Not that hard to beat – OR IS IT?…
Katherine St Asaph: “Teenage Dream” should be repulsive. Its only real differences from “California Gurls” are BPM and the fact that this time Katy chose notes she can sort of sing (and the fact that Katy had to drive to Cali, making her previous single even more craven than it already was). And it’s yet another endorsement of the stupid canard that girls use sex to get love but guys use love to get sex. Katy’s guy is so sweet that she’ll let her walls come down, and “walls” equals “clothes,” natch. So her guy gets to “go all the way” and put his hands on her in her skintight jeans (two entirely different bases, but if I keep nitpicking these lyrics I’ll never stop). But goddamn if this isn’t somehow life-affirming. Every single loathsome note of this makes me giddy. What’s the average of 10 and 0?
Rebecca Toennessen: When I say I don’t like most female vocalists, this is pretty much what I mean. Too cutesy and squeaky and high, without tugging my inner twee heartstrings. When the music pumps up, she drops the squeak and it’s just not getting me, either lyrically or musically. It’s background music to do the washing up. Nothing to hate, but nothing much to love. PS: I don’t think anyone ever actually danced until they died, unless it was in Once More, With Feeling or death caused by dancing Under The Influence of Certain Substances.
Jonathan Bogart: The Martin-Luke-Blanco junta puts the finishing touches to their world-domination plans with an honest-to-God (quite literally) love song, sweet and forceful at once. KayPee is still the most personality-free voice of the Hydra (i.e. she’s no Ke$ha), but that just means she’s the best adapted to take on any role, and this adorable, even reverent, ode to losing virginity identifies hairline fissures in the tectonic plates that underlie our culture wars. A godly girl who’s really into sex? Dream on, dream on, teenage queen.
Martin Skidmore: Someone very dear to me has become a bit of a Katy Perry fan lately, so I was hoping to find nice things to say about this, but I can’t. It thuds along charmlessly as Katy struggles to sing the simple tune. Max Martin could usefully have punched up the music some — he certainly knows how to do that — since there is little pop bounce or sense of fun on offer. I suppose it’s worth noting that getting drunk and fucking has more to do with real teen dreams than pop has generally managed, but that doesn’t make me like it any more.
Alfred Soto: She pulls a trick almost worthy of Madonna in “Like a Virgin”. Until the chorus I assumed she really was singing from the point of view of a teenager, but no: she wants to feel like a teenager. She ain’t fooling me, though, not with that gargoyle voice curling into a snarl. So I imagined the song by someone way too old to legitimately pine for adolescent bliss – a has-been like, say, Pat Benatar. The fantasy doesn’t mitigate how creepy this thing is, but maybe that’s the point.
Anthony Easton: Too obsessed with the melodramatic obsession with authenticity, and for someone who seemed so free with sexual commitments, this is a throwback to her evangelical fear of the body. Also, “No regrets, just love” must be the worst line on the upcoming album
Iain Mew: The first verse of this is a beautifully precarious thing. The underpinning guitar and the lyrics are familiar and conventional, but the tune Katy’s singing wobbles its way along a high wire with brittle distorted harmonies appearing and sheering off as it progresses. The hyper-intensity, shone and emphasised to the point where every aspect is so big it begins to sound weird and wonderful, reminds me of the things I like best about Marina & the Diamonds. It’s only a small part of the song, but enough of the feel carries over to lift the rest of it above some of its limitations too.
Edward Okulicz: I don’t know why but this song seems to just come completely apart after the first verse. Katy’s not hitting notes but she’s hitting heartstrings there, and then she falls into lazy idioms and the chorus is as flat as flat can be. Lacks her usual sass, bounce and sizzle in a big way.
Al Shipley: On one level, the verse/chorus here is as formulaically quiet/loud as most Dr. Luke anthems. But now and again, he slips in one where the hook manages to weightlessly glide instead of bleating and blaring away, and that small difference feels seismic in the context of such a shamelessly repetitive oeuvre.
Mallory O’Donnell: Rarely has music made by committee actually sounded so impersonal. The presence of Max Martin explains the Velveeta-like beat, which sounds like something he stored on his hard drive back when storing a song on your hard drive was in and of itself something novel and fresh. Vocally speaking, the strain placed on Perry’s reedy gift only becomes more and more obvious as various effects are piled on and hurdles are placed in its way. But I’m sure this is all just some sort of cross-training for Katy Perry’s impending, defining moment, when she will be called upon to provide the voice of Smurfette.
Michaelangelo Matos: I do wonder whether someone with a better voice, less clunky rhythmic sense, more presence (and not simply because she’s so thoroughly processed; at no point do you think you’re hearing somebody else), etc., might do with this song. The obvious referent is Kelly Clarkson tearing up the Perry-penned “I Do Not Hook Up,” a song whose lyrics are the reverse negative of this one’s. But even then the song would still be promising happy-ever-after to follow her first sexual experience, which, sorry, no.
Jonathan Bradley: Perry’s predilection for playing up her vapidity has proven surprisingly versatile; she excels at appearing as if everyday phenomena astonishes her. Here her naïveté stands in for an unabashed sense of wonder at new romance. The winking nod at underage sex isn’t meant to suggest the authenticity of clumsy fumbling or awkward propositions. It’s about the daydreamed kind of teen romance: uncynical and fantastical. “Let’s go all the way tonight,” she suggests, her high, playful delivery tingling with anticipation rather than desire. It’s all very PG-13, and I don’t particularly get the sense those skintight jeans are going to come off tonight. It seems natural, then, that when the chorus arrives it explodes with an unabashed joy that is less orgasmic and more like the happy feeling one gets from building a fort out of sheets in a hotel room. For the moment, that’s pleasure enough.
David Raposa: As much as I hate getting hit over the head with her Nerf-bat songs and brick-bat voice, I have to admire an artist with both the self-awareness to realize she’ll be in the teenage dreams of her listeners (like duh), and the imagination to describe the superglossy oompah-loompah beat behind this thing as both fierce and Chaka Khan-esque. (See for yourself.) But without the skin-tight jeans in question hovering within my field of vision, KP sounds about as convincing and “sexy” as a script-shackled telemarketer.
Chuck Eddy: Given that I actually, fairly coherently I think, reviewed her first album in Blender back when I had never even heard of her, I’m surprised this one of the few current Jukebox entries that I can’t think of a single thing to say about. It just sounds like Katy, being Katy. And she’s already just an inevitable part of the scenery.