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She's the most unlikely thing to come out of Christendom
According to a Teen Vogue interview, she's "tired of being famous already!" I'm sure being stalked by paparazzi and fans and having your sex life on display at market check-out stands sucks, but what else should someone like Katy Perry expect from the United Consumption Cult of America? It's not enough that she devotes all of her time, talent and energy into what made her fans her fans. Of course it's not enough. They want her blood and bed sheets too.
I know, I know. If she didn't want the attention she shouldn't have gotten hitched with a real-life pirate who made a career out of heroin abuse and depraved pansexuality. Even still, Perry hates the unwritten law of celebrity transparency. "When I'm working, I'm all yours," she said to friend Kristen Wiig, playing journalist for an Interview Magazine feature. "But when I'm not working, stay the fuck away. That's how it goes."
She's the most unlikely thing to come out of Christendom'though I wouldn't exactly compare her upbringing to a girl growing up in some Bible Belt pocket. Though both of her parents are pastors, her father was a California scenester in the '60s, and her mother speaks fluent French and had a "tempestuous" first marriage in Zimbabwe. She sensed there was a bigger world out there, but she also loved her parents and yielded to their ideology. Her musical underpinnings not only lie in the tapered Christian music scene, but, as she got further into her teens, include an inspirational progression ranging from Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Edith Piaf, to Joni Mitchell, the White Album, the Beach Boys and Queen, and then on to electronic music.
She grew up singing acoustic songs she wrote at the Farmer's Market in Santa Barbara, and at 15 she split a lot of her time between home and Nashville, where she was being mentored. It was there she recorded her first album, a self-titled gospel album under her birth name, Katy Hudson. This isn't unlike the debut of Stefani Germonatta, whose first album "Red and Blue" was recorded before she took on the persona of Lady Gaga, who then shifted from piano love ballads to electro-dance-pop.
Like some of her contemporaries, Perry had her roots in simple songwriting and playing on street corners and in stale dive bars just to see if she could. Whether her eccentric and glittery public image was a result of her label's insistence or her own personal vision of shedding the image of the Plain Jane who grew up singing Gospel (or both), her trajectory synced up nicely in 2008 when her two singles, "I Kissed A Girl" and "Hot N Cold," crashed onto the scene alongside Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Keri Hilson, The Pussycat Dolls, Pink, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga.
Watching one of her performances or glancing at one of her album covers gives flashbacks to playing Candyland as a kid: shuffling the cards and winding through a rainbow path, visiting Candy Cane Forest and Gum Drop Mountain, crushing on Queen Frostine of Candyland. Blue-eyed and blue-haired and rosy-cheeked in a cupcake dress, wielding a scepter and a perfect smile. As a kid I always wondered why she was smiling even though her King was missing, as the storyline tells us. You never saw the King. Only Queen Frostine. The Candyland Queen.
Perry's lollipop visuals aren't going away anytime soon either. Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D will be released this July. It'll be a bedazzled biopic, a feel-good/inspirational summer flick for the tweens, gays and any dude who has the time and money to see Katy Perry's boobs in three dimensions. Not to mention there's a striking resemblance to Justin Bieber's Justin Bieber: Never Say Never 3D that came out last year. Is this going to be a new popstar trend? Watching them overcome their princely problems of growing up in middle-class America and then dealing with massive fame and success? I really want to give Perry a hard time for this, but I'm such a sucker.
For one thing, the fact that she's a fan of the show "Ancient Aliens" on the History Channel caught my attention. Last year she tweeted "On to episode 3 of Ancient Aliens. That ish will peel your brain back. #watchit." Along with her release of her single "E.T." the press was eager to jump on her newly-divulged obsession, and she wasn't shy to share either. "I'm fascinated by that kind of stuff because of how I grew up, where everything was in black and white," she stated. "Now I'm seeing a lot more color in the world and asking more questions. So I'm very into things that are above and beyond me and were before and will be after me." There's an innocence about her, bordering on sweet naivety, that's backed by a tough and relentless work ethic and doused with shimmery multicolor. She's not afraid to be ridiculous (see "Next Friday Night"), to tell people what's on her mind, and, paradoxically, to be herself. Like I said, I'm such a sucker.
Though she's become a staple in today's music, will the lollipop-gumdrop persona last? In her interview with Kristen Wiig, while discussing a few of her favorite albums like Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill and Fiona Apple's Tidal, she admitted to contemplating her future and what avenues she'd like to explore next. Before her success took off she was dropped by two different labels. "They couldn't just take the chance and go with my vision'now I have confidence that I should just really trust my instincts." She's uncertain where she'll go from here, but she certainly doesn't want to disappoint her fans, who have her gut instinct to thank for all the number-one singles they're blasting on their way to class as speak. "Kids are so smart these days," she told Wiig. "They sense when there's a phony bologna out there. Especially in music, when they see something that's being marketed to them, they'll call it out. They'll be like, 'This chick is bullshit.'" Maybe she'll go down a darker, or more serious, or more introspective road, or maybe she'll just stick with her crown of Candyland Queen.
Either way, we'll never think of cherry ChapStick the same way again.
Brent Smith, Contributing Writer: Brent was born and raised in Los Angeles. He received an MFA in Prose from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado. He lives in West Hollywood. (more...)