It’s pretty much inevitable that sometime this summer you’ll hear Katy Perry’s hit single “I Kissed a Girl” blaring out of someone’s car, or in a dance club, or in a department store, if you haven’t already. And, if you aren’t looking for any kind of spiritual enlightenment and just want to hear a cool song with a great beat and interesting lyrics, you just might find yourself dancing or even (gasp!) singing along to it, as I have.
However, as Beliefnet’s Gospel Soundcheck blogger Joanne Brokaw points out, up until a few years ago, Katy Perry was known in the Christian music industry as Katy Hudson, daughter of two pastors, and released a self-titled, faith-based album in 2001. Obviously, this is causing a stir in some circles.
In a recent ABCNews.com piece, which explores Perry’s conversion from Christian singer to sexpot pop star, Joe Levy, Editor in Chief of Blender magazine, says of Perry, “I don’t think she fits in with other Christian music artists who transition to pop success. She didn’t transition–she stopped dead, reinvented herself, became an artist who has nothing to do with Christian music. It’s a footnote in her career. It looks like who she is now is who she wants to be, slightly outrageous and very cute. And right now that’s working.”
Ain’t that the truth! Currently Perry’s album “One of the Boys” is #1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart. And, of course, depending on how conservative you are, there’s certainly some shock value to Perry’s songs and lyrics:
I Kissed a Girl: “I kissed a girl and I liked it/ The taste of her cherry chap stick/ I kissed a girl just to try it/ I hope my boyfriend don’t mind it.”
Ur So Gay: “You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys.” (some of the more risqué lyrics can’t be printed here)
If You Can Afford Me: “If you want me, a cherry on top, the pick of the peck/The crème de la crop/If you want me you better do better than that tonight.”
In the same ABCNews piece, Brokaw says she finds it Perry’s about-face interesting and wonders about her motives. “I get the sense that maybe [Perry] was engaged in rebellious behavior back then (when she was a Christian artist). I just wonder what the decision was–did people not really know or were they looking the other way?”
I think that’s just one of many questions that will get a lot of people thinking about Perry’s transition and Christian music in general: Are artists using the Christian music industry as a stepping stone into mainstream radio–regardless of how “Christian” their behavior is? And what constitutes a “Christian artist” anyway? And do Christian labels even care if an artist is a model Christian if he or she can sell records?
I mean, most of the Christian rock and pop artists and musicians I’ve interviewed over the years get a sour taste in their mouths over the term–they want to be known as “Christians who just so happen to make music” not simply “Christian musicians” and often use examples like “If a Christian is a doctor or mailman, you don’t call him a ‘Christian doctor’ or ‘Christian mailman.'”
For the time being, I’m going to try to look away from the controversy, since I’m certainly not looking for any spiritual guidance from Perry or her music. I’m really just looking for some good tunes, and–at the risk of sounding anti-feminist–today’s female artists, with a few exceptions, don’t really do it for me. Avril, Kelly, and the others will never be Janis, or Joni, or Grace.
It’s unfortunate and sad that talented artists like Katy and Amy [Winehouse] will most likely be known twenty years from now for their shock value, lyrical and otherwise, and personal lives, instead of breaking the mold at a time when female artists are all doing the same ol’ thing (and not well).
I recommend Perry’s album for those who don’t care about the “scandal” or Perry’s past life. She has a great voice and a empowering spirit that reminds me of Alanis Morissette (back when she was still relevant) and I think she could really go places. I just hope she doesn’t rely on shock value alone for her next album–because that kind of stuff could get old really quickly.