Katy Perry became a household name in 2008 with her smash hit, “I Kissed a Girl,” and proved that she was no one-hit wonder thereafter with even more successful singles from her debut album, One of the Boys.
Now, Perry returns with her follow-up release, marking a transition from her earlier material. While most of the songs on One of the Boys could be classified as pop/rock, the songs on Teenage Dream mark Perry’s enjoyable transition into a full-fledged pop star. The songs here are designed to let the teenager inside of everyone loose and will surely bring smiles to the faces of listeners.
The second single off the record, “Teenage Dream,” gets things going strong with a soft, tender beginning before the sing-a-long chorus kicks in to get hands waving in the air. “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” induces a party atmosphere with lines about looking back at the damage after a mischievous night. The stop-and-go guitar strumming gets feet tapping and the chorus is anthemic. Listeners will also enjoy the unexpected treat of a saxophone solo in the bridge.
Next up is the summer jam, “California Gurls,” featuring Snoop Dogg, which invaded airwaves across the country — and it’s easy to see why. The chorus commands listeners to dance and Snoop Dogg’s bridge transitions seamlessly from pop to rap.
“Firework” is Perry’s favorite track off the record, showcasing her soulful vocals before a symphonic background complements the pre-chorus and chorus. She provides an emotional, mature vocal performance in this inspiring offering with lyrics such as Do you know that there’s still a chance for you / cause there’s a spark in you / you just got to ignite / the light / and let it shine.
Then, comes “Peacock,” the sassy, sexual and playful song that is sure to be a hit. With lyrics like Come on baby let me see / what you’re hiding underneath, it isn’t meant to change lives. What it will do, however, is get stuck in heads for days and become the next great dance floor anthem.
The fun of “Peacock” disappears with the next track, “Circle The Drain,” which harbors intense angst in Perry’s darkest track yet. Her anger at an ex-boyfriend, however, does not prevent this song from producing catchy lyrics such as I want to be your lover / not your … mother are likely to resonate with many listeners.
“The One That Got Away” slows down the tempo with some piano-driven verses and memorable melodies revolving around a young lost love. Up next is “E.T.,” perhaps the record’s best track. Perry delves into new territory here in this mash-up of sounds with ’80s throwbacks. She delivers the vocals in a stunning, robotic manner to accentuate the theme of a hypnotizing lover who seems to hold a supernatural, extraterrestrial power.
Perry shows her great range in the verses of “Who Am I Living For?,” a slower, more melodic song with a chorus that makes listeners want to shout out the lyrics at the top of their lungs while “Pearl” keeps the tempo down in a touching glimpse into the life of a person who has fallen from grace. Perry sings lines like she used to set the sails of a thousand ships / was a force to be reckoned with before the song builds up nicely in the bridge.
The penultimate track, “Hummingbird Heartbeat,” picks up the pace and sounds like it could fit right in on One of the Boys with its palm-muted guitars in the verses and a chorus to get people jumping along with the infectious drum beat.
Closing out the record is “Not Like The Movies,” the softest, slowest song Perry has released. The piano and excellent vocals help create a somber tone in this ballad about relationships that don’t have fairy tale endings and the track is able to end a mostly playful record gracefully.
Teenage Dream is bona fide Katy Perry. Unlike many pop stars, she is no act. She means what she says and understands the finesse needed to craft comedic and serious songs that fully capture her personality.
From bitter breakups to love, and from sex to disappointment, the themes on this record are universal to anyone who is or has ever been a teenager. It allows Perry and all listeners to let go of their problems for 46 minutes to enjoy the ups and downs of young life, and that’s what any pop album should do.