Katy Perry

Katy Perry

We're still trying to figure out just who Katy Perry really is, although it's possible the former Christian-pop singer doesn't know yet, either. Raised in the Santa Barbara area by parents who were pastors, she brims with musical talent and potential, stalking the stage with natural (although she calls it "God-given") charisma and belting out her New Wave tunes with a brassy theatricality. Of course, her facility for artifice is also her biggest drawback. To her credit, Perry wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on her 2008 full-length, One of the Boys, but hack collaborators such as Desmond Child and producer Butch Walker tend to smooth out traces of individuality, burying the occasional interesting lyric in an avalanche of clichés. The title track is fairly unremarkable until the break, where the "don't wanna be" back-up vocals swirl around her quite hypnotically, before returning to the standard bombastic-pop formula. "UR So Gay" is merely the modern equivalent to Josie Cotton's "Johnny, Are You Queer?" — although Perry tries to deflect accusations of homophobia by tossing in a quick "and you don't even like boys" while dissing a poor guy for being vegetarian, liking rainstorms, and driving an electric car (the cad!). "I Kissed a Girl" appears to be an attempt to kiss and make up with the gay community (while titillating voyeuristic boys), but it tries too hard to be shocking and is ultimately less daring than the Jill Sobule song it rips off. Perry is at her best on acoustic-based ballads such as "Lost" and the candied ethereality of "I'm Still Breathing," where she almost sounds sincere.

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