Katy Perry’s fourth album is released amid a storm of celebby dust-ups and mixed reviews. is Witness worth the fuss?

by Matt Scanlon

It’s undeniably true that in most instances, there is no such thing as bad publicity, but, in the wake of a thoroughly strange first half of the year for Katy Perry, one wonders whether her February break up with Orlando Bloom, bizarre and ongoing dust ups with Taylor Swift and swipes at Britney Spears, then the decidedly mixed reaction to early singles from her new album, Witness, were the gods telling her it might be time for a do over. Perry’s early April-released single “Bon Appétit,” featuring the Atlanta rap trio Migos, received largely acerbic reviews from critics and fans, with most chastising it for seemingly rushed production, uninspired musicality, and clumsily sexualized lyrics, notably bereft of subtlety (such as, “Cause I’m all that you want boy/ All that you can have/ Got me spread like a buffet/ Bon Appetit baby”).

The first big single released from Witness, “Chained to the Rhythm” (featuring Skip Marley) more happily peaked at number four on the Billboard hot 100 charts, and her May 20 appearance on Saturday Night Live and late August VMA hosting gig helped boost word about the new disc, but as the singles kept appearing, we were presented with an increasingly strange disconnect between
old-Perry anthemic female empowerment and angry selfanalysis, with her describing the new effort as an adventure in “purposeful pop.”

The album ricochets with little predictability between retro Broadway ballading (“Pendulum”) to ’80s synth to ’90s dancepop to EDM and finally to Moby-like gorgeousness of “Tsunami”—most of it fun and functional (particularly the walking-paced and wonderfully funky “Pendulum”)—but it does leave “Teenage Dream”-era fans wondering what ground to grapple to.

We, and they, don’t expect lockstep uniformity, just a progression we can follow…and occasionally dance to.

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Katy Perry’s Witness Tour
October 2 to October 6, Madison Square Garden,
Manhattan; October 6, Prudential Center, Newark;
October 11, Barclays Center, Brooklyn
katyperryconcerts.com

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