Folks, we have a problem. I think Katy Perry wants to be considered a “serious” artist. In some promotional appearances before Teenage Dream‘s release, she said something to the effect that the album was going to be her seeing if she could “make it” as “an artist”. There was credence to that; Teenage Dream has some really stupid moments, but is backloaded with “deep” songs as well. On a singles level, Perry released the “serious” title track after the goofy “California Gurls”. And now there’s this.
I don’t say any of this in ignorance. In fact, because of her frustratingly successful year, I’ve had to review her #1 album and both #1 singles. Well, what’s one more than while I’m at it?
Firework begins with what sounds like bells run through a synthesizer (continuing Perry’s campaign to win Most Overproduced Artist of the Year), and “I don’t know what an effective simile is” lyrics. When the first lyrics of a song are, “Do you ever feel/Like a plastic bag/Drifting through the wind/Wanting to start again?”, you know you’re in for a rough way to go. “Wanting to start again?” Start what, being held and carrying groceries?
And now we come to the prechorus an–hey, is that the string section from Jay Sean’s Down? Anyway, this part builds nicely, but one of the problems Perry had with “Teenage Dream” starts to surface again. Songs like “Waking Up in Vegas” and “Hot ‘N Cold” were great fits for her because they didn’t rely on the signer having any vocal talent. And while I wouldn’t call Katy Perry a vocally untalented hack, she’s just not capable of handling this pre-chorus and chorus.
Listen at “’cause baby you’re a firework/Come on, show them what you’re worth”. She’s getting those notes, but it is not pleasant for anyone involved. As the chorus progresses, she almost gets into clean-scream territory (aka: not good). The music here isn’t bad, just schmaltzy, like it’s ready-made to soundtrack American Idol promos.
We’re then treated to a second verse, which is more or less a rehash of the first with more bad lyrics. Not a single one of them makes sense without some terrible implications; my favorite being “Like a lighting bolt your heart will glow”. Katy, introducing a lightning bolt to a heart results in cardiac arrest, which is not a good message for a song.
Speaking of a good message, “Firework” is an interesting case because it pretends to have one while not. Can we see the chorus, please? “Cause baby you’re a firework/Come on, let your colors burst/Make’em go “oh oh oh”/You’re gonna leave them falling down-own-own” Now, on its face, I’ve heard worse messages in songs, but…to illustrate my point, here’s a video of a fireworks display. Note how long it takes one shell to shoot up, explode, and burn out.
Threeish seconds. Everything important in your life, your big statement, your big impression, should take three seconds according to Katy Perry. Everyone ooohs and aaaahs at a fireworks display, but if your hick neighbor just shoots off one, then it’s mostly out by the time you turn and look. And it’s not even like you leave a lasting impact; you’re there, you look pretty, and then fizzle out and die, leaving some smoke. So yeah, do one awesomely insignificant thing that is your sole purpose for three seconds, and then cease to exist.
Still, lyrical woes and vocal issues aside, this isn’t that bad of a song. Not my first choice of listening material, but it’s passable. In the hands of a more capable vocalist, I’m sure I’d like it a lot more, but as it is, I’ll take it.
Oh! The video. I’m not going to say much about the video as a video since there’s someone else for that, but consider this: it’s part of the It Gets Better campaign, a project started in response to the alarming number of suicides by gay teens. Now, in 2008, there was an artist who had a number one single that trivialized homosexuality, and used lesbianism for cheap shock appeal. Who was this, again?