TLF Heavy Metal Theatre: Katy Perry: Part of Me

So yeah, the next installment of TLF Heavy Metal Theatre is so far away from heavy metal it’s comical. But we like the name, so we’re keeping it as the title of our music documentary review series, because it makes us LOL. – KDC

Recently, I was stuck on an airplane where Katy Perry: Part of Me was the scheduled entertainment. So I watched it.

I was pleasantly surprised by how familiar the fans interviewed sounded to fans of other music stars — the connection to the music, the connection to the performer, and the realization by the fans that they are now not alone. I enjoyed seeing the squee-ing fans become overwhelmed at the shows and backstage. It reminded me of sharing tween and teen fandoms, like Duran Duran, with my friends and beyond. And Katy Perry really knows how to work her fans backstage — quite different than Jason Newsted grabbing a big plate of cold cuts a la Metallica in A Year and a Half in the Life….

It was also interesting to watch Perry continue to negotiate the line between her sexytime music and her very religious Evangelical preaching family. Plus she loves her grandma.

So now for the negative side of things … Throughout the movie, the “narrative” of Katy Perry is supposed to be the story of a plucky go-getter who dreamed big, and made it — because she was just that gosh darn good. But even the narrative within the movie shows how much Perry needed to change to make it in the American pop industry. She plays guitar! She writes her own songs! And … she made it big singing songs written by others (oh, I’m sorry, collaborations) with Dr. Luke, Cathy Dennis, Rivers Cuomo, The-Dream, and Max Martin. And her performances consist of her singing in costume, surrounded by dancers, in outfits that demonstrate her figure more than her musical skills. Even if Perry arguably has talent, what she actually does is so so produced, and so so manufactured. It makes me appreciate Rihanna (bizarre!) because she is straightforward about being a performer (not a musical genius).

And I wrote earlier about how I thought her version of Hot ‘n Cold with Elmo was perfectly acceptable. But there is something extraordinarily strange and yet predicable about another young female performer deciding that to be her truest self (or at least that’s how it’s publicized), she needs to be overtly sexualized — at the expense of everything else. And Madonna did it better and first.

Finally, the candy theme by her costume designer is very well done. And more generally, can Turning Japanese finally be retired as a song? Because the context is always wrong — and the right context is … just not appropriate.

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