We all have those artists that we love unconditionally, that we love as we grow up and grow with them. I thought Katy Perry was one of those artists. I remember buying her first record ‘One of the Boys’ on CD and the first time I heard the still incredible ‘Teenage Dream’. But she lost me somewhat with her last album ‘Prism’. It was severely lacking in bops and I hoped that it was just a blip in the radar for her. Now she’s back with her new album ‘Witness’ and looking to return to her imperial phase of yesteryear. Can she claw her way back to the top with her fourth album?
The first thing I noticed after my first listen through of the album was that I had trouble distinguishing a lot of the songs from one another. The album starts out pretty strong with title track ‘Witness’. I’ve heard a lot about this song online from the pop community claiming it to be a massive life changing bop for Katy. Do I like it? Yes, I really like the buildup in the first minute of the song and the piano led chorus is quite catchy. But it’s not the life changing bop I was expecting. ‘Hey Hey Hey’ continues the same sonic sound but ramps it up. It’s a great song about female empowerment, just a shame it has such a terrible title.
‘Roulette’ is the first of many missteps that seems to plague this album. It’s not that Roulette is a bad song, it’s just that it sounds incredibly dated. This would have been a perfectly serviceable song in 2008 but not almost 10 years on. A newer pop diva could get away with a song like this but Katy should be well beyond this point. This critique also applies to ‘Swish Swish’ in a way. Sounding like it was lifted straight from the nineties, it doesn’t sound quite as dated and it’s catchy enough that it manages to get away with it – only just.
It’s this point where the album begins to free fall. ‘Deja Vu’, ‘Power’ and ‘Mind Maze’ are all generic and bland pop that have absolutely no identity to them. They all have the same kind of energy to them that I couldn’t recall where one song ended and the other began. It’s all very monotonous and drawn out. For a huge popstar like Katy Perry, I expected a lot better.
Lead single ‘Chained To The Rhythm’ is absolutely the standout track on the album. Surprisingly, it took a while for me to connect with the track when it was first released. I like that it’s very different sonically from her previous lead singles, the chorus melody is very catchy and the song has a strong message. It’s just incredibly frustrating that this is literally the only song on the album in this direction. Was this a late addition to the album because it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album. ‘Bon Appetit’ is more representative of the album but even that is head and shoulders above what is being offered here. I would like Bon Appetit a lot more if it didn’t include a feature from a rapper with some rather problematic views on homosexuality.
We’re into the final stretch of the album and it’s a mixed bag. ‘Bigger Than Me’ does have a good melody but the production doesn’t do enough to properly elevate it above nice. I think it could be a grower though. ‘Pendulum’ is a big cheese fest but at least it’s fun. Album closer ‘Into Me You See’ is a heartfelt ballad but it’s not the sort of music that I look to Katy for. I get that Katy wants to release a more mature but does it have to be this boring?
If I was to sum up Witness with one word it would be ‘mess’. Too many songs sound too similar making much of the album sound one note and uninteresting. There are a handful of decent songs here which will likely become singles but everything else is just filler. In a digital age where we can pick which songs you want, you can’t really get away with that anymore. ‘Witness’ is by far the worst album Katy has released since her major label debut. If you’re hoping for a pop album that even comes remotely close to the legendary ‘Teenage Dream’ then I suggest you look elsewhere. There is always the possibility that many of the songs will grow in time but honestly, I can’t see myself listening to this album again.