Katy Perry as a frowning clown on the album cover of "Smile"


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Kristin Smith

Album Review

Pop star Katy Perry is storming past the doom and gloom of 2020 with her latest album, Smile.

A combination of electro synth and head bopping pop, Perry meets listening ears with 12-songs that bounce from immaturity and wreckless behavior, to maturity laced with hope.

Pro-Social Content

Perry makes it clear that although many have doubted her and tried to destroy her confidence, she continues to press forward on “Smile” and “Daises.” On the latter, she says, “They told me I was out there/Tried to knock me down/Took those sticks and stones/Showed ’em I could build a house.”

“Resilient” and “Not the End of the World” encourage listeners to change their perspective and to move past difficulty, knowing that although times may be hard, they won’t stay that way forever: “Throw on your fancy attire, fears in the fire/Don’t lose hope” (“Not the End of the World”).

If Katy Perry only had one day to live, she’d spend her time righting wrongs and surrounding herself with peace and those she loves on “Only Love.” She sings, “I’d call my mother and tell her I’m sorry/ … I’d pour my heart and soul into a letter/And send it to my dad/ … Let me leave this world with hate behind me/And take the love instead.”

On “Never Really Over,” Perry honestly confesses that moving past dysfunctional relationships and former lovers is a difficult thing to do: “Thought we drew the line/Right through you and I/Can’t keep going back/I guess it’s never really over.”

Relationships might be difficult, but, according to Perry they’re worth the fight in “Champagne Problems” (“Times we coulda gave up/We put the dirty work in/So now we know it’s worth celebrating/I’m so glad we made it this far”). Perry encourages listeners to press forward through heartbreak in “Teary Eyes.”

On “What Makes a Woman,” Perry happily recognizes her complexities as a woman.

Objectionable Content

In “Tucked,” Perry says that she has a specific lover in mind that she can sexually fantasize about whenever she pleases: “Tucked deep, deep in my fantasy/ … Don’t need permission to do what I do to you/When all you are to me’s a sweet escape.” Similar sexual allusions are referenced on “Harley’s in Hawaii.”

Perry drinks to forget about her problems on “Cry About It Later”: “Tonight, I’m havin’ fun/I’ll cry about it later/I know tomorrow, I’ll be left hungover/But I’m ready for a shameless summer/Champagne on ice only makes you stronger.” Similar themes are mentioned on songs like “Teary Eyes,” “Champagne Problems” and “Never Really Over,” as Perry wrestles with how to move on from former lovers and the scars they’ve left.

Perry mentions talking to a fortune teller on “Not the End of the World.” And in “Never Really Over,” she fantasizes about a dysfunctional relationship.

The f-word, and the word “b–ch,” are each heard once on “What Makes a Woman.” The s-word is used once on “Only Love.”

Summary Advisory

Katy Perry is back with another album that is filled with topics that range from positive to concerning. However, unlike former works, Smile isn’t as… memorable.

To credit Perry, there are lots of positives here. Listeners hear that relationships are worth fighting for, family and friends are to be cherished, and forgiveness is something we all need. Good stuff. Similarly, she confesses that although difficult times are inevitable, there is still hope to be found as we fight our way to a better tomorrow.

But it’s not all smiles and rainbows. Sexual allusions might not be as prevalent as they are on some of her former works, but they’re still present. So is drinking to forget about reality. And, just when you thought that would be all you’d need to look out for, Perry drops a few harsh profanities on her last few tracks, too. 

Yeah, you might smile while listening to some songs, but, as many critics have suggested, this album feels weirdly out of place in 2020. And that’s both good and bad.

Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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