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Track Review

In contrast to some of her more saccharine, shallow and sensual offerings, Katy Perry's hit "Wide Awake" feels somber and sad as she reflects on a relationship that's crumbled. It's an obvious reference to her divorce from actor/comedian Russell Brand. And, in fact, this song was the only one of the new tunes on Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection that was written after their split had been announced.

There are two sides to every breakup, of course. Here, Katy tells hers, casting herself as a naive believer in true love who got duped and dumped. And then she repeatedly says she's now "wide awake"—code for being older, wiser and not as trustingly innocent as she apparently was before Brand swept her off her feet.

"Yeah, I was in the dark," she says of the romance's early days, "I was falling hard/With an open heart." Now she wonders how she could have missed telltale signs that her supposed knight in shining armor wasn't: "How did I read the stars so wrong?/ … And now it's clear to me/That everything you see/Ain't always what it seems/Yeah, I was dreaming for so long."

Perry says she would have done things differently if she'd had all the facts. "I wish I knew then/What I know now/Wouldn't dive in/Wouldn't bow down." That's because the ultimate dissolution of her marriage, she sings, was akin to a nasty fall: "Gravity hurts/You made it so sweet/'Til I woke up/On the concrete/Falling from cloud nine/Crashing from the high."

For all that, the 27-year-old singer wants listeners to know she's determined to move forward with her head held high. "Not losing any sleep," she says, "I picked up every piece/And landed on my feet." Perry also appropriates biblical language from her Christian upbringing when she sings, "Yeah, I am born again/Out of the lion's den/I don't have to pretend." Later, she adds, "God knows that I tried/Seeing the bright side/ … But I'm not blind anymore."

Taking "Wide Awake" at its word, it's hard not to feel sympathy and empathy for Katy. These lyrics depict a young woman whose heart longed for real and lasting love, but who ended up on the receiving end of something far less than that.

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Peaked at No. 2.

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May 22, 2012

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Adam R. Holz

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