Album review: Katy Perry’s ‘Prism’

It’s been three years since Katy Perry released “Teenage Dream,” her sophomore, bubblegum pop mega-hit, but she’s done a lot of living since then – including a very public divorce. Her third album “Prism” released Tuesday is reflective of that, moving past the “California Gurls” mentality, mostly.

“Prism” was much anticipated, and it’s lived up to the hype. Perry is clearly more mature in her style and content, proving that she has staying power as an artist. After five number one singles off “Teenage Dream,” the most for any female ever off one album, many didn’t doubt this.

The album is front-loaded with the best content, starting with the already-successful single “Roar.” It’s been a little overplayed now since its August release, but in the context of the rest of the album it feels refreshing again.

“Birthday” followed by “Walking on Air” feels like a multi-decade dance party, “birthday” filled with hints of disco and “Walking on Air” straight from a ’90s rave. “Birthday” is certainly peppy and reminiscent of her last album, but not overwhelming when surrounded with the rest of the album’s content.

When Perry released the album for streaming on her website last Thursday, she said on Twitter that “Unconditionally” was her favorite song, and I don’t disagree. Sure, it’s a very pop star power ballad, but Perry lets her strong voice shine through, not as over-produced as many of her past songs. I’m not going to lie, I’ve been listening to this song on repeat basically since I started streaming the album Friday. If this is the future for her music, count me in tenfold.

In anticipation of the album’s release, Perry shared “Dark Horse” and “Walking on Air” on iTunes not as singles but previews for the album, and “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J, is a (very) close second for the best track on “Prism.” Yes, Juicy J rapping lines like “eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer” is well, disturbing, but the trap beat is again a departure for Perry really refreshing. Her voice is super sultry too, which is awesome.

The downfall of being in very public relationships as a pop star is it’s very obvious who and what your songs are about. It’s like when Justin Timberlake released “The 20/20 Experience” and everyone knew he was singing about Jessica Biel in every. Damn. Song. With “Prism,” I like playing the game “Russell Brand or John Mayer.” Final count – Brand 6; Mayer 9. Some songs went to both.

If you’ve seen Perry’s documentary “Part of Me,” you should really resent Russell Brand at this point (Katy tried so hard! She kept flying home! What an ass!). “Ghost” and “By The Grace of God” are clearly – almost too clearly – about the breakup that was witnessed in the documentary. You can almost match the scenes in the movie to lines in the songs a little too much. “Ghost” is certainly catchy though.

From the second half “Prism,” “It Takes Two,” “This Moment” and “Spiritual” shine, but aren’t the strongest tracks. “It Takes Two” mirrors “Unconditional” in showing Perry’s maturity and has a strong beat to match it. “Spiritual” is another dance-y track, but not in her traditional way. Another great jump. Again, very ’90s inspired.

Of course, there are slip-ups that aren’t great. “This is How We Do” is very amateur sounding – it sounds like a song you’d expect Miley Cyrus to perform. While I can appreciate a taco reference in any song ever, this one’s a no-go. Same with “International Smile,” it’s very reminiscent of older songs of Perry’s, which she shows in the other tracks she’s ready to move on from.

Overall, “Prism” is great, even if you’re not a Katy Perry fan. After years of pretending I’m too cool for pop music and rejecting it, I gave up and binged on Perry this summer so I was clearly very excited, but I can promise there are tracks on this album for everyone. You won’t even want to listen to it during a Spotify private session, promise.