The Downfall of Society’s Teenage Dream

Briana Herrera | November 8th, 2020 

It’s the summer of 2008 and “I Kissed a Girl” is constantly playing through every radio station you flip through. Katy Perry is on the precipice of releasing her debut album, now being cemented with her single, with the allusive #1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100. Then, to some, it was all a blur, Katy Perry, originally born Katherine Hudson, released her album “One Of The Boys” debuting at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and giving her the material to go on three separate tours including the famed “Vans Warped Tour,” and pave a way for her to reach the pantheon of pop stardom.

After One of the Boys, Katy quickly showed it was not one a one-off fluke of success, and only her beginning. Afterward, she had a short courtship with comedian Russel Brand, that led to their marriage, and  May 7th, 2010 would prove to be one of the most consequential days of her career, when she debuted the first single to her album Teenage Dreams, California Gurls. California Girls proved to be an even bigger success than I Kissed a Girl, being heard in the cars, malls, and even inspiring a ride on the Jersey Shore boardwalk. Katy Perry didn’t stop there, as Teenage Dream spawned Teenage Dream, Firework, E.T. FT. Kanye West, and Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F), all sprang onto the top of the charts, cementing the songstress as a bonafide hitmaker.  Katy Perry also helped usher the music industry into the digital age, with her single E.T. being the first to ever sell 5 million copies digitally. Springboarding off of her strong single success, Teenage Dream, catapulted to #1 on the Billboard 200 giving Katy her very first #1 album, a streak which had her next 2 albums also debuted at #1. 

Katy Perry then embarked on her biggest tour yet, the California Dreams tour, which sold out all the dates almost as soon as they went on sale. Managing to gross $59.5 million internationally,  and $48.9 million dollars domestically, and net money for charity in the works. The tour was filmed for the documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me, which provided an intimate look at the behind the scenes footage of Katy’s life. Though the highs of success were many, we saw her with many personal lows, of trying to keep her marriage to Rusell Brand afloat, in a jaring scene we see Katy learn her soon to be ex-husband has filed for divorce, where she is then ready to cancel the performance, however in the most jarring scene of the whole movie we see her go on with the show and perform for her audience in Brazil.

Though her personal life seemed on the rocks for a period of time, professionally Katy Perry showed no signs of slowing down. Her tumultuous personal life gave her fuel to explore the darker elements of herself, giving life to Prism. Prism proved to be her most daring and successful project yet, becoming her second #1 debut. spurred by singles Roar and Dark Horse, it led to only a career trajectory that seemingly had no end. 

After ending her Prismatic World Tour, in 2014 Katy was announced as the performing artist for the Super bowl. Katy Perry found herself again entwined with a major pop culture moment. Her Superbowl performance, infamous for its birth of the Left Shark meme, and it still stands as the most viewed Super Bowl performance of all time

However, Katy took more time than previous for her next album to come out. Meanwhile, she focused me on making new lines, such as her perfume line, and reprising her role as Smurfette.

Then, in 2017, Katy geared up to release her fourth major-label album, Witness. Having released the singles Chained to the Rhythm, topping at #4, her first album to not have a #1 single, as well as Swish Swish and Bon Appetit. To help promote the album, Katy performed Bon Appetit with rising rap group Migos, on Saturday Night Live in May of 2017. However, the performance came with criticism. Katy Perry had lined up Drag Queens to help as dancers for the performance, however, Migos refused to perform with them, the day of filming, the Drag Queens were then told they would not be allowed, with many criticizing Katy, who claimed to support the LGBTQ community, as someone who didn’t truly stand by them when it mattered.

The Performance also came with the critique that Katy was out of touch, many thought her dancing did not fit the performance, and appeared to be older next to the Twenty-somethings rappers.

As part of the media for the album, Katy met with Black Lives Matter activist Deray Mckesson to put to bed and address the critique aimed at her, about cultural appropriation, which wound up to be seen as many of one of her more intimate moments. Despite the media blitz, Witness did debut at #1, but with fewer sales than Prism and Teenage Dream, and remained on the charts for 9 weeks. The album managed to score less than stellar critical reviews. Despite the bumpy road with Witness, Katy became a judge on American Idol in this time frame, for a reported $25 million dollars a year, and had begun a relationship with Hollywood actor Orlando Bloom.

After some downtime post Witness, Katy began to prep for new music, though the music landscape had changed from the movement of radio-friendly pop Katy had ushered in at the beginning of the previous decade. Rap had overtaken Pop, as the most popular form of music and those numbers have only continued to rise since then. There was also the challenge of Witness’s singles not resonating with the audience the same way her previous albums had and the possibility that the peak of her popularity may be in the past. Katy ended her short hiatus by releasing Never Really Over in 2019, and Never Worn White in 2020, which covered her engagement with Orlando Bloom. 

In May of 2020, Katy released Never Worn White revealing her pregnancy at the end of the video, though it became clear that her music didn’t move the needle as it once did. There were also the difficulties of doing promotion during a pandemic, where she established Smile Sundays to give a weekly video promo to her fans for the album, as well as having to push back the album release date due to production issues. However, once release day came, it became evident that her days of dominance of the charts were well behind her. Smile inevitably charted at its highest peak with the #5 Billboard spot, leaving the charts after only a month, and never having spawned any hit singles. 

There was also the idea that, Katy Perry’s music is bubblegum pop, meant to fill up your eardrums while you traveled on vacation, or partied with friends, released at a time where it could only ever really be listened to in the comfort of your own home, never being given the proper backdrop to where it was meant to be listened to. The charts have seen a base that is mainly fitting to music with a sadder edge, such as Billie Eilish and Halsey, where Katy’s dream of a world where we Smile, didn’t resonate with today’s listener. In a time where her luminaries such as Beyonce and Taylor Swift have changed sounds time and time again and been rewarded for it with continuous success, Katy Perry has stuck to her sunny optimistic music, for better or worse, even if the price to pay is being less relevant, in an ever-changing pop landscape. 

What leads to the inevitable of any Pop Star, even one who was as big as Katy Perry, can be argued, however, the Glenn and longevity were never promised to stay, analyzation will see that this is no longer a fluke, and Katy Perry isn’t the hot commodity in 2020 she was a decade previously. However, the month her album didn’t do as well as one would have expected based on her history, she welcomed a daughter into this world, and has continued the familial bonds with her fiance Orlando. While we can see what her role within the music industry will be for years to come. 

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