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Pitchfork drags Katy Perry's Prism Tour while praising Gaga and Miley

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Young Forever? A Chat About Katy Perry's Prismatic Tour

 

 

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By Ryan Dombal, Jordan Sargent, and Lindsay Zoladz, July 25, 2014 at 12:20 p.m. EDT

 

Lindsay Zoladz: Dombal, Jordanâ€â€you gotta help me out. When I try to recall what happened at last night’s Katy Perry show, it’s all a blur: I seem to remember a Macy’s Parade-size turd emoji balloon, a very long homage to the musical Cats, and a set for the opening number “Roar†that made me write down in my notes “‘Legends of the Hidden Temple’ would be the scariest show to watch on mushrooms.†I am just glad I had the good sense to forgo buying the $65 animatronic Kitty Purry stuffed animal and instead make my very own Russell Brand voodoo doll out of fashionably unbrushed human hair. Très D.I.Y.! Dombal, I heard you whoop last night when Katy thanked the people who’d been with her since Warped Tour ‘08, and I know you have been self-identifying as a Katy Cat since longer than some of the people in our row had been alive. What did you think of the Prismatic Tour?

Ryan Dombal: The show was heartbreaking: a Vegas-ready jumble of ancient Rome, mummified Egypt, a d--g-free '90s raveworld, a shelter for fancy life-sized cats, and a looping, fuzzy jazzercise VHS. It was pure spitball. As we saw on Miley's Bangerz Tour, which turned Life As We Know It into a hyperspeed "Adventure Time" hallucination, this approach can work. But Katy simply isn't working on Miley's level when it comes to ADHD entertainment in 2014â€â€everything felt lumbering, like a relic. Nothing gelled. And there was a palpable feeling of the zeitgeist evaporating before our eyes; rather than capturing the hearts and minds of the most powerful force in Americaâ€â€teenage girlsâ€â€the crowd seemed largely made up of tweens, toddlers, and parents. It was an audience for Ice Capades, not a potential bellwether 29-year-old pop star.

LZ: "Heartbreaking," ouch. I will admit that there were some definite low points, but I think I liked the show a little more than you did overall, Dombal, so I’ll see if I can defend it a little in a moment. But first, Jordan, were you feeling that jazzercise burn?

 

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Jordan Sargent: You know, I liked the jazzercise portion of the show, but that sort of illustrates the problem I have with Katy Perry, which is that she's good sometimes and bad other times for reasons that seem out of her control? Like, musically speaking, she cycles through Dr. Luke and Max Martin songs and some are incredible and life-affirming while others are drab, but either way eventually it's on to the next one. The Prismatic Tourâ€â€though likely more of her own design than her songs, which she does co-writeâ€â€had that same feel. She was cycling through costumes and motifs, and some were thrilling and others were pretty dull. But even when the show was great it never felt personal? It was like, "OK, fireworks for 'Firework', sure, this is great" or "Yes, let's do the Sunset Strip thing for 'This Is How We Do', these massive balloons are fun." The show was really at its best when it was the most literal, which emphasizes how one-dimensional she often feels as an artist.

LZ: That's fair. Dombal, I want to go back to your point about the audience, which was definitely differentâ€â€and youngerâ€â€than the crowd at the Miley show, or the other big pop concert I saw this year, Lady Gaga’s dazzlingly bonkers ArtRave. It seems like the girls whose parents would not let them go to a Miley Cyrus concert post-VMAs are still totally cool with letting them listen to Katy Perry. Maybe that’s because her “s-xy†songsâ€â€which very often feel heavily indebted to burlesque or cabaretâ€â€are so full of cheeky double entendre? Like, maybe the 6-year-old sitting behind us just thinks that Katy Perry is singing about popsicles and balloons and peacock-cock-cocks… OK I think even a 6-year-old knows that song is not about peacocks. But maybe it’s easier for her mom to pretend she doesn’t!

