So, wait… Katy Perry? One of the most successful pop stars of all time and the #1 selling digital songs artist of all time? Underrated? Yes. PRISM is far better than the critics decreed it to be and Katy continues, even with her monumental success, to be under-appreciated and under-respected. But that’s a topic for a whole series of articles. Today, I want to focus on PRISM.
You can trust me when I say the PRISM lives up to the hype it received and it actually was even better than I could have imagined. Many other critics, however, consider it significantly inferior to her second album, “Teenage Dream.” There are a number of reasons for this, and part of that has to do the debut single and the song that launched PRISM, “Roar.”
Today, we’ll be focusing on just how hearing Katy “Roar” actually turned out.
Many critics were underwhelmed with "Roar.” Some went as far to term it a "boring" girl empowerment song. IF you sit there and analyze it, there is a bit more to "Roar" than that.
Pretty much everything you need to know about “Roar” is in the opening lines of the song. The lines "I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath/scared to rock the boat and make a mess" could refer to her early music career when she was trying really hard to stay within the lines of Christian music. But as so many people that grow up in highly strict environments often tell themselves: "So I sat quietly, agreed politely."
What follows is the strongest part of the song, "I guess I forgot I had a choice/I let you push me past the breaking point." This is obviously when Katy realized that she had to break the mold to truly create the music that she really wanted to. "I stood for nothing/So I fell for everything" is probably the strongest line in the lyrics. During the past several years, it’s been clear that Katy has been searching for an identity. Since “One of the Boys,” Katy has been all over the place with her experiments in fashion, trying to find a way to define herself. As she said in many early interviews regarding both "Roar" and PRISM, only now through the process of writing this record does she feel that she has truly been finding herself. This song is a perfect reflection of that, as she is always sure to point out.
That verse being as strong as it is, the song does become a bit generic after that. "You pushed me down/But I got up/Already brushing off the dust" is a bit too cliché. "You hear that voice, hear that sound/Like thunder gonna shake the ground" is fine, though. The rest of that bridge is okay: "You held me down, but I got up/Get ready ‘cause I’ve had enough/I see it all, I see it now" is still rather clichéd as pop music lyrics go. It’s after this that the song falls apart for a lot of people.
The chorus is the part where most critics have a field day. It flat-out references the Rocky films with things like "eye of the tiger" and "I am a champion," and while "you're gonna hear me roar" is really cute, it has grown tired and stale for a lot of people already. The second verse is a bit disappointing, too, and not a good follow-up to the strength of the first verse. Its very cutesy imagery of "floating like a butterfly" and being able to "sting like a bee, I've earned my stripes" takes away a good deal of momentum from the extremely relatable lyrics from the opening verse. "I went from zero to my own hero," though, is a very quotable line. But after that, the song doesn’t offer anything else.
Katy was going for a powerful lead-off single to kick off PRISM. It was indeed powerful, and did have the popular success she’d hoped for – and more, in fact. However, it didn't pack the punch that many music critics were expecting that it would. To be fair, after Teenage Dream, the expectations were a bit unrealistic, being one of the most commercially successful album cycles of all time. It seems that what Katy wanted was a fun little self-empowerment anthem, to step up and be the very best you that you can be. Unfortunately, many critics see it as a silly girl-power anthem made only for her adoring Katy Cats. But from talking to people about the song and combing the internet for reactions, “Roar” is generally liked by a lot of people. It’s the fact that it was played to death that killed it for a lot of people.
Being the Katy Cat that I am, I love “Roar” to depth. It got me pumped for PRISM, and the album did not disappoint me. Then again, I quickly figured out her purpose in writing the song, and most critics missed the boat on it. Katy takes being a pop star very seriously, and while she doesn’t necessarily write songs only for the charts, she's well aware of what her core audience (the Katy Cats) want and expect from her. There is a good message in “Roar” right in that first verse while the overall tone of the song is extremely upbeat, and the core message very positive and uplifting.
Commercially, “Roar” did fantastically. “Roar” actually was the hit that finally dethroned the so-called Song of the Year “Blurred Lines,” which I was more than happy to see go from that top spot. However, “Roar” didn’t remain at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US for long due to Miley Cyrus’s smash hit "Wrecking Ball" coming out of nowhere – a status which it actually did sort of deserve, honestly. “Roar” has been one Katy’s best-selling singles of all-time and continued to blow away the charts in many other countries, as well as the Billboard genre-based charts into 2014. The dance remixes of “Roar” have also fared extremely well.
As a hardcore Katy Cat, I find myself having to just love this song for what it is despite its obvious shortcomings. It’s not as strong as some other songs on PRISM. “Roar” may be on par with a lot of her other #1 hits, which, besides perhaps “Firework” are not really musical works of art; they’re just catchy enough that you can't get them out of your head. Most of her #1 hits also are upbeat enough to be important parts of one's daily soundtrack, and “Roar” definitely fits that bit. “Roar” is probably a 7.5 for me on pure content alone. But as it’s served as a get-me-out-of-bed and get-me-going tune, it’s been too personally motivational for me to rate any lower than at least an 8.
I gave it an 8.5 back in November for the sheer fact that it was a fantastic tone setter for what is very much Katy’s best album so far. I don’t see myself changing that rating now. I know a lot of people will disagree with it, but there are just as many that will probably beg me to change it to a 9 or a 10. But I’m sorry – Roar’s a nice anthem, but it’s no “Firework.”