Katy Perry’s “Smile” left us frowning

Katy Perry leaves listeners frowning in her disappointing new album, Smile.

Jiayu Zhan

Katy Perry leaves listeners frowning in her disappointing new album, “Smile”.

Riya Mehta and Aria Khalique

After three years filled with personal changes, Katy Perry released her new album “Smile” on Aug. 28. Though some songs are catchy, the release falls flat with overproduced compositions and meaningless lyrics.

Her sixth studio album, following “Witness,” primarily focuses on attempting to find the light at the end of the tunnel, and “taking back your smile,” as Perry describes. After feelings of hopelessness, a low point in her relationship, and receiving criticism from the public, Perry expresses her gratitude for the people in her life as well as her resilience to be the best version of herself despite these setbacks. This message could be due to the fact that Perry recently became a mother to newborn daughter, Daisy Dove. The change most likely accounts for Perry’s newfound resilience and desire to be a positive influence on young children. Though a heartfelt message to any listener, the lyrics often come off as cringe-worthy throughout the album, and attempts to reclaim Perry’s former success. In doing so the record feels safe and unoriginal leaving listeners asking why Perry’s personal transition was not reflected in her sound.

Instead of taking risks Perry forces songs with the exact same structure as every other one of her singles. Each Katy Perry hit contains a repetitive verse followed by a chorus and another verse and chorus. The bridge follows a similar formation when the beat drops low and builds to a high-pitched exclamation from Perry where she repeats a chorus that has a slight tempo change. This formula is apparent in “Last Friday Night”, “Teenage Dream”, “California Gurls” and “Roar”.

“Never Really Over”, the album opener, follows this pattern as well. Similar to its title, the song felt excessively long with no end in sight. Repetitive drum machine fills made the song feel incredibly monotone and unoriginal. Though repetitive, the computerized beats did make the song catchy and it was one of the only tracks in the album where Perry’s voice was bearable. The lyrics hold up the song as Perry sings “My head still takes me back / Thought it was done / But I guess it’s never really over,” talking about an ex who keeps popping into her mind.

Though some songs are catchy, the release falls flat with overproduced compositions and meaningless lyrics.

“Champagne Problems” proves similar to “Never Really Over” with redundant but catchy melodies. However, the song differentiates itself with intriguing violin patterns and includes a different tempo from the other songs. These small details make the song unique from the rest and fun to listen to.  

“Champagne Problems” provided listeners with something new but it did not compare to “Only Love” which is easily the best song on the record. The track displays the strongest lyrics of any song talking about how one should prioritize love over hate since our time on Earth is limited. Perry sings, “the time I’ve wasted / Lost in my head / Let me leave this world with the hate behind me / And take the love instead”. These lyrics offer a nuanced approach to this theme and though the composition of computerized instruments is catchy but no different from the rest of the album, only the writing makes this song the best in the album. 

Almost identical to “Only Love” is “Resilient” which features similar lyrics of empowerment and has one of the only unique bridges on the record. The track offers some fun violin plucking creating a groovy rhythm but it is cut short with Perry’s voice straining to keep up. Her failed attempts at high notes are to emphasize the message of strength conveyed through the song’s writing. Perry’s theme is admirable and definitely important for young girls to hear but the lyrics of “Resilient” are incredibly obvious and filled with overused analogies. She sings “I know there’s gotta be rain/ If I want the rainbows/ And I know the higher I climb/ The harder the wind blows”. Though subpar lines make the song boring, the exciting composition makes up for anything missing. The song should also be appreciated given that it is the only track on the album not to follow Perry’s redundant song structure. 

Unfortunately Perry’s other single, “Daisies”, was not able to compensate for its lack of originality. The song offers no unique elements and unsuccessfully tries to recreate the magic of some of Perry’s old hits by adhering to her repetitive pattern and following similar composition rhythms. Try as she might, the song does not come close to hits like “Teenage Dream” and “Last Friday Night” and instead is a struggle to listen to.

Just like “Resilient”, “Daisies” attempts to offer lyrics of power and individuality with Perry singing, “They tell me that I’m crazy / But I’ll never let ’em change me”. And though it is a valiant effort, the lyrics do not provide a nuanced approach to the very general themes and so, do not stand out on the track. 

Akin to the lyrics of “Daisies”, “What makes a woman” also attempts to offer words of empowerment. However, each line seems cliche and disconnected from the rest, making it difficult to discern what message Perry wishes to convey. Given the title, it seems Perry wants to create her own anthem of female empowerment similar to “Confident” by Demi Lovato. But all her words seem pseudo-poetic as she sings “Describe what makes a woman / And that’s what makes a woman to me”. The lines do not seem impactful and instead make Perry’s message all the more convoluted.

It becomes increasingly difficult to retain the idea behind “What Makes A Woman” with Perry again straining her voice to meet high notes that she is unable to reach. And though the track does provide some intriguing electric guitar riffs, the unoriginal lyrics sung by Perry’s mundane voice makes this song one to skip over. 

“What Makes A Woman” was not the only lackluster song on the record. Perry’s third single from the album, “Cry About it Later”, definitely won as the worst song on “Smile”. The incredibly repetitive and meaningless words were sung over a horrible composition of keyboards and drum machines that seemed to be battling to see which could one be more annoying. Perry’s voice was the sour cherry on the putrid cake that was “Cry About it Later” as she strains for no reason. The track seems to meld together elements from hit songs such as fast-paced configurations and redundant lyrics in an attempt to make a popular single. The effort is futile as the only sound that can be heard on the song is an overproduced and overwhelming composition. 

Ultimately, Perry’s message of hope, even in the darkest of days, falls short in her lack of meaningful lyrics and a beat that listeners can barely hold on to with its repetitiveness and lack of originality. Certain songs throughout the album have its moments of a groovy guitar riff, or the powerful voice of Perry that isn’t washed out by an electro-pop instrumentation, but these moments are often cut short and become forgettable in the midst of a generally boring album.