Former contemporary Christian music singer Katy Perry has taken to controversy like a black bear takes to an Alaskan salmon stream. Her look. Her lyrics. Her marriage. Her divorce. Her evolving faith. Now she's embroiled in it once again with her Prism track "Roar," but the criticisms this time have nothing to do with her message or her moves or her manners.
Instead, the song had barely hit the airwaves and the Internet before it was singled out for … plagiarism. Online critics cried foul, saying that the beats, instrumentation, tempo and themes all bear more than a little resemblance to Sara Bareilles' recent song "Brave." And if that wasn't enough, the song's lyric video, which features its words being delivered as texts back and forth between friends as Katy goes about a normal day (including texting while eating breakfast, going to the bathroom, riding in a car, working out on a treadmill and taking a bubble bath) resembles a similarly constructed lyric video from a less well-known musician named DJ Dillion Francis.
Well. Methinks I'd be wise to sidestep that clutter and quickly get back to her main meaning … which in this case is completely uncontroversial—as long as you don't apply it too literally to Katy's own personal journey, that is.
What we find here—whether it's original or not—is a playful, upbeat, keyboard-and-drum filled anthem about standing up for yourself. "I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath," Perry confesses at the outset. "Scared to rock the boat and make a mess."
Now, that supposed prior docility certainly wasn't evident in songs like her first big hit "I Kissed a Girl" and many of her hits since then. Still, Perry insists she's been a people pleaser to a fault. "So I sat quietly, agreed politely," she continues. "I guess that I forgot I had a choice/I let you push me past the breaking point/I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything."
OK. It's getting harder to keep Katy's personal life out of this now, considering the fact that she did indeed stand for something in her CCM days, and now, not much beyond sexy getups and sensual dance moves. But for the sake of the song itself, let's persevere, shall we?
"You held me down," she accuses, "but I got up." And now she's moving forward and leaving her traumatic relationship behind. (Katy may well be referring to her short marriage to comedian and actor Russell Brand here, but, again, leaving that bit of interpretive baggage riding around on the carousel will keep us moving toward that better end result we're working toward.) "You hear my voice, you hear that sound," she continues, "Like thunder, gonna shake the ground/You held me down, but I got up/Get ready, 'cause I've had enough/I see it all, I see it now/ … I got the eye of a tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire/'Cause I am a champion, and you're gonna hear me roar/Loader, louder than a lion/ … You're gonna hear me roar!"
Maybe the song has a tad too much spunk and attitude. Its lyric video certainly shouldn't have shown Katy on the toilet. But taken the right way, and acted on with the right amount of respectful wisdom, this then becomes a Perry anthem that floats very near to the top of anything else she's done (since her aforementioned CCM days, at least). That's because it focuses more on empowerment than on the kinds of frothy, sensual rebellion she's taken to promoting so heavily of late.
Music Video Update: Katy Perry gets in touch with her inner Jane in the full video that's been produced for "Roar." As it begins, she and a narcissistic Indiana Jones-esque partner (he's always shooting selfies on his phone) have crash-landed in a jungle. He's confident. She's petrified. It's a situation that's not improved by the fact that he's soon killed by a rampaging tiger. (We see the cat pounce.) It's not long, though, before Katy acclimates and adapts, doing a lot of roaring herself as she tames the creatures of the jungle and coaxes them, Dr. Dolittle-style, into doing her bidding (like, say, using an elephant to help her shower, a scene in which we glimpse her bare shoulders). Eventually, Katy's jungle queen dispenses with the torn rags of her civilized clothes, exchanging them for a cleavage-bearing tiger-print bikini and grass skirt.