Katy Perry’s fifth full-length studio album, “Smile,” is a direct message to the listener to have hope during these difficult times. She may not be as famous as she once was, but Katy Perry is still a household name for the impressive number of hits she made during her prime. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, she dominated the pop scene with motivational hits such as “Firework” and sexier songs like “Dark Horse.” With “Smile” releasing the same week as the birth of her daughter and Perry recording music videos while being pregnant, the process this time must have been special for her. As a pop star who has been around for over a decade, for this to be only her fifth album is astounding, but does it live up to her best work?
“Witness,” which came out three years ago, seemed to not make any lasting impressions, so Perry returns to her signature themes that made her famous in this album. Themes of working through hard times and trying to have fun make this album lyrically predictable, but the formula still occasionally works. The first two songs on the album are a promising start. “Never Really Over” is a breakup anthem that shows how breakups are often messy and do not contain definitive endings. When she sings “I gotta rewire this brain / ‘Cause I can’t even go on the internet without even checking your name,” it adds another element to breakup stories where celebrities find themselves having to deal with the aftermath of their personal lives for a much longer time than ordinary people. This is not anything groundbreaking, but still worth noting.
The second song, “Cry About It Later,” contains a more straightforward meaning of putting off the bad news to have a fun night where anything can happen. It also has a great, catchy hook with cool, restrained singing and gritty synths that deliver on the ambiance. After these two songs, though, the album hops to different sonic trends in pop music. A lot of the songs mesh together because they are so forgettable. The song, “Only Love” has the most generic production with plain piano and a subpar chorus. Some songs just sounded like other artists way too much — the song, “Tucked,” sounds like something Dua Lipa would have had as an outtake on her recent album, “Future Nostalgia.” It is a shame, because this album does have some fun songs that aren’t run-of-the-mill. “Champagne Problems” is a sleek song with a grooving bass and elegant strings that give the song the flavor that is lacking in other songs on the project. “Harleys in Hawaii” has a chill, vacation mood supplemented by acoustic guitar and keyboards that fit the theme really well. If only there were more of these songs with this variety, the album would have been more fulfilling.
Katy Perry is not at the top anymore like she used to be. After 2017’s “Witness” not fully resonating like her earlier projects, she had something to prove on this album. Unfortunately, Katy Perry uses her usual themes with mostly unoriginal production to deliver a mediocre album. At least “Witness” tried to do something new, where “Smile” does not even try to go in a specific direction. No song is terrible, but only a select few are actually memorable.
Rating: 2/5 stars