I don’t really understand all the negativity surrounding Katy Perry as of lately. People are complaining that she has “gone off the rails” and is acting “weird” but I don’t know if you’ve actually been following her career for the past 9 years because she’s always been quirky and different. Not really a newsflash there. But for her fourth studio album she has experimented with an alternative pop sound and stepped away from the cookie cutter bubblegum-pop that people complained was becoming too predictable. And ironically people are now complaining that it’s “too” abstract and different. For “Witness” she’s teamed up with long term collaborator Max Martin as well as a list of Triple J favourites; Purity Ring, Hot Chip, Jack Garratt and Hayden James to name a few. Interesting choices for a mainstream pop record but it works. Of course there are also two Sia co-written tracks thrown in there too for good measure.
“Witness” is not a bad record at all, it’s just different. The opening title track is a dance ballad that sees her confessing she just wants someone to take her for who she is, in her good moments and in her worst. “We’re all just looking for connection, we all want to be seen. I’m looking for someone who speaks my language, someone to ride this ride with me. Can I get a witness?”. It’s one of the strongest tracks in this collection and is the perfect introduction of what this era is going to be for her. The album then dives straight into dance-pop with the ridiculously catchy “Hey Hey Hey”, “Deja Vu” and “Swish Swish” which could all be considered as singles. Instant fan favourite “Roulette” has a retro pop sound which reminds you of songs like “I Like It Rough” from Lady Gaga’s album “The Fame” and that’s not a comparison I expected to make but its the best way to describe it. The album then moves into experimental dance ballads. The first is the Jack Garratt produced “Power” which is one of my favourites because of how bold the production is. It’s strong, unique and super catchy. “Mind Maze” is the first track produced by Purity Ring and its honestly a bit forgettable. The emotion and lyrics get lost in the production and could have been a lot more stripped back and raw. The second is “Miss You More” which is another instant favourite. The lyrics are emotional, the delivery is raw and genuine and the production in the chorus reminds me of “Not Like The Movies”, which isn’t a bad thing. “We were a match, but not a flame. We were a dream, unrealistic. We didn’t lose, we didn’t win. Sometimes I wonder what we could have been”. Going back to the bops “Chained To The Rhythm” offers the most “woke” song on the record and the most traditional sounding “pop” delivery. “Tsunami” has an interesting beat to it but its forgettable at best and leads into the worst song on the album “Bon Appetit” which I will still pretend doesn’t exist. “Bigger Than Me” tries to be “woke” but is boring and forgettable except for the second half of the hook with her vocal quirks. “Save As Draft” is a modern day look at break ups and the bad decision where you want to write everything down to say to them but you end up just saving as a draft. It’s a pretty ballad which isn’t her best but its not her worst either. Throwing it back to the gospel days of Katy Hudson “Pendulum” is catchy, vibrant and probably one of the coolest produced tracks that I want to put on repeat. Closing the album is the beautiful ballad “Into Me You See” which offers a melody similar to “Pearl” and perfectly sums up the emotion and questions from the opening track.
She really did hype this album up to be a “politically woke record” and honestly the only two songs I feel that fitted into that category was “Chained To The Rhythm” and “Bigger Than Me”. Lyrically this wasn’t her strongest or intimate work yet and I kept on waiting for a bigger moment than never came. If your looking for gimmicky bubblegum pop Katy Perry then you won’t find her on this album except for the bonus track “Act My Age” which is a pure BOP. People will find a way to complain or try and tear her down but “Witness” is actually a bold collection of experimental pop tracks which sees her trying to evolve as an artist. Is it her strongest material yet? No. But theres enough good moments to make this album a comfortable 3/5 listening experience.