You could never really call Katy Perry original. From the moment she broke onto the scene with her first mainstream single, "I Kissed a Girl," she was criticized for copying the title of the track by Jill Sobule. Her songs have always been sticky sweet pop that's radio-ready, but on her debut, One of the Boys, Perry stood out for her rough-around-the-edges vocals and personal songwriting.
With her sophomore effort, Teenage Dream, Perry loses the things that made her stand out. Her sound here sounds borrowed, from bringing the so-in-style rapper cameo of Snoop Dogg on "California Gurls," to sing-talking like Ke$ha on "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)". Perry doesn't evolve--she tries to cling onto what's hip at the moment.
Maybe her producers are to blame. Dr. Luke, who helped cultivate what many find to be the annoying white girl rap style with Ke$ha, was behind the boards for "Last Friday Night," a second rate rip-off of Ke$ha's "Party at a Rich Dude's House." And Max Martin, who is famous for collaborating with popsters such as Britney Spears, worked on several tracks, including the generic title track which has no challenging vocals, a la Spears. "The One That Got Away" borrows from Spears' "Hot As Ice," while "Who Am I Living For?" is reminiscent of Justin Timberlake's "Your Love."
Perry sells herself short lyrics-wise, too, coming across as ditzy and dumb on some tracks. In "Peacock," which sounds disappointingly similar to 3OH!3 and Ke$ha's "My First Kiss," Perry demands that a guy show her his junk and compares it to treasure. Penises are not pretty, and it's sad Perry is trying to convince listeners they are. She sings about having sex in a Jeep on "California Gurls," and in "Last Friday Night," she belts about a menage a trois. It all seems a little too simple and manufactured and less respectable than her debut.
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Thankfully, there are a couple gems on the disc. On "Circle the Drain," Perry lets loose about her ex-boyfriend, Travie McCoy, who, judging by the lyrics, experienced substance abuse. It's powerful and emotive and raw--more of what would be nice to hear from Perry.
There is "Pearl," a pretty song about staying true to yourself within a relationship, and there's the stand-out "Firework". It's the best track on the album, an uplifting song about being confident in yourself and one in which Perry's voice soars. It's just weird that it's sandwiched in-between tracks about daisy dukes and cocks.
If you can stand the artificiality of the disc, the album is catchy as heck and ensures Top 40 radio will continued to be dominated by Perry until the next one, considering just about every song could be a single. Thankfully, "Firework" is supposed to be next, and hopefully Perry will continue to release the more original stuff after that--because we've all unfortunately heard much of the album already in a different form.