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At a time when the pop music scene has become defined by megalomania and exhibitionism, it’s hard to believe that an album about self-empowerment could compete on the charts. But Katy Perry stives to do just that with Prism.
In the wake of the artist’s divorce with comedian Russell Brand, Perry delivers an introspective work that incorporates personal experiences and spiritual revelations. And critics have noted how Prism’s darker elements reflect Perry’s artistic transition into maturity.
Out Oct. 22, Perry’s fourth studio album, released by Capitol Records, has already garnered much attention. Her single, “Roar,” topped Billboard’s Hot 100 and fans have been eager to hear more as Perry moves in this new direction, which was largely inspired by Swedish dance music.
Not all critics are convinced of Perry’s latest development and the reviews are mixed.
“These songs are not the bubblegum summer smashes of a California Gurl,” Billboard’s Jason Lipshutz writes, “but something much deeper from an artist striving to tell her full story.” Prism covers its fair share of pop clichés, its “candy-colored fun,” but Lipshutz insists that this album has “more detail in its tempered shades.”
Jon Dolan of the Rolling Stone also mentioned the album’s creative shift. Three years after the release of Perry’s sophomore album, Teenage Dream, Dolan calls Prism, “the follow-up where she reveals the multifaceted artist behind the fun pop sheen.” And while Dolan grants that Perry has often let us know “she’s in on the joke of pop stardom,” he laments that Prism’s “raft of ripe-lotus ballads is larded with Alanis-ian poesy she can’t pull off.”
The spiritual iconography of Prism has been the most widely criticized aspect of the release. The Washington Post’s Allison Stewart writes that the album “is bedazzled with the type of one-size-fits-all spiritual catchphrases of someone who once read a self-help book in an airport.” Still, Stewart adds that Prism’s “balance of girly pop songs and starchier odes to love and spiritual oneness feels like an authentic reflection of late-20s confusion… a party-girl-fumbling-toward-adulthood priority shift for which she is long overdue.”
LA Times’ Randall Roberts wasn’t impressed by the album’s lyrical accomplishments, but writes that Perry succeeds “in adeptly capturing a pop world in wonderfully stylistic disarray.” Roberts describes Prism as having “neither fat nor pretense. In its own masterful way, in fact, Perry’s new work contains as much of-the-moment sonic surprise as any other modern pop album this year.”
Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune gave Prism 2 out of 4 stars. Comparing the album to its predecessor, Kot says Prism “sticks with a similar approach but adds a layer of singer-songwriter introspection.” But that layer, he suggests, may be thin. “Because of the tightly wound arrangements, Perry’s big voice becomes more of a sonic ornament than an expressive instrument in many of her songs.” From Kot’s perspective, “being taken seriously may be Perry’s greatest challenge yet.”
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