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What Happened To Katy Perry?

Lyndsey Parker
Stop The Presses!

Katy Perry used to be a credible singer-songwriter. Now, it seems like she kissed a dollar and liked it. I am saddened to report this, but it's official, people: Katy Perry has sold out.

I know what some of you are thinking: Isn't that an oxymoron? How could Katy "sell out" when she was singing about bi-curious makeout sessions and Vegas weekend benders from day one? But I attest that before the release of her new single, "California Gurls," Katy had cred. However, whatever esteem she may have had left in the music community has now been completely squandered by this piece of over-Autotuned, Ke$ha-style, Snoop Dogg-assisted fluff that really could have been recorded by any interchangeable, marginally talented pop fembot:

 

Please keep in mind that Katy Perry got her start in L.A.'s respectable Hotel Cafe singer-songwriter scene, playing acoustic guitar. (And before that, she was the Christian artist Katy Hudson, also in troubadour mode.) Compare the mindless pap-pop of "California Gurls" to the acoustic Katy of yore:

Additionally, when Katy first released her album One Of The Boys, she was marketed as a pop/rock artist, even snagging a slot on the Warped Tour. Now, if she performed "California Gurls" on the Warped Tour, she'd be pelted with beer bottles by angry punks.

Katy first caught my personal attention when I saw her playing in Los Angeles clubs, and I was captivated by her unique style, bold attitude, and viciously funny, fiercely female lyrics about boys and breakups. She didn't just have me at "hello," she had me at "I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf." Classic. I championed Katy early on as original, even feminist, new voice--and even as her star rose and some of my snobbier indie-purist friends dismissed her as just another disposable pop tart, I continually defended Katy, arguing that this was a girl with actual solid singing, songwriting, lyrical, and guitar-playing skills, and that One Of The Boys was a well-crafted hybrid of bubblegum pop and hipster rock. (Listen to "Mannequin" if you doubt me here.) But I can't defend Katy's new direction.

It's a shame. I'm not quite sure why Katy felt the need to pander to the lowest common denominator when at one time she was a rare intelligent female voice in the mainstream pop world. Was it her decision? Or has this once seemingly brassy, sassy free spirit become the puppet of shortsighted label execs chasing after radio play and ringtone sales? Either way, the results are disappointing.

Katy is so much better than this song--I still believe in her talent, and until now I always thought she had the potential to enjoy a long career that crossed genre and demographic lines. But if she continues to sell out, all she'll ultimately do is sell herself short.  

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