No other pop career has been quite so entertaining to observe as Katy Perry‘s. A student of traditional pop, Perry knows that each album must be an era with new worlds, sounds and characters. Some have been triumphant, others have been catastrophic. As we near #KP5 and her new single Daisies, let’s take a look back at her biggest wins so far.
After power ballad Roar, fans may have been expecting something more upbeat as the second single from Prism. Instead, they got Unconditionally. It’s one of the most soaring Perry ballads in her collection with that chorus showcasing her voice in a way it rarely is.
19. If You Can Afford Me
The best Perry songs fall off the tongue like they took no thought at all. This One Of The Boys highlight does exactly that. It rolls on with ease and circles the head for days.
18. Part Of Me
After the whole Russel Brand debacle, Perry released a concert movie and rose to the top with this militant breakup anthem. It may have been the weakest single from the Teenage Dream era but given the context, it carries an extra power.
It appears we have accidentally chosen the weakest lead single from a Perry album. Roar is a mighty, uplifting ballad but it seems to have become more synonymous with sporting broadcasts than anything else and that never sits well with us.
16. I Kissed A Girl
Oop, another lead single. I Kissed A Girl launched it all for Perry and it’s easy to see why. It’s a punchy, charismatic pop song with one hell of a chorus. It’s hard to imagine it fairing as well now given the climate. Just ask Rita Ora.
15. Chained To The Rhythm
And another lead single in the lower parts of this list. Chained To The Rhythm was the first fallen domino that kickstarted a career-changing downfall. It’s not that it sounds bad. It’s a light, buoyant Max Martin smash but the lyrics are vapid. Perry’s attempt to invoke activism came off as an accusation that people weren’t as woke as her.
Prism‘s Last Friday Night (TGIF) wasn’t quite as good but it was still great. Perry is at her best when she’s dripping those vocals over sunshine-laden beats and this is a great example. Just a great, simple pop song with all the right bells and whistles.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find highlights on Witness but Roulette is a needle in a haystack. It’s one of just a handful of Max Martin moments on the record and their partnership proves to be fruitful once again. Roulette is a pulsating, tense exploration of forbidden romance that wins with drama.
12. Wide Awake
Another Teenage Dream add-on that was better than Part Of Me. It signaled renewal for Perry, putting behind a tumultuous personal period with a burst of positivity. It was a heartening send off to one of the most successful pop eras in history.
Every great pop artist has one song that can be played in any group of people and be received rapturously. This is Perry’s. It’s not her best song. It’s far from it but it’s a rousing burst of inspiration that might make you believe you are a firework if it catches you in the right moment.
10. Waking Up In Vegas
We forget now that Perry was once a ratchet party girl and we loved that for her. Waking Up In Vegas is a bleary-eyed party song that manages to double as a slap in the face for a man baby. Genius.
9. Dark Horse
Dark Horse is Perry at the peak of her powers. She was still clocking hits like it was child’s play and darting through genres as she pleased. This is one of pop’s first forays into trap and she pulls it off spectacularly. That bridge is an alluring, magical master stroke.
There are few popstars who could pull of a song that moves at a glacial pace like E.T. It’s a heavy pop song. One that hits with extreme weight but vocally, Perry is able to match it. She gives an intense performance that not only gets it across the line but sends it into space.
7. The One That Got Away
There was a strong element of nostalgia to Teenage Dream and The One That Got Away captures that best. It’s a simple toe-tapper but it doesn’t need to do much to feel good. Perry is a master at colouring the past positively and The One That Got Away is both sad and uplifting.
6. Walking On Air
It’s difficult to understand what was going through Katy Perry’s record labels’ heads when they decided not to promote this a single. A wasted opportunity to send ’90s euphoria back into the charts and, quite frankly, an act of homophobia.
5. California Girls
One Of The Boys showed us Perry could bring the aesthetic but Teenage Dream took it to a new level. California Girls kicked it off with a candy-coloured world that explored every pocket of pop’s outrageous possibilities. It may have been an ode to the West Coast but California Girls went global providing a summertime anthem that’s still just as sticky today.
4. Never Really Over
No one could’ve ever predicted after Witness that Perry had a monster single left in her. In the summer of 2019 she popped with little commotion but the song made its own waves. The Zedd-produced track captured the nostalgia and euphoria of Teenage Dream, going against the trap-pop aesthetic of the time to take us back to the dancefloor. A solid reminder to never count Perry out.
3. Hot N Cold
One Of The Boys was a rock/pop record but there was one track that signaled Perry’s electro/pop aspirations. It was Hot N Cold – a pulsating, chaotic song that took every bit of Perry’s outlandish personality and unashamedly put it on display.
2. Last Friday Night (TGIF)
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again. Perry is at her best when she’s a hungover mess. We’re talking sonically, of course, she might be a nightmare hungover in real life but we’re getting off track. Last Friday Night is a slippery, colourful track that captures the very essence of pop. It’s served best when it’s joyous, anarchic and a little theatrical. This one has it all. Cheesy guitars, cheesier vocal adlibs and an even cheesier sax solo.
1. Teenage Dream
There are very few pop songs, if any, that capture nostalgic love as well as this one. From the ’90s-tinged guitars to the hyperbole (“You and I will be young forever”), Teenage Dream is a rom-com wrapped up in 3 minutes. There’s nothing complicated about it. It’s just a straight-up pop song that’s so effortless it feels like a warm summer breeze. An overused simile, yes, but such is the nature of Perry’s songwriting. It’s relatable because it’s not over thought.