One of Katy Perry’s chief charms has always been how lightly she seems to wear her pop stardom — as if it’s all just some ?crazy cosmic goof that she’ll happily ride out as long as we let her. Her latest serving of sonic fluffernutter, the inescapable ”California Gurls,” spent six weeks at No. 1 this summer, and Teenage Dream, the album from which it comes, seems bionically designed to make her a gurl for all Billboard seasons.
Over the course of 44 rampaging minutes, that can feel alternately like a threat and a promise. To borrow from Mother Goose, when Perry is good, she is very, very good (see the strutting, shamelessly silly ”Hey Mickey” redux ”Peacock”), and when she is bad, she is horrid. Lyrical prowess is not her forte; neither, in fact, is rhyming ”forte” with ”foreplay,” as she does painfully on the druggie-boyfriend takedown ”Circle the Drain.”
She tends to connect best in ’80s leotard-lady mode, as showcased on the deliciously glitchy throwback ”E.T.” — imagine Lita Ford crawling through Trent Reznor’s night terrors, Inception-style — and the aerobic, synth-spangled title track. Her Ke$ha-esque party-till-my-parole-officer-calls shtick on ”Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” however, just feels hollow. Beneath the fruity outfits and fart jokes, Perry is clearly serious about the business of hit songcraft; that doesn’t make Dream nearly cohesive as an album, but it does provide, intermittently, exactly the kind of high-fructose rush she’s aiming for. B?