Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants.
Yep, “The One That Got Away”. Somewhere around “Firework”, I told myself that I wouldn’t deal with Katy Perry unless she got into the Top 5 or so, but this song finally limped its way up to number 10 in the Hot 100, and that’s good enough for me. In the year plus that I’ve done this site, I don’t think I’ve had to write about any artist more than Katy Perry, and yes, I find that fact depressing. Like pop chart cohorts Rihanna and Britney Spears, Katy Perry’s success stems more from savvy PR work and marketing than high quality music. This was especially clear on “Last Friday Night”, her least successful Teenage Dream single that I hypothesize only went to number one on the strength of it’s video. Combine that with the fact that for awhile Katy Perry was out of the Top 10, and I think “The One That Got Away” might be her last single from this album. So how does it hold up?
Alright, let’s look at what has always been Katy Perry’s problem spot: the lyrics. In the past, her lyrics have come across as dumb and vapid, a love song to herself, used poor metaphors, and not thought out their own true meaning. So, what are we looking at? “Summer after high school when we first met/We made out in your Mustang to Radiohead” Doing the math on when K.Per graduated means that “Idioteque” was the big Radiohead song at the time so, uh, have fun with that.
“Used to steal your parents liquor and climb to the roof/Talk about our future like we had a clue” Oh, shit. That’s…that’s actually pretty sharp. In fact, looking at these lyrics, I can’t see a lot wrong with them. “The One That Got Away” could be seen as a sequel to “Teenage Dream”; the song starts with “Let’s be together forever!” lyrics like getting matching tattoos and promising to always be together, but then later saying how, “It’s time to face the music/I’m no longer your muse”.
Then, of course, we have the chorus: “In another life/I would make you stay/So I don’t have to say/You were the one that got away”. Again, that’s nothing bad. A little Taylor Swift-style possessive and self-serving, and it doesn’t shoot for “Someone Like You” levels of sad, but it works. The music behind the chorus is fittingly sweet and kind of sad (while still overproduced). Actually, who did the production here?
“The One That Got Away” is produced by Max Martin and the always contemptible (see: 2008 and onward) Dr. Luke. The two show restraint and craft for this song, letting it build from a spiraling piano riff and poppy drum beat. That combo makes up the meat and potatoes of the song, but soft synths, bass, occasional strings and extra percussion creep in throughout the song. There’s no immediate hook, and the song doesn’t feel like it was made to be a single.
If “The One That Got Away” has decent production and lyrics, how does Katy herself do? The problems that dogged her on previous singles (reaching out of her range, sounding disengaged) aren’t an issue here, and she manages to wring some emotion out of “The One That Got Away”. Yeah, her voice still gets kind of grating at times, but all in all, she does a good job, she sings pretty well on the post-chorus.
I said in an earlier blog that “The One That Got Away” could be a pretty good single, and I think it is. It reminds me a lot of Lady Gaga’s “Eh, Eh” in that it doesn’t try to be anything more than a pop song, and for that reason succeeds. Is it a little toothless? Yeah, and it could be seen as being a bit dull, but for something that was never meant to be more than an album cut, it’s pretty good. I’m not sure it’ll go to number one, but it’s still worth a listen.