A successful pop song needs two critical elements. First, it has to ear appeal to the current audience. This is a standard that evolves over time as pop music tends to find a formula that is addicting, then thousands of wanna-be stars pile on their version of the style, and boredom ensues.
The best pop stars manage to experiment just enough to create a new, fresh sound, without leaving the bounds of the genre. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Shakira have been consistent leaders evolving pop music in the last ten years. This is not to say that other artists haven’t helped to evolve pop music, but these three artists have been the 100-pound royalty in the recording studio.
The second element is lyrics that engage the human brain. Some singers tend to copy the current style of pop music, then tell us about their latest break-up, but that appeals to those who have precious few brain cells to engage. Katy Perry, Gaga, and Shakira typically go beyond the obvious, and trigger thoughts and ideas that touch, rather than tell.
In the past decade years Katy Perry has produced I Kissed A Girl (2008,) Hot N Cold (2008,) Last Friday Night (2010,) Teenage Dream (2010,) E.T. (2010,) California Gurls (2010,) Firework (2010,) Part of Me (2012,) Wide Awake (2012,) Birthday (2013,) Roar (2013,) This Is How We Do (2013,) Dark Horse (2013,) among her top hits. This would be a lifetime of work for most artists, yet she continues to push her status as one of the monarchs of music.
Katy Perry’s latest release, Chained To The Rhythm (2017,) from her upcoming album/CD, is more than just another mega-hit for her. From start to finish this song is a statement about the dark side of the American Dream, and about the unreasonable expectations created in a world where status is equated with human worth, yet this is not a song or video that portrays a downcast view of our current society. Instead, it is an upbeat, happy song that masks the underlining message just enough to engage the audience into the music. It isn’t until the end of the video that a person realizes the full impact of the content of the song.
This mastery of creating music with the key elements of a great pop song, and then weaving in a serious social message, without detracting from the entertainment value, is rarely achieved in the restrained environment of pop music. It keeps Katy Perry relevant as a master of pop music, and as a human being.