By Patricia Reaney
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Singer Katy Perry has shed her cotton-candy pop image and reveals a vulnerability and maturity on her new album "Prism," which she said reflects changes in both her personal life and her music.
"Prism," released on Tuesday, is Perry's fourth studio album and the follow-up to 2010's phenomenally successful "Teenage Dream." It is also the first album since the 28-year-old singer split with her husband, British comedian Russell Brand, in December 2011.
"I went through a lot of experiences in my life that I think built more character. I had to find own self identity the hard way. But I did. I came out alive and stronger, a little bit stronger," Perry said in an interview.
From "By the Grace of God," the first and darkest song on the album, to the empowering lead single "Roar," or "Birthday," a rousing, catchy dance tune, Perry said each song tells a story.
"I think what 'Prism' is, is an evolution and a maturity," she said. "I think you can hear growth as a songwriter. I hope you can hear the growth as a person."
"Teenage Dream" produced five No. 1 singles, making it only the second album after Michael Jackson's "Bad" to achieve that milestone, and the first by a female artist. It also sold 5.7 million copies worldwide.
But Perry made it clear she was in a new place with "Prism," with early teasers showing her burning the blue wig she wore in the music video for her hit single "California Girls" and holding a mock funeral for her peppermint swirl outfit.
"I'm into different things," she said. "It is my most present album so far. I think I am living very consciously right now. I think I am very aware, more aware than I have ever been."
HAVING FUN, TAKING CHANCES
Perry reunited with music producers and songwriters Max Martin, Dr. Luke and Cirkut for "Prism." Most of the 13 tracks, all co-written by Perry, were recorded in San Diego, or with Martin and record producer and songwriter Klas Ahlund in Stockholm, where club anthem "Walking on Air" and the hip-hop tinged "This is How We Do" were both made.
The personal ballad "By the Grace of God," co-written with Greg Wells, reflects where Perry was emotionally late last year, the "stuff" she was working through and the blow to her self confidence.
"It had really gotten to me and I wrote this song out of a very sad place. I was hearing these negative thoughts and battling these negative thoughts," she said.
Since splitting with Brand, Perry has moved on in her personal life and is dating singer-songwriter John Mayer.
Although she had initially expected to make a darker, more acoustic record, Perry said the opposite happened and she became much more upbeat, which is reflected in the album's title.
"I let a lot of light in my life during the spring of this year, which is when I made most of the record and it influenced my songs in a very positive way," she said. "All these beautiful colours of light and love came out and hope and joy and even just fun party songs."
"Unconditionally," the second single and Perry's favourite song on the album, is a big, soaring ballad with a heavy drum tribal influence. Its lyrics speak about an all-accepting love.
Perry wrote "Roar," a thumping pop tune and her 10th No.1 Top 40 track, after becoming complacent in a relationship and not speaking up for herself.
"Double Rainbow," a collaboration with producer Greg Kurstin and songwriter Sia, is about finding someone and a rare, magical moment.
"You can tell I am having fun and taking chances, musically with the different textures that I am showing in the songs," said Perry. "I'm painting with more colours this time. I think people can adopt certain anthems for the messages or they can make them their own."
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney, Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and David Brunnstrom)