The Downfall of Katy Perry
Friends of mine know I have a weird fascination with Katy Perry. It's partly just because she's a weird girl, but part of it is how she keeps being surprising. She plays the public attention game very well, but instead of devolving into one constant media blitz, she seems to go for depth in strange places.
For example, her song "Teenage Dream" could have easily been a simple formulaic title-based pop track. Instead, she delivered a song with a haunting undertone, and hidden glimpses of her adult self straining to look over the fence, and remember just what her younger self saw in the world.
Maybe that's why I'm fascinated by the phenomenon of her alter ego. Katy Perry was actually born Katy Hudson, raised in a highly religious family, and at 16, became a fledgling contemporary Christian singer. She released an album, toured churches and Christian coffeeshops, and looked like every singer-songwriter-pop-singer did in the 90s.
We all go through all kinds of malarky, believe me. And God's like, it's cool, you'll come back. -Katy Hudson
And then her record label folded, and she disappeared for a few years. She ran away to LA, changed her name, and when she finally re-emerged, it was with a much more nuanced perspective, and a wickedly clever take on life.
When asked about it now, she describes her early career as sincere, and as still part of herself that she values. But she's definitely in the diaspora, outside the bounds of the world she knew and loved.
She began young, innocent, and with an uncomplicated view. Now, she's far, far, from where she began, tracing a path outward into a much darker and more complicated world.
I think that's what I find so intriguing - this journey into the dark, completely aware of leaving part of yourself behind. It doesn't deny what was before, it doesn't reject it, and yet it lives in the constant tension of what you've left.
You can see that she knows the tension. Like Milton's most famous character, she sits poised high above a world she can no longer join, reigning in her own way.
But keeps a tattoo of Jesus on her wrist, to remind her that she can always go back.