Katy Perry's fourth album arrives on a foaming wave of mixed messages. At February’s Brit Awards, she performed lead single ‘Chained to the Rhythm’ backed by giant, skeleton-like Donald Trump and Theresa May puppets – pretty provocative, right? But after a politically conscious launch for ‘Witness’, she went on to drop a follow-up track filled with food-as-sex metaphors (‘Bon Appétit’), and another that shamelessly trades on her Taylor Swift feud (‘Swish Swish’). So is this the album where K-Pez gets woke, or not?
The answer is: kind of. ‘Hey Hey Hey’ offers meme-friendly feminism as Perry declares herself a ‘babydoll with a briefcase’, while ‘Bigger Than Me’ outlines her commitment to becoming more enlightened. ‘If I’m not evolving,’ she sings here, ‘I’m just another robot taking up oxygen.’ But elsewhere, she’s more concerned with personal and romantic development than anything too political. On ‘Power’, she concedes that her submissive role in relationships could be traced back to behaviour she witnessed in her mother; from a superstar like Perry, it’s startlingly honest stuff.
Musically, ‘Witness’ keeps up with current pop trends without trying to push them forward, though Canadian electro duo Purity Ring and alt-R&B star Jack Garratt do add a few unexpected production flourishes. There are too many tepid mid-tempo tracks, but Perry hasn’t lost her knack for a banger. The slinky club pop of ‘Déjà Vu’, tropical bounce of ‘Bigger Than Me’ and explosive Italo-disco of ‘Roulette’ are all superior 2017 pop confections.
The result is an album that reflects the woman who made it: ‘Witness’ is sometimes wide of the mark, but probably more considered than you initially think. And like Perry generally, its heart seems to be in the right place.