“I know every date for the next two years,” said Katy Perry Thursday night at Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum, only half-kidding. The occasion: a full-on premiere of Prism, Perry’s third album, in its entirety, now that it’s been sequenced, mixed, mastered and sent off to the presses with its own official release marked for Oct. 22. In recent weeks, "We all grew a little older," she cracked.
The album represents a milestone moment for the 28-year-old singer, whose last full-length, 2010’s Teenage Dream, yielded five No. 1 singles -- a record number. To say that the pressure is on would be an understatement of universal proportions. Indeed, it’s Universal Music Group, which purchased EMI’s recording arm in 2012 -- and with it, Capitol Records, the label to which Perry is signed -- which has the most to gain from the highly-anticipated follow-up. After all, few would argue with the commonly held belief that Prism, along with Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP, are the company’s two top priorities for the fourth quarter of 2013 and beyond.
But Perry has her own creative heights to climb, which means that while label big-whigs Steve Barnett (chairman and CEO of Capitol Music Group) and Michelle Jubelirer (CMG's EVP), along with the likes of Recording Academy president Neil Portnow, AEG Live CEO Randy Phillips and hitmaker Max Martin, stared upon the stripped-down star, she showed the slightest bit of nervousness in gaging their responses at the invite-only party.
How did the album come together and what can we expect of its impending roll-out? Plenty, as THR learned during 13-track listening session.
1. Prism features at least four potential singles: As THR's sister magazine Billboard had previously noted, at least four of Perry's new songs have hit potential. They include "This Is How We Do," a sunny 80s throwback that references LA's hipster neighborhood Silver Lake and the luxury brand Chanel in practically the same breath; "International Smile," which had Perry singing along with the hooky line, "Please fasten your seat belts and make sure your champagne glasses are empty;" "This Moment" and "Ghost," mid-tempo ballads that are closest in DNA to Perry's previous smashes; and "By the Grace of God," which could see major traction in the bible belt. The power ballad "Unconditionally," Perry's current favorite, is also destined to become "the wedding song of 2014" -- or so Capitol EVP Greg Thompson demured.
2. Perry's musical inspirations include Robyn, Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” Wendy and Lisa-era Prince: Most of the 14 tracks represented a sonic departure from chart-topper "Roar" indicating that Perry is proudly wearing her influences on her sleeve. To wit: the Prince-ian song "Birthday," produced by "the dream team" of Dr. Luke and Max Martin, which Perry described as "something Mariah Carey would have put on her first record;" The Robyn-flavored "Walking on Air," an uptempo club banger; and "Love Me," produced by Bloodshy, the man behind Perry's "favorite song ever, Britney Spears' "Toxic."
3. The title comes from an email: Perry's word du jour has to be "prismatic," which she used to describe several songs on the album. Explaining its title, the Santa Barbara native said Prism came to symbolize "a point in my life that was a little on the dark side." She saw the light, however, after someone called her a prism in an email. It was at that point that Perry let it shine through the songs.
4. “Do everything with a wink...” The pop star speaks the truth: "It wouldn't be a Katy Perry record without one innuendo or two," said Perry of a song mentioning "big balloons," which she recorded in Stockholm, Sweden. "I was so ashamed of myself," added the California girl who promised to "melt your popsicle."
5. Quoting scripture is not verboten: Raised in a strict Christian household by minister parents, Perry may have kissed a girl on her debut album, but on Prism, she's thankful to have made it through life's ups and downs with the ballad "By The Grace of God." Sings Perry: "I looked in the mirror and decided to stay," prompting some to wonder just how low she got in those dark days.
6. A “self-sabotaging” fourth album is on the way... Perhaps we'll get the answer to the great unknowns of Perry's life with her next release, which she joked was bound to be a "self-sabotaging" acoustic record. "Are you ready, Steve?" she goaded of Capitol's CEO.
7. It all comes back to her boobs: Working on the track "Double Rainbow" with producer Greg Kustin and co-writer Sia, said Perry, allowed her to "dump" pent-up emotions and gets things off her chest. Then with a pause, she added. "Why is everything always about my chest?"
Perry also revealed that two more tracks from the album will preview in September -- the hip-hop heavy "Dark Horse," featuring rapper Juicy J, on Sept. 17, and "Walking on Air” on Sept. 30. THR also learned heard that she’s set to open the American Music Awards in November. By then, a second single should be climbing the charts, although a rep for the singer will only confirm that another song is expected to go to radio by the end of the year.