As one of the most commercially successful pop stars of recent years, Katy Perry has achieved critical acclaim and support from fans and critics on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to her releases that date back to 2008. Sadly, her latest collection, Witness, which was released on Friday, isn’t quite a fitting testament or new chapter in the story of that success and instead, it falls spectacularly short – at least in this reviewers’ opinion – of what it should or could have been.
Opening with its title track, things don’t get off to a great start. Instead, even with Perry’s soft voice taking centre stage, by the time the chorus hits, it’s become a tangled mix of semi-electro rhythms and instrumentation that’s rather hippy – but not in a good way.
“Roulette” has one of the best (read: simple but catchy) choruses featured on the whole album, even if it is lyrically weak – it comes across like the thoughts of a teenager’s diary being turned into cheesy lyrics -and “Swish Swish”, featuring Nicki Minaj, is little more than a few minutes of Perry spouting disses at people. Fortunately for both Perry and the listener, the collection does have some few brief highlights. “Power” is the first – the drum beat on the track is reason enough to listen – and “Mind Maze” is the other, if only because the rather cool (and I for one don’t use that word very often) vocal manipulation that adds a little flare to proceedings.
Sadly however, as soon as the highlights arrive, they disappear and in their place come more disappointments. Even recent single “Chained To The Rhythm” pales in comparison to the pop-tastic chart smashes of her past such as “I Kissed A Girl” and “Roar”, though, given the menagerie of disappointing tracks it finds itself surrounded by, it comes across as one of the best, if not THE best, song on the album.
“Bon Appétit” – with its muted chorus and rather bland production – was never going to set the charts alight (the reality is it didn’t), and “Pendulum” might as well just be the title word repeated over and over again – it’s almost certainly going to get skipped over by those who give it even a single listen.
Ultimately, this album feels like it was created at a time when Perry didn’t know who she really was or what she wanted from her music – if that’s the case, it certainly shows. What also sets this collection apart is, if you care enough to read the credits, it’s the first of Katy’s career that hasn’t been co-written/produced by the powerhouse duo of Max Martin and Dr. Luke, though given Luke’s recent ongoing legal issues, her perhaps not wanting him involved can be forgiven. Martin still retains a considerable amount of involvement on the album, but it falls utterly and unbelievably short of his careers’ best efforts.
Quite how Perry will recover from this album not matching the popularity of and acclaim earned by its predecessors remains to be seen, but she’s certainly got quite a battle ahead – one which may just be made slightly easier by those fans who continue to like her for her past successes.