 

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I do think that this puts into context the artistic identity crisis that Katy was clearly going through on her very uneven 2013 album, Prism. There’s some weird Benjamin Button **** going on with her: As she gets older, her audience seems to stay the same age, or in some casesâ€â€as long as choosy moms still choose Katy Perry over more overtly “scandalous†pop starsâ€â€grow even younger. And unlike, say, Miley or Gaga (whose shows are littered with f-bombs and offerings to the goddess Mary Jane Holland), Katy’s response is not to act and talk in her live show like a normal person her age might, but instead play to the youngest common denominator. Which brings up a lot of questions about how and even whether she can actually grow as an artist at this point. Whenever she addressed the crowd last night, I felt like I was watching a Pixar movie: Lots of cartoony dialogue with these subtle, knowing winks to the parents being like, “Hey, there is actually a smart, self-aware adult human inside this hot-pink furry cat suit.†Something about that dynamic made me feel bad for her, though. She just seems kind of… weary? I picture her sitting in front of a fancy, well-lit vanity after the show, flinging off her rainbow hair and sighing to herself in a wig cap, “But would the world still love a grown-up Katy Perry?â€

 

RD: I think it is possible. In fact, you could argue that the world originally fell in love with a more grown-up (or at least smarter and savvier) version of Katy Perry. The whole reason I became a fan in the first place was because of her self-awareness as a 21st-century pop star: She did all of the goofy **** pop stars do, but she did it with a great sense of humor that let everyone in on the joke. Prism shows that she wants to be taken seriously as an adultâ€â€something she alluded to during a snooze-tacular acoustic set punctuated by huge daisies and butterfliesâ€â€but her current adult guise is akin to a tentative first-year kindergarten teacher wondering if this is what she really wants to do with her life. At one point, while giving one of the night's several too-cute speeches, she told the audience, "I'm like your mom! Kind of!" She didn't sound too psyched on it. Surrounded by those giant daisies, though, she did sound psyched on the prospect of starting a garden, echoing her sister in increasingly stunted fandom, Taylor Swift, who could very well look at the Prismatic Tour as a cautionary tale.

 

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Even worse than the five or six DOA midtempo Prism tracks that nobody seemed to love was the fact that she mangled almost all of her previous hits with revised arrangements that almost made me forget why songs like "Hot N Cold" were so amazing to begin with. I get that she's played those tracks thousands of times, but even during "Teenage Dream" (which was mercifully left intact) she looked wildly bored. During another speech, she said, "In a world that's so fast, I am incredibly thankful that you still come out to see me," which, while gracious, sounded scared. Am I being too harsh here? I mean, some fun was had!

 

JS: I enjoyed the show! Having seen her live now I wouldn't pay to go to another Katy Perry show, but if someone wanted to take me I wouldn't say no. So I guess nothing changed, actually. But despite the fact that she continues to be a massively successful pop musician, I didn't feel like we were watching a showâ€â€or an artistâ€â€who is pushing culture in any specific direction. Maybe viewing the show as a mash-up of the deeply corny (Cats revivalism, hippie acoustic picnic) and the hip (VHS nostalgia, emoji) is sort of endearing, but it felt like we were watching culture pass through Katy Perry, instead of the other way around. Which isn't to say that just putting on a fun arena show is something to snivel at, or to deny her agency for some of the really great parts of the show, but from an artistic standpoint I think it was clearly a few levels below Miley or Kanye or Drake.

 

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Circling back to the way she addressed the crowd: I think that's a symptom of what I've kind of been trying to get at here, which is that she's a very good vacuum but not a great salesman. Like when she has a killer song and a half-decent idea for a video themeâ€â€"Roar" or "California Gurls"â€â€she can manage to not **** it up, but when she really tries to sell a song it can come off as insincere and off-putting (thinking of the "Last Friday Night" and "Birthday" videos here). And, like, at the show, she was really bad at delivering the sort of between-song pablum that binds a concert like this together. She's a bad actress, and that's something that I think blunts too much of what she does.

 

LZ: At one point during the show Dombal compared her banter to a magician, which I thought was funny. It also reminded me that she owes everything to that crucial early Penn & Teller co-sign.

 

RD: On the magic (not Magic! though I kinda wish it was) tip, she also had some of worst reactions in that David Blaine special, so I'm not sure if that's a viable future for her if this whole arena pop thing goes poof.

