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Sometimes it takes a village to build the perfect pop beast. And this time the villagers, so to speak, have outdone themselves.
Katy Perry's fourth full-length release PRISM, out October 22, boasts no fewer than 20(!) esteemed songwriting collaborators … and the result is an album that could generate practically the same number of massive hit singles.
PRISM's 16 tracks — a radio-ready mix of Fireworkian empowerment anthems ("Roar," "This Moment," "Choose Your Battles"); daft, punky party-starters ("Birthday," "Walking On Air," "This Is How We Do," "International Smile"); and soundscaping ballads that bring to mind Florence Welch's machinery ("Legendary Lovers," "Unconditionally," "Double Rainbow") — feature many of the unimpeachable collaborators behind the success of Katy's One of the Boys and Teenage Dream, such as Max Martin, Dr. Luke, and Bonnie McKee. Fellow modern-day songstresses Emeli Sande and Sia also play a part.
But fans will surely raise an eyebrow or two when reading one name listed in the album's credits: Katy's on/off (and currently very much on) boyfriend, John Mayer.
Katy dueted with John, whom she recently described as a songwriting "genius" in an interview with Billboard, on his latest album, Paradise Valley. And John returns the favor on PRISM, lending his trademark bluesy guitar to "It Takes Two" and, more notably, sharing the microphone with her on their sexy co-write, "Spiritual."
Despite its title, "Spiritual" isn't exactly a return to Katy's Christian music roots, back when she was known as innocent little Katy Hudson. It seems the higher power that Katy is worshipping these days is John Mayer himself, judging by loved-up lyrics like, "Lay me down at your altar, baby/I'm a slave to this love/Your electric lips have got me speaking in tongues" and "I have prayed for a power like you to see deep down in my soul." Racy phrases like "sweet ecstasy" are used liberally as well. When Katy and John's sultry voices blend in the chorus, they take the song to church, but not in the way her Pentecostal-pastor parents probably imagined when their daughter first started out as a gospel singer.
Early press on PRISM touted the album as Katy's most serious and, yes, most spiritual to date. And there are some dark moments, like the divorce ballads "By the Grace of God" and "Ghost," the latter of which references her ex-husband, Russell Brand, dumping her via text message. There are also a couple of mentions of Katy's "third eye." However, the album's finest moments come when Katy is still partying like a teenage-dreaming California gurl last Friday night — that is, when she's behaving like the same fun-loving lady she supposedly left behind when she torched her old blue Halloween Superstore wig in a spooky PRISM promo.
There's "Birthday," a Kylie-goes-to-the-disco romp that gives Rihanna's "Cake" and Jeremih's "Birthday Sex" some serious competition in the double-entendre-laden-birthday-serenades department. Or "This Is How We Do," a funky-fresh ode to straight-stuntin' club kids who squander their rent money on bottle service and "go to bed with a 10 and wake up with a 2." Or the totally-'90s house-music epic "Walking on Air," which almost sounds like a Crystal Waters outtake. And then there's the easy-breezy-covergirl "International Smile," an '80s-tastic It-Girl anthem that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Duran Duran's Patrick Nagel-emblazoned Rio LP.
Yes, Katy and her collaborators have crafted another pop masterpiece. Here are some other important people who made PRISM possible:
Max Martin – Is there ANYTHING this Swedish songsmith can't do? Max has been a major player in Katy's past success, co-penning her smashes "I Kissed a Girl," "Hot N Cold," "California Gurls," "Teenage Dream," "E.T.," "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)," "The One That Got Away," "Part of Me," and "Wide Awake." He's also the man who brought us Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Pink's "Raise Your Glass," Britney Spears's "...Baby One More Time," and countless other Top 40 staples. Max lent his Midas touch to 10 of PRISM's 16 tracks, including the lead single "Roar."
Dr. Luke – Łukasz Sebastian Gottwald, who nearly became an "American Idol" judge this year, co-wrote multiple songs on Katy's One of the Boys and Teenage Dream, and well as hits for Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Pink, Avril Lavigne, Jessie J, Ke$ha, Miley Cyrus, Adam Lambert, Rihanna, and others. He teamed with Max Martin on all 10 of Max's PRISM's cuts for a winning pop formula.
Bonnie McKee – Bonnie has made a splash lately with her own pop single "American Girl," and she released her debut album when she was a teenager in 2004. But Bonnie's main success has been as a pro songwriter, orchestrating many of Katy's Teenage Dream hits as well as Taio Cruz's "Dynamite," Rita Ora's "How We Do," and Christina Aguilera's "Let There Be Love." Listen for Bonnie's contributions on PRISM's "Roar," "Legendary Lovers," "Birthday," and "Ghost."
Greg Kurstin – Greg is one-half of the indie-pop duo the Bird and the Bee and was once in the quirky '90s alt-rock band Geggy Tah, but he's carved out quite a career for himself as a popsmith-for-hire, working with everyone from Devo and the Flaming Lips to Ke$ha and Kelly Clarkson. Greg co-wrote PRISM's "Spiritual" with Katy and John Mayer and "Double Rainbow" with Katy and Sia.
Sia Furler – You've heard Sia's voice on Flo Rida's "Wild Ones," David Guetta's "Titanium," and on the first three albums by Zero 7, as well as on her own ballad popularized by the harrowing "Six Feet Under" finale, "Breathe Me." Most recently, she co-wrote Rihanna's huge single "Diamonds." Sia's "Double Rainbow" is a PRISM highlight.
Greg Wells – Another go-to guy in the pop biz, Greg has worked on past Katy songs like "Waking Up in Vegas," "Ur So Gay," and the underrated ballads "Mannequin" and "Not Like the Movies." This time, he contributed to Katy's poignant "By the Grace of God."
Juicy J – The former Three 6 Mafia rapper lent his rhymes to "Dark Horse," a strong candidate for a future single and PRISM's most grimy, gritty, groove-laden track.
Sarah Hudson – The singer-songwriter daughter of TV personality/record producer Mark Hudson and first cousin of actress Kate Hudson also contributed to "Dark Horse." But she's not related to Katy Perry, aka Katy Hudson, of course!
Christian Karlsson – The member of Bloodshy & Avant and Miike Snow, who's worked with Britney Spears, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, and many others, co-wrote "Love Me."
Stargate – The Norwegian production team, who've collaborated with Ne-Yo, Beyoncé, and most recently Ylvis (yes, of "What Does the Fox Say?" viral infamy) has credits on Katy's "This Moment" and "It Takes Two."
Benny Blanco – The in-demand producer, who reinvigorated Maroon 5's career with "Moves Like Jagger" and is responsible for a jaw-dropping array of pop hits for Justin Bieber et al, teamed with Stargate on the above-mentioned cuts.
Emeli Sande – The British pop 'n' soul star, whose Our Version of Events was the U.K.'s top-selling album of 2012, joined Stargate and Benny for the John Mayer-augmented "It Takes Two."
Klas Ahlund – The founding member of Swedish electrorock outfit the Teddybears, who helped Robyn hone her sound on her Body Talk album series, contributed to two of PRISM's most upbeat jams, "Walking on Air" and "This Is How We Do."
Jonatha Brooke – The Massachusetts folky has a songwriting credit on "Choose Your Battles."
Cirkut – The Canadian producer and songwriter, who has worked with Britney Spears, Ke$ha, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, B.o.B, Lil Wayne, Taylor Swift, and the Weeknd, had a hand in multiple PRISM cuts.
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