And here’s the final triumph over communism…
Pete Baran: The joy of Top Of The Pops was always getting the odd inter-generational review of a record. So I can rely on the Christmas Top Of The Pops edition to yield this insightful review: “I’d heard it on the radio and I thought I knew what it was about, but now I have seen the video and her perform it live in PVC, I’m not so sure”.
Iain Mew: This already feels so omnipresent, so much like background noise, that it’s difficult to remember actually having a strong opinion on it. I think that the sense of crushing, inevitable momentum destroying everything in its path was very much a function of its design and was already there prior to overplaying, but I can’t be 100% certain.
Josh Langhoff: Despite this thing’s ubiquity, I never know what or who it is until she gets to the part that sounds like Erasure’s “Always”. Then I remember it’s the one where she sounds more constipated than usual. Different problems trying to parse the video, in which — what? Katy’s breasts liberate a chubby girl from doubt and fear? How does that work, exactly? And what kind of Firework cuts away to Katy’s face in the middle of a gay kiss?
Jer Fairall: I realize that we review songs here, not videos, but the one for this is stunningly tasteless even by her vulgar standards, with our Katy inspiring shy young gay boys to seek each other out for a neutered make-out session, a pudgy-only-by-Katy-Perry’s-standards young woman to get nearly naked in public and a leukaemia-stricken child to, I guess, walk through the halls of their hospital all via the awesome power of her spark-emitting tits. Perhaps it’s compensation for what an anonymous and, I’ll admit, not wholly unpleasant trifle of a song this is, the kind of thing strategically released just in time to placate any Grammy viewers uneasy about how sorta frightened they are of Eminem and Lady Gaga and the fact that they’ll have never heard of Arcade Fire until the night of the show.
Anthony Easton: I refuse to believe the woman who wrote two of the most offensive songs about queer sex is selling this as a anthem of liberation to lgbtq people. Can we leave this kind of shit to Pink, who seems to believe it, or Xtina, who at least had the dignity to make it a ballad.
David Moore: When I heard this song on Katy Perry’s album I recoiled at its crypto-Xian-pop blandness, and I didn’t revisit it until everyone started telling me about those magic exploding boobs. I like Mike Barthel’s take on the “song-event” nature of the song + video: “It somehow manages to encapsulate everything that was great and awful about pop culture over the last 12 or so months while also maybe parodying all of those things without it actually being clear if the parody is intended — which is, in and of itself, also very 2010.” But I’m a music ‘n’ lyrics man, and as such I still err toward yuck, Katy’s plastic smile and irritating pout (not the boobs) remaining the perfect visual metaphor for what the song does to me. Also worth mentioning that when I see fireworks coming out of someone’s chest I think “clever commercial for a brand-name decongestant” rather than “empowerment from the shackles of conformity.”
Katherine St Asaph: Do you ever feel like a metaphor, butchered ruthlessly? A sentient plastic bag? A 1 HP house of paper-thin paper cards, as opposed to the thick, resilient kind? Or perhaps like a nice consolation rainbow after a hurricane — a line so spectacularly tone-deaf, the entire Gulf coast is entitled to revolt? But that’s not the real problem. Neither are Katy’s disastrous yawping nor her carbon-copy bosh, they’re both standard. No, the real problem is that much like Galinda in Wicked, Katy’s clearly muttering these non-affirmations under duress (when she sings “you’re original, cannot be replaced,” you can practically see her crossing her fingers behind her back), marking time until she gets to hail and perpetuate her wonderful, oh-oh-inducing self. Shy girls of the world, you’ll be popular! Just not quite as popular as her.
Zach Lyon: A Stargate production that sounds like a parody of a Luke/Martin/Blanco production, which I just have no tolerance for anymore (“Dynamite” was really the hinge for me), and about as bland as a… paper bag? (Do paper bags really dream of starting again?) I do have a certain admiration for her goal here, and she seems genuine about it. I can think or write or wax critical about pop music but it lives here for the masses, and there’s a lot more of them than there are of me; there needs to be utilitarianism in pop like there needs to be escapism in cinema. This is a much worse song than “Beautiful” (and it’s performed by possibly my least favorite superstar right now), and I don’t like it, but I certainly believe Katy a lot more than I believed Christina. I can see Katy writing this with the earnest intention of Just Making People Feel Good, and I can see it making people feel good, and that’s worth something. It still sucks, but it’s something.
Doug Robertson: Lyrically this is so banal and trite that it would make a 13 year old, one who dedicates every free moment they have to writing poetry in green ink, blush, and as a metaphor it doesn’t really work either, what with fireworks being disappointing, mainly leaving you with nothing more than the feeling “Oh, was that it?” and illustrating how easy it is to spend a fortune on something flashy yet ultimately meaningless. Which I’m not convinced is the sentiment she‘s trying to get across here. But even so, there’s something joyously euphoric about the whole thing that convinces you that, even though the words might lack a certain something, she fully believes in what she’s trying to say, and only someone with an ice cream cone instead of a heart would deny her that. But I’m still docking her a point for rhyming “Moon, moon, moon” with “Boom, Boom, Boom”.
John Seroff: Perry’s willingness to mouth the most uninteresting mundanities and howl hookless hooks as if they reflected the depth of the human condition leaves her sounding deeply airheaded and emphatically disposable. “Firework” is a low point of her model of pop sadism, a thin dribble of submoronic American Beauty platitudes delivered through below-average caterwauling over Stargate’s watery broth of a backing track. It’s barely a song at all.
Alex Ostroff: Fireworks have provided the source of inspiration for two great house tracks in the past year. Unfortunately, this is not one of them. Perry neither masters the beat as effectively as Kelis, nor fits her vocals inside its crevices like Deadboy’s treatment of Alicia Keys. Instead, her voice is an awkwardly squawking instrument, straining against the edge of her range, bleating and repeating syllables, biding time until the string section.
Tom Ewing: As a pop fan it is always irksome when people take the line that you are some kind of uncritical shill for The Man, so stars like Katy Perry fulfil a useful purpose. Look! I can say, here is somebody who actually DOES represent the rapacious plunge towards the lowest common denominator, the cynical application of technology over talent, the descent of culture into an abyss of stupidity and sparkler bras. Now be off with you and leave me to my Justin Bieber records.
Martin Skidmore: She’s still a very dreary singer, and the verses here are really dull, needing someone with vastly greater vocal chops to get them across. Also, the mindlessly uplifting lyrics are silly enough to be happy hardcore, and even a bit irritating. On the other hand, the fist-pumpingly anthemic chorus is pretty hard to resist, which makes this perhaps my favourite of hers so far, for what that’s worth.
Chuck Eddy: I spent some time defending her first album when it came out, but by now she’s reached a Pink/ Kelly Clarkson stage with me — the hits just run into each other, making distinctions no longer cost-effective. Still have nothing against her; just kind of wish she’d go away. And I’m inclined to believe this is her most ignorable hit yet.
Al Shipley: “Make ’em go ‘Oh, oh, oh’/ You’re gonna leave ’em falling down/ Boom boom boom/ Even brighter than the moon.” Ladies and gentlemen, the first #1 hit inspirational song for suicide bombers.
Alfred Soto: Firebomb more like. Millions of people reported dead in Myanmar and Indonesia. Clear Channel not accepting responsibility.
Jonathan Bogart: Exactly what the naysayers were claiming “Teenage Dream” was: overwrought, cloying, dully pounding, screechy, and too stupid to live.