By Erika Harwood. Photos: Getty Images.
Katy Perry is embarking on a new era—one motivated more by politics and social issues and less by candy canes and penis puns. She’s still the bubbly California girl the world met in 2009, but don't expect to see her singing about it. As she told Hamish Bowles in the May issue of Vogue, that candy-colored aesthetic would be “completely inauthentic to who I am now and what I’ve learned.”
Perry has always been a pop star defined by transformation, but she's never seemed further removed from cupcake bras of “California Gurls.” It’s a strategic P.R. pivot, led by Perry herself. “In a past life I was a marketing C.E.O.!,” she said, with an enthusiasm that doesn't wane whether she's discussing fashion or the 2016 election. She refers to her current music, including her new single “Chained to the Rhythm,” as “purposeful pop,” a way to use her platform to discuss politics and social issues through a top 40 hit. “I’ve seen behind the curtain and I can’t go back,” she said about her experience engaging in current events, adding that her music will be more deliberate in its message this time around. “I used to be the queen of innuendo, everything done with a wink. Now I want to be the queen of subtext—which is a cousin to innuendo, but it’s got more purpose.”
Her next phase will be accompanied by a new style, moving away from her “cutesy” past and toward a more “androgynous, architectural” look to match her new, conscious sound. “I am happy to be another interpretation of myself,” she said. This new interpretation still has Perry’s bright and hopeful disposition; in the Vogue profile nearly every other sentence ends with an exclamation mark, and says things like “Yay, this is my Valentine!” (to a bowl of pasta) and “It’s fully inspirational . . . like Tokyo on Mars!” (about Burning Man). “I do believe we need a little escapism, but I think that it can’t all be that,” she told Bowles. “If you have a voice you have a responsibility to use it now, more than ever.”
Perry famously used that voice in 2016 on behalf of Hillary Clinton, who, even though she didn't become president, seems to continue appreciating the effort. Now, Perry tells Vogue, "the music is the thing that I am selling"—but for Perry, as for any pop star, it's more complicated than that. As she says about her low-key off-duty uniform of a tracksuit and sneakers, “When I am on, I am on, and when I am not, I’ve got a different job to do. Even if you’re wearing a scarf, you’re an advertisement.”
This story originally appeared on Vanity Fair.
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