Album review: Katy Perry’s Witness proves to be disappointingly uninspired

Rather than change the world, Katy Perry sounds chiefly intent on ratcheting up her feud with Taylor Swift, which intensified recently.

Witness by Katy Perry.
Powered by automated translation


Katy Perry


Two stars

Almost a decade after she burst like a bubblegum firework across the global charts, Katy Perry returns with album number five and some interesting terminology.

The new material is "purposeful pop", the singer suggested as she released the first single from this album, the guilty dancefloor pleasure of Chained to the Rhythm, with its knowing hook that "we're living in a bubble, bubble, so comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble".

Perry then coined another tantalising term on Twitter: "poplitics". So, would Witness feature her take on current events? A sassy 2017 update of Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? Well, no, it would not.

After all that promising build-up, Witness proves to be disappointingly uninspired, lyrically at least. Rather than change the world, Perry sounds chiefly intent on ratcheting up her feud with Taylor Swift, which intensified recently.

To recap: Swift wrote the scathing track Bad Blood after Perry "stole" some of Swift's backing dancers. Perry responded with Swish Swish, the third single from Witness, insisting that "your game is tired, you should retire". Then, the very second that this album hit stores, Swift released her back catalogue on streaming sites, stealing the headlines.

Was this a coincidence? Whether aimed at Swift or not, much of Witness features Perry self-aggrandising, in a purpose-free fashion. She opts for awkwardly aggressive Rihanna-style toasting on Hey Hey Hey – "You think I'm fragile like a Faberge; you think that I am cracking but you can't break me" – before boasting that "I'm a goddess and you know it" on the Smokey Robinson-sampling Power.

That track was co-written by British singer-songwriter Jack Garratt, one of several interesting new names behind the scenes here. Her regular collaborator, Max Martin, is less hands-on than usual – but then he did co-author Swift's Bad Blood. Several tracks are produced by the Canadian indie-electronica duo, Purity Ring, but the domineering dancefloor trance becomes a little tiresome.

"I think we're running on a loop," she sings on Déjà Vu. Too true.

There are hugely likeable moments, too, though. Pendulum is a bewilderingly grandiose yacht-rock epic, while Tsunami boasts a moody, electro-Moog gurgle, and also some bizarrely misguided lyrics: "Baby come and take a swim with me," she sings, as if tsunamis are fun.

And quirky British duo Hot Chip are behind the pleasingly piano-backed closer, Into Me You See. "I was ashamed," she sighs, "floating aimlessly". Time for a genuinely purposeful new direction.