I like Katy Perry because my daughter, Lorelei, does. She’s six, just out of kindergarten. Her musical tastes are still forming. I have worked my butt off to try and get her into the stuff I like — you know, weird electronic bands like Kraftwerk or a loud industrial like KMFDM or a recent indie darling like Car Seat Headrest or a legendary band like The Clash or even a gifted local like Karen Meat — but she has just dug in her heels. She likes easily digestible pop music. She likes songs she’s heard in movies and on TV. She likes the songs her friends like. She likes Kidz Bop and she likes Katy Perry.
It’s an easy out for me. When a Katy Perry song comes up on my iPod in mixed company, I can just bluff it off and blame Lorelei. When I’m singing a Katy Perry song while walking through Target, it’s totally Lorelei’s fault. When I’m at a Super Bowl party and Katy Perry kills her halftime show, I’m just super happy that Lorelei is happy. Having kids can be an easy out for a lot of things. If you don’t want to go out, blame the kids. If you are tired and irritable, blame the kids. If you find yourself okay with a somewhat processed pop star, blame the kids. Here’s the thing, though: I think I actually like Katy Perry.
Katy Perry can sing. She has a boatload of real, actual charisma where a simple smile can draw you in. She picks her songs well and stays within her surprisingly vast range. Here’s the thing that Katy Perry does better than pretty much any other pop singer: She can be anything to anyone. Her voice is solid, so if you want a talented singer, she’s your gal. If you want someone to be competent next to Kanye West’s genius insanity, she’ll hang in there. (Incidentally, I almost picked Kanye West for this project because apparently there are people who don’t think he’s a genius. I decided against it because those people are wrong and I refuse to acknowledge them, but I’m digressing.) She’s a beautiful woman, so if you’re the type to go, “Heh, I don’t listen to her music, but I’ll watch her videos,” she’s got you (and you should be ashamed, quite frankly). And if you want to take the high road and just listen, but still be kind of low-key titillated, she’s got “California Gurls” and ” I Kissed a Girl,” which are a silly sort of sexy. If you’re the type to analyze music deeply, she’s done songs like “E.T.” and “Dark Horse,” which shouldn’t be Top 40 hits but are. For the people who don’t want their songs to be too serious, there’s “Last Friday Night.” Katy Perry comes across as vapid, but the reality is she’s a clean chalkboard. What you want her to be, she is.
Now, if you’re a middle-aged dad looking to find a singer you can be okay with that your young daughter looks up to, she’s there and if you’re a little girl looking for inspiration, she has you, as well. While songs like “Roar” and “Firework” can come off as somewhat cheesy to a grizzled old critic like myself, my daughter finds a little bit of empowerment. If my daughter can find inspiration, I can find joy in them. However, the songs can stand on their own, and I have my daughter to thank for forcing me to pay closer attention. “Roar” is a terrific pop song. Simple, charming, and shows off the singer’s gifts. “Firework” is a classic concert-ender. It is Perry’s “We Are the Champions,” only directed toward a new generation and, dare I say, different gender. Yeah, it is cheesy, but the sentiment is there. Plus, it’s a song you can belt at a stoplight in your car and it’s a song you can feel good about when you daughter tells you she loves it.
That’s what pop music is supposed to do. It is supposed to make you find joy. It is supposed to find a spark in everyone and if you’re going to be all things to all people, you’d better be good at it. Katy Perry excels at everything she sets out to do. Her vast body of work truly has something for everyone, but most importantly for me, it has the essential time when a father and daughter can connect on something.