“A long hard road to get that redemption / but no shortcuts to a blessin’,” Katy Perry, “Smile,” 2020.
When you think of Katy Perry, you probably picture a 25-year-old with black hair or a blue wig, surrounded by cotton candy clouds— maybe even with whipped cream shooting out of her bra. Her time in the spotlight has been fast-paced and full of incredible highs— personally and professionally— but she has recently opened up about facing some of her most devastating lows.
It has been more than three years since her last record, and Perry’s fifth studio album, “Smile” is finally here. Its themes of hopefulness, resilience and joy could not have come at a better time, but the road to rediscover these feelings of empowerment within herself was anything but easy.
Her new record parallels much of her battle with clinical depression and the strength that it took to find the light amid the darkness. “I wrote this record during one of the darkest times of my life where I didn’t really plan for the next day or didn’t necessarily want to,” said Perry.
“I had only dealt with depression in it’s kinda short, small bouts, but I felt like I could solve it, and this time, I couldn’t solve it. I definitely could not get out of bed,” she said. “This record really speaks about my own experience of walking through that and coming out alive.”
While experimenting with different sonic landscapes on her 2017 album, “Witness,” featuring politically liberating, “Chained to the Rhythm,” the record did not live up to her expectations. This was quite a shock compared to the tremendous success that she has achieved in the past.
“For me, in my 20s it was like, ‘Oh my God this is wild, this is crazy, it's always gonna be like this,’ and then when it shifts slightly you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I can't handle my thirties or real life,’” the popstar said. “To face your failures and to be like, ‘Yeah I fell flat on my face, but I got back up again,’ it's not always fun to acknowledge, especially publicly. It’s intense and obviously you have to shut that out at some times, but it bleeds in every once in a while.”
As she sings in her new title track, “had a piece of humble pie / that ego check saved my life,” she reflects on why these disappointments were necessary for her growth.
“I got the ability to zoom out a little bit. I understood that I was going to have a greater foundation and a greater character and a greater depth because of going through those peaks and those valleys,” said Perry.
While writing new songs such as, “Not The End of the World,” “Teary Eyes,” and “Only Love,” she was able to illustrate how it can be difficult to change your perspective during bouts of negativity, which was something she was currently experiencing. Admirably, she has always been able to create empowering, uplifting tracks, even when she is not feeling her best.
Throughout her career, Perry has spoken to her audience through her own life experiences. As she approaches her mid-30s and begins to start a family of her own, her new music is maturing with her, and so are her listeners. She is not in a “13 year old state of mind anymore,” and her new album reflects that.
“Yes, maybe these themes are a little bit more mature, but I think everybody’s kind of grown up,” she said.
For many of her fans, her record-breaking “Teenage Dream” album was the soundtrack to their preteen years, and now these same kids who grew up with her music are becoming adults.
“I’ve grown up with my audience a little bit, and we’re growing together, and it's nice. It’s like we’re raising each other,” said Perry. “Some of you were 10 years old or 12 years old and you listened to ‘California Gurls,’ and now you are becoming adults and you're dealing with a lot of different things. You have your own jobs, your own lives, you're dealing with college, you're dealing with all of the variables of this year and the disappointments.”
Despite the many letdowns of this year, the first-time mother just welcomed a baby girl, Daisy Dove Bloom, with fiancé, Orlando Bloom, on Aug. 26. She revealed her pregnancy in March during the premiere of the new music video for her single, “Never Worn White.”
“I am very, very heavily pregnant. I know you can’t tell because it's not showing up in my face, thank you very much, but from the waist down, I am 45 pounds [heavier],” she said, in early August. “I’m excited to bring life into the world and choose to live and make plans.”
Many of Perry’s songs represent themes of female empowerment, and while writing her new record, she reflected on the millions of strong women and mothers who have come before her. One day, she went into the studio eager to write a song titled, “What Makes A Woman,” which is now the final track on “Smile.” She describes the song title as a “trick question,” because the answer continues on forever, “spinning out into the universe.”
“It's so beautifully complex and undefinable, and it's hard to measure because women are so many different things. I have fought against being one thing for a long time because a lot of people— kind of publicly— would like to put me into this box, especially from 2008 to 2016. It was this one thing, right? And I was like actually, honey, there's a lot of layers here, and I'm gonna start showing off more of them,” said Perry.
Her fans are eager to see all of the different sides of her, as she leans back into her pure pop roots. The singer-songwriter continues to inject humor into her work in true Katy Perry fashion, as she resembles a sad clown, who has lost her smile on the new album cover.
“The theme on the record is a big theme— its clownery, of sorts, because I’ve always felt a little bit like the court jester,” explains Perry. “I've always had a little bit of humor injected into everything I do.”
From peppermint dresses to clown noses, she has successfully been able to “bring levity to the seriousness of life” during her career. As she is ever-changing and transforming, she is “just grateful for the journey and the growth.”
Katy Perry’s new album, “Smile” is now available.
*Note from the author: Thank you to °1824 and Universal Music Group for allowing me to be a part of this press conference. As a huge Katy Perry fan who has grown up listening to her music, I am so grateful for this opportunity. I can’t wait to experience the joy that this album is going to bring to its listeners.