Friday, June 25, 2010

Summertime Blues

Far be it from me to contradict the wisdom of the great Rob Sheffield, but I can't understand why anyone would want Katy Perry's "California Gurls" to turn into the song that rules the summer. That song gets played on the radio out here at least once an hour, but the song is so uncatchy, and Katy Perry's voice is so unmemorable, that I never even recognize it till they get to the chorus. Snoop Dogg always sounds good, though.

Maybe it's just that I don't get the whole Katy Perry thing. Usually I can understand why someone has their share of hits, even if I don't like the music; I know why Justin Bieber got big, or Slipknot. But Katy Perry seems to be a mediocre-looking woman with a mediocre voice, in service of mediocre material. She even has a mediocre name. I can't for the life of me understand why the pop-music gods summoned her for stardom.


  1. Damn, time to knot up the tar beach hose...seems David Vandervelde's “Checkin’ Out My Baby” is NOT the song of the summer.

  2. I don't know if this will raise or lower your estimation of the song, Tom... but last night (hearing it for the 3rd or 4th time that day) I realized how much it sounds like "Life Is A Highway." That's probably a big reason why I like it so much.

    Katy Perry, a Tom Cochrane for our Tom Cochrane-starved times.

  3. I suppose "I Kissed a Girl" was her "Lunatic Fringe."

    I heard it again on the radio today, and even recognized is 15 seconds in this time, and I think the biggest problem is that it just sounds unfinished. I bet someone gets around to writing a melody for the verses any day now, and the part in the chorus where Katy goes "Whoa-oh-whoa-oh-whoa" sounds like a placeholder for when they finish the lyric.

    Actually, with that pause after the previous line, it sounds like Katy just forgot the words, but they kept that part in anyhow.

  4. Well, you've definitely sussed out the connection between her looks and her hooks!

    I hadn't thought of it as unfinished (still don't) but maybe that's part of it's appeal -- that is, an invitation to its audience. Anyway, Dr. Luke does not fuck with mediocre songs, and this is not one. It's no "Party in the USA" (probably the best pop song of the last five years). But it doesn't suck.

  5. actually in this picture she even resembles Tom Cochrane.

    "mediocre-looking," what can the girl do, she's Irish. We as a tribe are not blessed in that department. I think Noel Gallagher is as photogenic as we get.

  6. I posited no connection between her looks and her hooks; I posited a connection between her looks and her stardom, which is a very different thing. If Katy Perry looked like Beyonce, I would totally understand why she was a star, despite her (to my ears) unexceptional voice and (to my ears) unexceptional material.

    A pop diva certainly doesn't have to be conventionally pretty - look at Gaga's schnozz, for pity's sake. I don't think anyone would deny that it helps, though; if Britney Spears had looked like Jennifer Warnes, she wouldn't have had half the career she ended up with.

    But Katy Perry doesn't have anything like Gaga's visual presence (or Britney's). She also doesn't have the vocal chops of a Christina Aguilera or Alicia Keys (or Gaga, for that matter). I am hard-pressed to think of another pop diva who was neither sexually striking in some way nor possessed of a top-notch voice. Maybe Tiffany.

    At the same time, I am the one who is clearly missing something here, for Katy Perry is obviously a big star. America must see (or hear) something in her that I don't. I'm just curious as to what that is.

    Rob, I thought Dolores O'Riordan was cute.

  7. I find it curious that the two women on the radio with a sharp sense of humor -- Katy Perry and Kesha -- are both frequently dismissed for their looks. (GaGa is even more frequently attacked for the crime of not being, um, conventionally beautiful, but that's because she poses such a clear threat to male sexuality, as well as the sanity of everyone within ear- or eye-shot. God bless her.) So for me, the whole notion of attractive-or-not is a dodge (I also find all those girls attractive, or sexy, or whatever, but you know, I'm very French that way, whatever that means). If you hate every Kesha, Katy and Kelly Clarkson song you hear on the radio, then you hate pop radio. But if you just hate the Katy Perry songs, then you hate Katy Perry, Tom (and, hey, like Johnny Rotten said, anger is an energy). Because some of Katy Perry's songs are good, however annoying they may be. Last thing: in the autotune era, the audience doesn't really care about anyone having a top-notch voice, even though many singers do (not Alicia Keys -- sweet of you to think so, but I've seen her live several times, and she has an okay-enough voice that wouldn't cut it in most gospel choirs and can't keep up with the vocals of her backup singers). If the audience has also given up caring about protein-only diets and breast enhancements, I'll take as the dawning of a new era and dance down the streets celebrating.

  8. I don't hate Katy Perry; I don't have strong enough feelings for her to get to the point of hate. I find her too bland for that. The comparison with Ke$ha is instructive - I find Ke$sha's voice to be much more distinctive. Whenever I hear a Ke$ha song on the radio, I always immediately know who I'm listening to. (Plus, I love the fact that her ideal of male beauty is a 70-year-old man.)

    I also think Gaga needs to be in the category of "women on the radio with a sharp sense of humor."

  9. Yeah, I wouldn't leave her out, though I think Lady Gaga is more high-concept than funny. But she is pretty funny. She has two whole songs that are like Bob Newhart routines from 1964: "What's that? I can't hear you. It's a little loud in this club. You lost your shirt? No, right, sorry -- that's me. Let me call you back -- Foster Brooks just offered me a ride home."