Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Katy Perry – Birthday

And as a present: some of us liked her song!

Edward Okulicz: Oh great, so my punishment for being bored by the second-rate disco-funk of “Get Lucky” is that I am doomed to actively enjoy every third-rate tinny disco romp that comes my way. Still, this is Perry in perky, likeable “California Gurls” mode, and more of that doesn’t hurt at all.

Anthony Easton: A few moments of this are Nile Rodgers ’70s-style funk, and the lyrics would suggest that this was deliberate, but I find Katy Perry’s pleasure principle too sunny, constructed towards a sun-bleached California anti-noir (and when she hits that, like in “Firework” or even “Last Friday Night,” it is one of the great current joys of pop). Her voice, with the hints of vocal fry and its soprano reaching towards a falsetto, is too cartoonish to be taken seriously. When she hits the Marilyn quote, or especially when the Marilyn quote is repeated, it becomes a drag — not drag, not a hyper-femme performance, but a drag, like I am bored of this now.

Thomas Inskeep: I dislike Katy Perry so much that it saddens me to report that I don’t hate this song. It’s not bad at all. What it is, is a fluffy little empty-calories trifle, like a mediocre church-social ambrosia salad made from canned fruit cocktail and store-brand whipped topping. It took five writers to construct this, really? To string together a bunch of predictable birthday puns? (I mean, c’mon, I saw the “birthday suit” line in the bridge coming before the song started.) Also, dear Wikipedia authors, this is not “disco.”

Iain Mew: Nevermind “E.T.,” Katy’s blank reading of the convoluted deja entendres here sounds like an alien trying to fake its way through sex. And birthdays. And humour.

Daisy Le Merrer: Dr Luke’s patented squeaky pop funk, the one that basically made Teenage Dream the pop album of the decade, veers a bit too much on the side of actual funk on this. It fails based on Katy’s meager vocal ability, and the melody cooked up by his roster of writers sounding like a weak rehash of some of their past best. It doesn’t sound that awful, though, and the fact that we haven’t had a ready made birthday party anthem like this in a long time (unless you count the body parties Jeremih’s one hit was made for), means you will hear this regularly in the coming years, hoping people do bring out big balloons during the bridge because we have collectively decided to ignore Katy’s not really double entendres.

David Sheffieck: Characterized by minor league hooks and the creepiness of most of its metaphorical implications, the most noteworthy thing here is how incredibly disturbing that final, saliva-filler whisper of “Happy birthday” comes across. If the rest of the song hadn’t already killed any interest you had in having sex ever again, that’ll do the job for sure.

Katherine St Asaph: It’s Katy’s party, and she’ll block her competitor’s superior potential birthday single if she wants to. (You would cry too if it happened to you.) Perry apparently thinks this is anything like a debut Mariah song, but it’s really a speedy neo-disco take on “I Want It That Way.” (So, then, yet another time Max Martin’s team has blatantly ripped off “I Want It That Way.”) I guess the SNL band is meant to Family Fun Night-ify the double entendre Rihanna used for “Birthday Cake,” or the one Peter Gabriel used for “Big Time“? Perry is getting very good at what she does, and what she does is boring.

Alfred Soto: I can’t deny the ebullience — for once genuine instead of focus grouped — and she and the guitarist have a nice thing going pushing the momentum. But like the Robyn-Royksopp track the production is fusty. I didn’t need to be on her A&R team to know Dr. Luke and Max Martin would stutter the “big big big” part.

Patrick St. Michel: Full critical disclosure: I want to hate this song really badly. Not just because Katy Perry is involved…though, hey, Katy Perry is involved. “Birthday” is packed with a handful of dreadful metaphors, which are all about fucking. Most likely directed at John Mayer. That’s an abstract that makes me want to get far, far away. But that follow-the-bouncing-ball melody! One pictures Max Martin and Dr. Luke hearing Bruno Mars’ tofu-disco “Treasure” and deciding to totally spend the afternoon topping it. “Birthday” sounds decadent, and that’s before they get to the delicious sonic detail of champagne being popped. The “let me get you in your birthday suit/it’s time to bring out the big balloons” bridge is terrible and lets the air out of the bounce house (see, it’s easy!), but everything before is so joyful and so intent on improving a bad situation. Which might be the secret to this…as gloopy as this session gets, it’s rooted in just wanting to remind someone (even John Mayer) life isn’t a bummer.

Ramzi Awn: This is one of the easiest songs to review to come out of the past ten years.  It’s so clean, it practically sparkles.  I’ve already heard it twice at the deli, coming out of the stereo surround system, near the prepackaged lunches.  I’ve listened to it at home, late at night, drinking martinis with the boyfriend.  Typically, it is in the company of a “Do What U Want” or “Partition” or some old Christina.  Ecstatic, popped-collar Prince-pop is a good look for Katy Perry.

Brad Shoup: First off: I feel like I’ve said it before in this venue, but if you can’t be goofy around your lover, than when? Launch those trial balloons. Second, I just read Alex Pappademas’s piece on the new Slint documentary, and it’s loaded with rumors and reports: car accidents and mental breakdowns. For a target market that, if polled, would tell you that the music matters, it’s funny how badly that music still wants for context. When Perry gets slagged for being an automaton or whatever, I wonder if that’s another way of saying that the speaker’s not into her narrative. In absolute terms, “Birthday” will probably do more good than Spiderland. It’s kindness without subservience, pleasure without exaggeration. In the chorus, her voice jumps to a hopeful register; the guitar is spirited yet somehow matter-of-fact. And if you require more fun — a glimpse of narrative, in other words — check the way she sings one pre-chorus like Mariah, or how “all night they’re playing” references Jeremih’s stutter on “Birthday Sex”. It’s vacuum-sealed pleasure, but pleasure all the same.

Will Adams: Rarely does Perry justify why she is as famous as she is; that she does it so effortlessly here is cause for celebration. Something about this just feels classic, and it’s not just the big band funk. The driving bass recalls “Teenage Dream,” and the bouncing melody recalls “California Gurls.” The lyrics are ridiculous, of course, but the hyper-extended metaphor works because the rest of the song is also committed to its plasticity (like the way the champagne pop and pour snap to the beat). Ignore the innuendo, pretend she’s actually singing about cake and balloons, and wonder why, after a trio of boring singles before it, this gem was lying in wait.

Reader average: [7.59] (22 votes)

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4 Responses to “Katy Perry – Birthday”

  1. Ouch. Twelve singles in (thirteen, if you count that John Mayer thing) and Katy Perry still has yet to cross a six on here.

    I actually love this, but I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to listen to this the same way again since Patrick pointed out that this is probably about John Mayer.

  2. Technically it only took two writers (Katy Perry and Bonnie McKee) to string together the birthday puns. Max Martin, Dr. Luke and Cirkut don’t do lyrics.

  3. Is very fun.

  4. This just occurred to me today: didn’t Max Martin and Dr. Luke write the lyrics to Since U Been Gone by themselves?