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Track Review

What does it take to be a champion?

Talent and discipline, certainly. But those competitive virtues must be fused to one other critical quality for anyone striving to be the very best: the gritty refusal to quit. When would-be champions fall down, it's that determination to press on, to try again, to keep going no matter how much their muscles scream, that compels them to get up.

To rise.

Katy Goes to Rio

That's the inspirational message in Katy Perry's surprisingly slow-paced electronic hit "Rise," the official anthem of the United States Olympic Team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

You might expect the song to soar into the stratosphere and perhaps dramatically double its rhythm at some point. But it never really does. Instead, Perry's voice just keeps smoldering with the fire of determination she kindles here. If the song itself isn't quite as musically demonstrative as one might expect, its lyrics certainly are.

"I won't just survive," Perry vows in the song's opening line. "Oh, you will see me thrive." That contrast, the difference between merely getting by and excelling, is repeated in different ways throughout the balance of the track. "I won't just conform," Perry sings. "No matter how you shake my core/'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh."

Perry confronts antagonists who suggest that she might not have what it takes to overcome the obstacles in her path. "When the fire's at my feet again/And the vultures all start circling/They're whispering, 'You're out of time'/But still I rise." Even when we stumble and fall, when hopes seem dashed and lost, Perry suggests that there's still a chance to win if we just get up and stay in the game: "When you think the final nail is in/Think again/Don't be surprised/I will still rise."

Of Angels and Olympians

Katy Perry, of course, began her career (so long ago, it seems now) in Christian music. So it's not a huge surprise that she melds this anthem's fierce determination with some spiritual allusions.

Perry asks angels to help her keep getting up. "I must stay conscious/Through the madness and chaos/So I call on my angels." Then she inserts some of Jesus' well-known words into these angelic beings' mouths: "They say/Oh ye of little faith/Don't doubt it, don't doubt it/Victory is in your veins/You know it, you know it."

While it's been years since Perry openly embraced the Christian faith she grew up with, one can hear distant echoes of it in these lyrics, lines that suggest that there's a bigger spiritual reality influencing our ability to persevere through trials and setbacks to claim victory.

And speaking of setbacks and victory—and of Jesus, for that matter—we see all the above in the song's official video. It's an inspiring highlight reel of summer Olympians' exploits, capturing moments of glory and of agony when athletes fall—sometimes literally—short of their dreams.

Some of those snapshots—both of success and defeat—depict Olympians bearing witness to God. One desperate competitor looks pleadingly heavenward, her expression almost an agonized prayer in and of itself. Another appears to cross himself. Still another kisses his hand and points a single finger upward. And the video itself begins with aerial footage high above Rio's iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.

So has Katy Perry returned to her Christian roots? I haven't seen any quote from her lately suggesting that she has. Still, "Rise" implies—albeit modestly—that the worldview she grew up with still influences her songwriting from time to time.

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Top 5 iTunes song.

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July 14, 2016

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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