Ever since her Super Bowl XLIX halftime performance, Katy Perry hasn’t really been on a winning streak. A petty feud with Taylor Swift and the “Left Shark” meme kept her alive through Prism, which held only two successful singles, but the mega-pop star looked to make a big comeback in 2017 with her new record Witness. Described as “purposeful pop,” Katy Perry’s aim was to re-brand herself as a “woke” artist, but what she was actually speaking out about continued to get completely lost in translation.
While general “wokeness” was her intent, it seemed through her early releases that club/runway tracks were taking shape way more than any potential overarching message to the world. “Chained to the Rhythm” was meant to be a song about how we’re all the same because we can all dance to the same song together, but lyrics alluding to such a theme were lost in depictions of life as “trapped in our white picket-fence… so comfortable, we live in a bubble,” a world that Perry might know, but most others do not. Instead of making a universal message, we’re instead asked to “turn it up, keep it on repeat/stumbling around like a wasted zombie.”
The following singles, “Swish, Swish,” which was labeled as an anti-bullying song but turned out to be a petty Taylor Swift diss, and “Bon Appetit,” which was just another dance song about her sexual availability, also didn’t hold any explanations about what “purposeful pop” aims they were supposed to be demonstrating. It didn’t help either that her SNL performances of both tracks included conflicting ideologies with one performance hosting drag queens, and the other Migos, a rap group that has been very vocally homophobic in recent months. Katy seems to trying every avenue to get back into the spotlight, and it was almost too perfect when the singer actually bent over backwards.
The rest of Witness isn’t anything to even mention, as it follows a similar suit as the singles. Katy is really trying to spin what would have just been her next record into a narrative that fits more than just dance-pop, but the “purpose” is ultimately completely lost within all the talk of her own singular experiences. Lyrics such as “if I’m not evolving, I’m just another robot taking up oxygen,” and “can’t go with the flow, got to make waves/even though I look at the sand, and I’m just one grain,” completely miss the mark at creating a universal concept.
Witness aside, the most interesting aspect of Katy’s album roll-out was her YouTube livestream. Putting her “life” on display for four days, fans could watch Katy 24/7 as she interacted with other people, met with celebrity guests, and even slept in a Big Brother-esque house designed to promote her record, plug various television programs, and make herself seem more likable. In this effort to humanize herself, the Witness livestream acted more as a kind of entitled vanity project that only a white mega-pop star would be allowed to pull off.
Day 1 started out with Katy awaking to a display of domino’s falling over, followed by some passive aggressive notes to her staff in the house while dancing to her own album in the background. A zen morning of meditation and yoga preceded guest Laura Lee, a make-up artist whose YouTube fans were incredibly excited to watch her do Katy’s make-up. Throughout the process, which started out fine, Katy diminished Laura’s involvement to a point where Katy began doing her own makeup while Laura Lee, now off camera, handed the products to her.
I wasn’t the only one to notice such a dismissive shift however, as the Twitter comments began to roll in:
Watching Laura Lee do Katy Perry’s makeup is a train wreck I can’t stop watching. KP is basically doing her makeup herself lmao
— Cenn (@CenaidaZM) June 9, 2017
I hope not all celebrities are as rude as she is. Totally different view of her after seeing this live video w/ Laura Lee.
— Dominique Landry (@domilou) June 9, 2017
Katy was being so rude to Laura lee… it broke my damn heart.
— Chels (@C_Morrison92) June 9, 2017
By turning a moment in which she could have been viewed as more likable for getting along with and promoting a YouTube make-up artist, Katy took it upon herself to make it all about her. Consumed with how her makeup looked, even though she wasn’t going to any sort of event since she can’t leave the livestream house for another three days, her personality struck as an entitled diva who could honestly care less about her special guest.
The mindset continued throughout cooking with Gordon Ramsey, a therapy session for VICELAND’s The Therapist, some more makeup routines, a conversation with Neil deGrasse Tyson, forgiving the Taylor Swift feud, and concluding in a live performance—all events that had everything to do with Katy Perry and no one else. To be truly honest, there were moments when I questioned if I was being too harsh on Perry, someone who seemingly means well but nonetheless failed in the process, but ultimately, as Katy said of her dancing on day 1: “that’s what happens when I try to be cool, I just fumble.”
Displaying the life of a celebrity who gets to play games with other celebrities, do yoga, meditate, eat healthy food, get free therapy, and put their makeup on for over two hours is not humanizing to see. To me, that’s the life of fame—a life where you can put everything important on hold to have a four-day livestream to promote an album as a mega-pop star. What would have been more humanizing to see would have been Katy “witnessing,” a.k.a. talking and observing, people who are troubled, in need, and scared in today’s political climate around the globe. The Witness livestream wasn’t “woke,” it was a marketing scheme in which you could watch the “life” of Katy Perry: an event as self-centered as Katy proved to be herself.