Katy Perry’s ‘Smile’ shows an artist out of touch with the modern pop scene

Owen Reimer, Entertainment Editor

Three years after the release of her fifth studio album “Witness,” pop singer-songwriter Katy Perry announced her latest full length project, “Smile.” While Perry describes the album on an instagram post as her “journey towards the light — with stories of resilience, hope, and love.” it really just does more to show how painfully out of touch she is with the modern pop scene.

My main problem with “Smile,” is truly that it reeks of disingenuity. It feels painfully obvious while listening that Perry is just attempting to grasp on to the landscape of current pop music, and she only kind of pulls it off.

Tracks like “Cry About it Later” feel like a rip-off of an Ariana Grande B-side with production decisions that makes the beat feel as if it’s mimicking The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.” The title track “Smile” sounds like it’s almost straight up copying “Sunday Best” by Surfaces with its bright brass chords and upbeat tone, except for the fact that Perry’s song is twice as unmemorable.

The theme of Perry attempting to take sounds of more current popular artists remains consistent through the entire setlist. “Not the End of The World” sounds like a Panic! At the Disco throwaway. However, that track is able to stand alone because of her incredibly smooth vocals throughout.

Another major issue is that it feels like Perry has nothing substantial to say. Perry herself describes it as her “journey towards the light, with stories of resilience, hope, and love.” These ideas, when presented, are so incredibly surface level that they sometimes almost ruin whatever track they are on.

“Teary Eyes” is a song about resilience through struggle and striving for greatness. This exact theme seems to be the topic for at least five more songs, one even being titled “Resilient.” She even uses flowers as a metaphor for growing through the struggles for two tracks in a row. The whole idea is redundant and it feels as if she never attempts to go deeper into the topic than necessary.

“They told me I was out there, tried to knock me down/Took them sticks and stones, showed ‘em I could build a house” she sings in “Daisies” ,one of  the six attempted anthems about persevering through a struggle. She plainly seems to be trying to appeal to as many people as possible.

However, the album does have a few decent high points that can’t go un-noted. The opening track, “Never Really Over” starts off simple but has intriguing production with a very nice drumline over the bridge, and an intensely smooth chorus. The vocals also hit well, but the theme of having a relationship that can’t end, while kind of touching on her breakup with her now fiance Orlando Bloom, still seems is surface level.

There are a few other standouts as well.  “Champagne Problems” has some awesome sliding synth instruments and a banging bass line, not to mention some of the catchier verses on the project. “Harleys in Hawaii” just feels like sitting back and truly not having any problems in the world other than absolutely vibing.

At its core, pop music will always be relatively formulaic and simple, but that’s kind of the point. However, in this era, so many artists are coming into their own and creating sounds that never existed before. This project feels like Katy Perry sees all of these things being done to revolutionize the genre and replicating a lot of it. So many ideas on here can be heard in a much better way somewhere else.

At the end of the day, my biggest problem coming out of “Smile” was the fact that I left it feeling as if I’d learned absolutely nothing about the artist’s growth that the 12 tracks were supposed to be about. Nothing truly stands out on Katy Perry’s sixth full studio album, and that’s the largest disappointment.