 

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LZ: Oh I don't know, she’s already got those Vegas connects. I think in the long run Katy's going to be one of those pop stars whose "mature phase" isn't going to be putting out her Yeezus so much as finding the right venue for the inevitable Katy: Piece of Me.

 

Jordan, I like what you said a while back about how Katy Perry is great sometimes and awful other times, but no matter her unstoppable career seems to barrel on with this sense of well, onto the next one. She has this way of making you forget her misstepsâ€â€so easily can she can sweep an underperforming single like “Unconditionally†under the rug, and follow it with something as undeniably monstrous as “Dark Horseâ€. The show worked to a similar effect for me. I know there were moments during which I audibly groaned (you're right, Dombal, the part where she reworked one of her best pop songs, “Hot N Coldâ€, into a Broadway ballad was straight-up cat-inspected garbage), but what remained when I woke up this morning was a feeling of giddiness about the highlights. “Birthday†was totally transcendent, as it is on the record, and even with the predictable pyrotechnics “Firework†was a powerful closer. Basically I felt about this concert the way I feel about Katy Perry overall: She throws everything she’s got at the wall, and every so often hits a bullseye.

 

JS: Weirdly, I think I'll remember the show for the times I felt like a kid (like the "Birthday" balloon drop, the weird but awesome Jock Jams mash-up interlude) while forgetting all the parts that reminded me that I'm merely an adult with aching feet.

 

LZ: Unspoken downside if it really were your birthday every day: You would be very old.

 

 

 

LINK: http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/409-young-forever-katy-perrys-prismatic-tour/

 

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Arturo

Read the review. It's hilarious but the fact that it even alludes to the fact that the Bangerz Tour is better than the PWT is just laughable. 
Also, this review isn't going to stop PWT from being the biggest female tour of 2014 :legend:

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heavyMetalGAGA

Read the review. It's hilarious but the fact that it even alludes to the fact that the Bangerz Tour is better than the PWT is just laughable. 

Also, this review isn't going to stop PWT from being the biggest female tour of 2014 :legend:

 

That soon will be forgotten, just like the majority of her other vapid material. 

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Robotboy

yeah she sucks we know :shrug: but praising miley? it kinda makes this article irrelevant.

Remember that you are unique. Like everyone else.

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heavyMetalGAGA

yeah she sucks we know :shrug: but praising miley? it kinda makes this article irrelevant.

 

Wrecking Ball is more culturally aware and better than anything Katy has ever released. 

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Altair

I actually enjoyed the prismatic world tour.

More than Miley's banger tbh.

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Flopplause

Read the review. It's hilarious but the fact that it even alludes to the fact that the Bangerz Tour is better than the PWT is just laughable. 

Also, this review isn't going to stop PWT from being the biggest female tour of 2014 :legend:

is it? Gaga's attendence at her ArtRAVE is much higher tho....and the reviews are raving overall.....

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Vernier

That's a drag so I want to laugh, but then it says Miley's tour is better, which I can't just agree with no matter how I feel about Katy

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn

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Arturo

is it? Gaga's attendence at her ArtRAVE is much higher tho....and the reviews are raving overall.....

In the end, Katy has 129 shows at Gaga has 78. Katy's overall attendance will be massive. She's pulling slightly smaller attendances in the same venues Gaga played but that's because Katy's stage is huge.

The tour gross is massive so far for an arena show though. Katy will probably ending up doing $100M from North America alone judging by her average so far.

 

Reviews have nothing to do with how successful something is, unfortunately. 

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heavyMetalGAGA

I'm not trying to be mean, but this article couldn't have said it better. It's clear what Katy's intentions are as a musician. She just wants to play the game and make money. She's the Walmart of the music world. 

 

Sure, some of her hits are pretty good, but they probably won't stand the test of time because her heart isn't in it. She's almost 30 years old now and her imagery consists of floating poop emojis. I feel bad for her because that would be a meaningless career, but she does talk about how she wants to mature into an indie acoustic artist. I'm just waiting to see if she can put something genuine and valid into the world.

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Robotboy

Wrecking Ball is more culturally aware and better than anything Katy has ever released. 

sure that song is great but also the only thing great with the miley era :teehee:

Remember that you are unique. Like everyone else.

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