Katy Perry, Witness | Album Review
Pop superstar Katy Perry struggles to find her footing on her fifth studio album, ‘Witness.’ Sometimes it works, while other times it doesn’t.
A four-year hiatus in pop music is like an eternity. Honestly, it seems as if Katy Perry has been off the grid forever. She returns with her fifth studio album, Witness, and the results are…mixed at best. The promo campaign for Witness has by far been the most difficult one for the pop superstar, who typically has hits at her disposal. Unfortunately, a no. 1 single has eluded her from Witness as simply put, the singles aren’t nearly as accomplished as previous ones. Neither is the album itself.
“Witness” kicks off the album, opening the door for skepticism from the jump. Essentially, Katy Perry sings about the desire for love – a cliché, but relatable topic. The problem is, “Witness” doesn’t come off as particularly memorable. This is a record with hard shoes to fill, following “Roar,” the hard-hitting opener from Prism. It’s okay, but not game changing or transcendent.
Follow up “Hey Hey Hey” features a brief musical introduction, but feels as if it arrives abruptly. This ultimately detracts from the record’s effectiveness because it doesn’t feel as if Perry properly preps the listeners for the song. After listening to “Hey Hey Hey” multiple times, it still never feels as if the beginning of the record is stable or that it feels properly assembled ultimately.
“Roulette” is a step up from both “Witness” and “Hey Hey Hey.” The slick, danceable production work is a pro – the groove is undeniably infectious. Furthermore, the chorus latches on better than the two that precede.
“Like roulette, ooh-ooh / Wanna close my eyes and roll it with you / Like roulette, ooh-ooh / Wanna lose control and forget with you / Like roulette / Let’s roll it.”
Even with Perry ‘playing the game’ does she score the win here? Not quite, but there’s more potential for “Roulette” compared to many of the songs from Witness.
“Swish Swish” ranks as one of the better moments from Witness, at least contextually speaking. Arguably, the record has its fair share of flaws: anachronistic production, so-so vocals, and trying too hard to find another no. 1 hit. Still, Nicki Minaj adds bite with her rap verse. As for Perry, she offers an irresistible hook that straight-up flexes in all its corny glory:
“Swish, swish, bish / Another one in the basket / Can’t touch this / Another one in the casket.”
Numerous times, the word déjà vu has served the capacity of song title. Once more, Katy Perry resurrects a cliché with her own “Déjà vu.” Ultimately, it’s a pleasant track, but certainly doesn’t change the game. It features a throwback dance/house sound which in some respect suits the déjà vu sentiment, but stills suffers from the fact that Witness lacks some of the originality of previous projects.
“Power” is one of the better non-buzz records from Witness. Vocally, Perry delivers a better-rounded vocal compared to say “Swish Swish” which doesn’t show off her abilities. That isn’t to say that she’s a powerhouse on “Power,” but there’s a bit more opportunity. To her credit, the theme of emPOWERment adds more weight, exemplified on the chorus.
“You can’t clip my wings, can’t wilt my flowers / Stole my time, but I’ll make up the hours / ‘Cause I’m a goddess and you know it / Some respect, you better show it / I’m done with you siphoning my power.”
“Chained to the Rhythm”
“Mind Maze” doesn’t maintain the momentum established by “Power.” That isn’t to say Perry doesn’t have energy, but somewhere between a load of vocal effects, over-glossed production, and blasé lyrics, the record lacks appeal and memorability. “Miss You More” is more interesting because of speculation who the pop star is singing about. On the chorus of the ballad, she asserts: “I miss you more than I loved you / I do.” Lyrically, like most of Witness, it’s not deep, but telling.
Like “Swish Swish,” “Chained to the Rhythm” ranks among the elite moments from Witness. While there was a fair share of skeptics in regards to the promo single, in my humble opinion, this is the crème de la crème. The groove is infectious, while the production successfully blends urban- and tropical-pop. Lyrically, this song is catchy and thought-provoking; the verses are socially and politically relevant. Skip Marley only plays a small role, never overshadowing Perry. The chorus truly puts “Chained to the Rhythm” over the top:
“Turn it up, it’s your favorite song / Dance, dance, dance to the distortion / Come on, turn it up, keep it on repeat / Stumbling around like a wasted zombie / Yeah, we think we’re free / Drink, this one is on me / We’re all chained to the rhythm / To the rhythm, to The rhythm.”
Naturally (or predictably), “Tsunami” incorporates related terms:
“Please don’t tip-toe / Come close, let’s flow / Anchor in me, and get lost at sea / The world’s your oyster and I am the pearl…”
The results are meh. Despite the ‘care’ that the lyricists take, “Tsunami” misses the mark.
It’s easy to see what Katy Perry wanted to accomplish with “Bon Appétit.” Again, in the context of Witness, this is a standout. But, there’s also a reason why the single and a wasted opportunity with Migos earned a spot on The 11 Worst Songs of 2017 (So Far). Here, it was stated that:
The results were just blasé at best, making “Bon Appétit” utterly forgettable. Rather than sounding cutting edge, for once in her career, Perry sounds as if she’s ran out of ideas.
All said and done, this is a take it or leave it sort of track. Too bad there are way too many leave-it tracks on Witness. Follow-up “Bigger Than Me” for example may have big ambitions, but they fail to come to fruition. Rather than being transcendent, “Bigger Than Me” is filler to the nth degree.
The rest of Witness doesn’t change the outlook dramatically either. “Save as Draft” is cleverly titled but fails to live to the hype. It’s not surprising it’s mixed at best – Perry is so-so when it comes to balladry. “Pendulum” follows with promise, thanks to *ding-ding-ding* a sick beat. Good intentions only go so far, hence why “Pendulum” is close to be sound, but just not quite there. It’s bombastic and energetic – also all over the place. Like Prism (“By the Grace of God”), Witness concludes with a ballad, “Into Me You See.” The biggest offense? It’s boring.
All said and done, Witness is by far the most flawed effort Katy Perry has offered. Despite the robust amount of filler, the biggest issue with Witness is its lack of hits. Despite the criticism that the three singles received ahead of the album, they stand out contextually. Non-singles that rank a ‘notch above the rest’ don’t feel like hit-singles. This leaves Perry in a position of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” The direction of Witness also opens the door to skepticism. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Gems: “Swish Swish,” “Roulette,” “Power,” “Chained to the Rhythm” & “Bon Appétit”