Review: Katy Perry's Prism full of reflection

Katy Perry performing on stage during the iTunes Festival held at the Roundhouse in Camden....

Katy Perry performing on stage during the iTunes Festival held at the Roundhouse in Camden. (WENN.COM)

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:30 PM ET

It seems the terrorists have won. And by terrorists I mean Russell Brand, of course.

As if marrying America's sweetheart -- and then supposedly dumping her via text -- weren't enough to have Brand branded an enemy combatant, he has finally committed the ultimate atrocity: He made Katy Perry think. Even worse: He made her reflect.

Nobody needs this. Nobody wants this. Not from pop stars like Perry, at any rate. People can get caring and sharing and soul-baring from Fiona Apple, thanks. From Perry, they want fun and frivolity. They want perky and peppy. They want a dream date with the bi-curious pinup girl next door and her big American breasts -- preferably in a giant conical bra sporting spark-spewing pinwheels.

Instead, they got Prism (in stores Tuesday Oct. 22 but already streaming online). It's the soon-to-be 29-year-old singer's fourth album and -- all together now -- her most personal, mature and (gag) spiritual release to date. Relatively speaking, of course. After all, let's be honest: Even at her most serious and confessional, Perry isn't exactly Maya Angelou. Or even Elizabeth Gilbert. So Eat, Pray, Love, this is not. It's more like Order Bottle Service, Read Some Self-Help Books, Hook Up With John Mayer (Thus Making it Clear She Hasn't Learned Anything).

The shallowness (and occasional silliness) of Perry's self-analysis is typified by the single Roar. As self-empowerment anthems for the dumped go, it's fairly standard -- except that its message juxtaposes the timeless wisdom of an old Helen Reddy hit and the theme song for Rocky III. Not exactly the kind of withering comeback that's likely to put an ex in his place. But then, Perry has always been a musical magpie, preferring thematic songcraft and imitation over individuality. Unsurprisingly, with the help of longtime producers and songwriters Max Martin and Dr. Luke, she stays true to form here. Legendary Lovers dips its toes into curry-pop, with Indian percussion and lyrics about feeling your lotus bloom. Choose Your Battles strings together lines about "hurt locker lovers" and romantic minefields. Admittedly, she fares slightly better when inspiration comes from within. Ghost details the way Brand vanished from her life after that infamous text. By the Grace of God chronicles her post-breakup depression and recovery. Unconditionally, Double Rainbow and the bonus track Spiritual all seem to be about Mayer (who co-wrote the latter). Sure, all this revelation is a side of Perry we haven't heard before. But after the fourth or fifth repetitive discussion of her feelings, you've pretty much heard enough.

What about the old Katy, you ask? The one who wanted to go to the beach, hit the club and kiss a few girls? Well, good news: She may be down, but she's not out. Party-girl Perry pops up just enough to keep Prism from being one long dismal diary entry. International Smile is a dance-pop groupie celebration that nods lyrically to The Beatles, Yoko and Almost Famous. Dark Horse finds her flirting with Southern hip-hop and sharing the mic with Juicy J. The slow-grind banger This is How We Do salutes the girls having breakfast in last night's dress and the kids who blow their rent money at the club. Walking on Air is a retro-house number with an angelic falsetto refrain.

And then there's Birthday. After all the sharing and sincerity, it's a much-welcome dose of pure classic Katy: A classic '70s funk-pop romp with Mariah Carey-oke vocals and lyrics laced with winky double-entendres. "Let me get you in your birthday suit," she coos, perhaps realizing that living it up is the best revenge. "It's time to bring out the big balloons "¦ the big, big, big, big, big, big balloons." Truer words were never spoken. Take that, Russell.

And God bless America.

Katy Perry - Prism: 3 our of 5 stars

darryl.sterdan@sunmedia.ca


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