Do we need a Katy Perry comeback?

After the commercial and critical failure of her last album, Perry has tried desperately to get her fans back. A haircut might have done the trick.

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Do we need a Katy Perry comeback?

Katy Perry with her new haircut in 2019.

Katy Perry with her new haircut in 2019.

Katy Perry / Instagram

Katy Perry with her new haircut in 2019.

Katy Perry / Instagram

Katy Perry / Instagram

Katy Perry with her new haircut in 2019.

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Katy Perry uploaded a simple photo to Instagram on April 19 displaying her new hairdo. The mirror selfie shows off her new medium-length, middle-parted blonde hair. Her stylist is fixing the fly-aways behind her. At the moment, the photo sits at 2.6 million likes, which is speculated to be her most-liked upload. All-in-all, it’s a mundane glamor shot to most people. But to her fans in stan culture, it was an image that shook what the public has crafted about Perry in the two years since her 2017 album “Witness” underperformed both commercially and critically.

George Pimentel/WireImage.com
Katy Perry during her rise to fame in the 2010s.

Since the album came out, her fans berated her online for its lack of depth with songs like “Bon Appetite” featuring rap group Migos, which calls to a lover to devour her because she looks so delicious, and “Swish Swish,” a song featuring rap giant and fellow stan culture pop icon Nicki Minaj which uses basketball as a metaphor for fighting against bullies. Perry described the album as “purposeful pop” and her most advocate-centric venture yet, but the album failed in both political context and danceable hits.

It was not just the low-quality pop that made fans walk away. When the promotion for the album began, Perry took on a new persona that left her Bettie Page bangs and long locks behind. Her blonde pixie cut debuted and fans reacted negatively. Her signature look was chopped off to distance herself from the sex icon that preceded the new, political Perry.

Courtesy of IMDB
Perry in 2017.

It’s clear that Perry is attempting to cover her tracks and please her critics after “Witness,” her first album to not feature a No. 1 hit. But she is still missing the mark — she began selling her shoe brand Katy Perry Collections on the QVC, the 24-hour commercial struggling in a time when everything can be bought online and without a telephone call. These aren’t what her superfans, known as stans, want from her, and they tend to do what they deem necessary to publicly shame a star who falls out of their norm. It happens in every corner of pop culture — makeup artist and YouTube star James Charles lost over 2 million followers after fellow YouTuber Tati Westbrook posted a video that exposed some of Charles’ shortcomings. Westbrook did not call for Charles’ downfall, but fans tend to react suddenly and ragefully when a scandal occurs. Although Perry created no real controversy (except trying to encompass all of the world’s issues into one tone-deaf album), she was canceled very similarly to Charles and other celebrities who operate on social media. She went against the image of sex she sold in the previous 10 years of her career, and fans were quick to turn their backs and turn Perry into a laughing stock in pop culture.

Courtesy of QVC
Perry now has an extensive deal with QVC, the 24-hour shopping network.

Perry wants a comeback and is willing to sacrifice her desire for advocacy and purpose to save her face and her album sales. Pop culture is currently in a turnaround of comebacks with Madonna’s “Medellin” calling back to her “La Isla Bonita” and “Turn Blue” era and Lady Gaga’s upcoming sixth album release after her triumph of an acting career. But Perry fans don’t know if they should stand with their previous on-the-nose, neon girl-next-door or let her fizzle out. Her acceptance of a longer haircut brought much of them back on her side, but this fast resurgence displays issues in the stan culture community that seem impenetrable. Fans care about a star’s image more than what the star stands for, perhaps. If a star releases a good album and presents their image as contributing to the gendered image they’re accustomed to, sales will increase and their cultural capital will as well. Perry might be able to make her way back into the hearts of fans with her long, blonde hair and her upcoming album, but it will only help the toxicity of stan culture persist.