I'm not asking you to like her music; that's a matter of personal preference.
But I just can't help but want to throw my hat in the ring of first-flush reactions and comments to Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D which hit theaters near you on Thursday.
For those souls among us who do NOT avidly follow Katy Perry's Twitter feed (although I can recommend this) -- Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D is a tour documentary/concert film.
Here's what I thought was interesting about this film experience.
1. While it was filming, Katy Perry was literally in the process of going through a divorce. So you see "talking head" --
(where people are talking directly to the camera/interviewer in a documentary; always my favorite parts; always contain the funniest jokes in Christopher Guest movies.
also: Stop Making Sense.)
-- "talking head" footage of her before the divorce so when she is trying to be perky and upbeat about Love and Marriage and Happy Endings but something is obviously wrong; "talking head" footage of her after the divorce where she seems much rawer and has a new hair color but also seems overall happier; candid footage of her interacting with her soon-to-be ex; candid footage of her talking about her marriage casually to her crew -- but "talking about her marriage casually" in that way where YOU KNOW all your friends think you are in an awful relationship but they are Being Diplomatic.
In other words, it's not just a concert film. It's a documentary about the effects of mega-fame on human relationships, unfolding in real time.
2. You learn a fair bit about her background, naturally, but of particular interest is the film's coverage of the fact that she was raised a Pentecostal Christian by traveling ministers. Now, not to offend any sensitive souls in the audience, but I think it's fair to say that Pentecostal is one of the weirder brands of Christianity. My Top Three quick-draw associations with the word "Pentecostal":
speaking in tongues
teenage girls forced to wear ankle-length denim skirts.
3. As a result of that Pentecostal upbringing, Katy Perry's musical exposure in her young life was limited to strictly Christian-approved music. She had an early career as a gospel-singing teen star. UNTIL ONE FATEFUL DAY WHEN she was over at a friend's house and heard her first piece of Mainstream Music and had an epiphany about the kind of music that she wanted to make.
Stories of that kind of moment are incredibly interesting to me because of the pleasure and strangeness of imagining a world in which one first hears pop music as a thinking, conscious person instead of being saturated with it constantly from birth.
For any person with an emotional relationship to music, and anybody who could relate this story would be such a person, that moment must be so intense.
Katy Perry's Song That Gave Her An Epiphany About the Kind of Music She Wanted to Make was: "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrissette.
CAN YOU IMAGINE being a sheltered Christian 16-year-old girl of a sensitive and musical temperament and hearing this song? It would be like a nuclear bomb.
I kinda dislike the trope of, when writing about an oft-dismissed pop musician, referencing a performance of theirs that represents a marked step out of their usual wheelhouse. Like all those videos of Ke$ha singing the Rolling Stones at house parties and stuff. It seems very, "Look! She can ALSO make music that is acceptable to you!" to me.
but sadly that is exactly what I am about to do, because for whatever else they do these performances do pull the listener sharply into an unexpected frame of mind.
The song: Katy Perry, "The One That Got Away"; 2011
Katy Perry deserves respect. Here's the clearest way I can lay out my case.
- Katy Perry does not have a Great Voice but she works with what she's got and infuses it with a lot of emotion. Many have said the same about other great voices.
- Katy Perry is not a Great Lyricist but honestly believes in what she is saying and makes her meaning crystal clear.
- When it comes to aesthetics, Katy Perry is sort of at Tim Burton levels of distinctiveness and wackiness. The woman wears a dress that looks an ice cream sundae to meet Make-a-Wish kids. Like it ain't no thang. (Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D seriously is worth seeing just to see her costumes and the staging of her songs.)
- Katy Perry genuinely loves what she does and is driven to an almost super-human level.
I recently followed Russell Simmons on Twitter. It has already flooded my mind with so much Zen wisdom that it feels a little squishy up in there in the range north of my eyebrows. (I also learned that Russell Simmons sits on the Board of The David L. Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace.)
But what Russell Simmons says, and what I increasingly believe, is that the world loves people who work hard at everything they do.
Thousands and thousands of people all over the world screamed and sang and danced when Katy Perry toured.
And, as you see in Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, immediately before Katy Perry played to the largest crowds on her tour in Sao Paulo, Katy Perry was sobbing in her sweatpants while her clearly freaked-out crew tried to console her. Like a robot she Goes Through the Motions of getting ready for her show, stays sobbing all the way up until she is actually standing on her little elevation platform glittery mike in hand ready to go on stage, and then at the very last second -- smiles, and goes on.