said that this is her favorite song on the album! This is a very beautiful power ballad which shows off Katy's vocal abilities, perhaps more so than any other song that she has ever released. As I said earlier, Katy's voice has a very soft and beautiful quality, combined with a lot of power, and this song shows off both of those abilities, and is probably how her voice is best used. The lyrics are a very good message about accepting and loving somebody unconditionally, despite their flaws. Another thing that makes this song so great is the universality of the message, how it can be interpreted about being about any type of love (love within a marriage, love between a parent and child, love between a person and God, love between Katy and her fans, etc.), which should help just about anybody relate to the message, regardless of where they are in life. I also like to think of this song as a more mature sequel to "Teenage Dream", since they both deal with unconditional love and acceptance. I find that listening to "Teenage Dream" immediately followed by "Unconditionally" to be a very powerful experience. The only "negative" to this song, if you want to call it that, is that after hearing this and "By the Grace of God", you are spoiled for any of the other ballads on the album!
6. Dark Horse: This is a very unique song, which includes hip hop influences. It contains a verse by rapper Juicy J. I'm not a fan of rap, but in this song, the rap verse works well. This song is very different from what you would typically expect from Katy Perry, but it somehow works, and it does work very well for her voice, for something different. Various sources have some truly bizarre interpretations of this song. In my opinion, the song is about commitment within a relationship, and is a great example of a fun song with a positive message. The term "dark horse" refers to an unexpected winner, so perhaps the song is referring to falling for someone unexpectedly and being in a serious relationship with that person, although there are no lyrics to suggest that.
7. This is How We Do: This is probably the weakest song on the album. There is nothing wrong with the song: it's a clean, harmless, feel-good party song, and it is a good song to listen to when stressed out. However, there is nothing uniquely "Katy" about the song; it could have been sung by anybody. Nor is it anything that Katy hasn't done before. The shout outs near the end of the song are fun, although the shout out the people who are "buying bottle service with their rent money" really is not funny. One line that I wonder about is, when she has the shout out to those "going to bed with a 10 and waking up with a 2" and Katy says "not me", is she trying to say that the guy she was with at the time is always a 10? Or was she trying to say that she would never be in a position where she would do drunk pre-marital sex? The line could go either way. The "bring the beat back" ending is clever.
8. International Smile: This is another one of the fun songs on the album. The lyrics are based on a smile being a symbol with the same meaning internationally, and is definitely something meaningful to Katy, given how her career has taken her around the world. Not much more to say about this song; it's just a fun, feel-good song.
(Continued in Next Post)