Welcome to installment number three in my so far weekly Radio Rant series. I’ll be honest, this time around I didn’t come in with an idea of what I wanted to look at, but since I’ve had this song stuck in my head all damn day, well…might as well.
So, Katy Perry. She’s an interesting study in how far someone can get on personality and by playing the pop star game while not quite being that talented as a musician/singer. She’s sort of like a less extreme, more charming version of Kesha; she’s not great but she’s not talentless (I’ve seen her live to attest to this…Warped Tour ’08. Yes, Katy Perry went on Warped Tour. Take that, Alternative Press), her voice can be obnoxious without being atrocious, and she can sing about stupid crap and get away with it.
Which brings us to “California Gurls”, her brand new single. You remember how I mentioned that Kesha’s “Your Love Is My Drug” was an attempt at a summer hit? I think Perry might have actually nailed the summer hit here. There’s virtually no way to think of this song and to not think of sunshine and pink. It’s catchy as hell (again, the “stuck in my head all day” thing), fairly easy to sing along to, and upbeat, basically making it all the things “Your Love Is My Drug” tried and wanted to be.
A lot of Perry’s music takes a pop rock influence, but “California Gurls” steps much more into the electropop realm than anything she’s done before. The shift is especially noticeable because everything sounds so Pro-Tools and overproduced. It’s total bubblegum pop, and in some strange fluke, the overproduction compliments the song more than if it was normally done. It does nothing different from other songs on the radio, but it doesn’t have to. Last week I looked at “Airplanes” by B.o.B, “California Gurls” might be that song’s polar opposite: A light, silly, glossy, pop song by a pop singer with a throwaway rapper feature. And it works.
I do have a few problems with it though. I can’t think of a better example of “sing along if you want, but Lord help you if you listen to the lyrics” in modern pop, because the lyrics are a celebration of those jackasses you see on Hollister posters. It’s a celebration of being that stupid, vapid, overly cheery, skin-baring chick that gets scorned everywhere else. My other gripe is with Snoop, who sounded so awesome on the new Gorillaz album earlier this year, but so bored on this track. His adlibs sound like they were left from his own studio time and just shoehorned onto “California Gurls”, and his verse sounds like someone gave him five minutes to throw something together.
Oh yeah, and the song plays really well with Tik Tok.