Friday, April 15th, 2011

Katy Perry ft. Kanye West – E.T.

In which Katherine possibly breaks the Jukebox record for being angry…


Zach Lyon: “You know what the world really needs?” I asked the anesthesiologist as she removed the needle. “It needs a song. Katy Perry can sing it. A Katy Perry song. A Katy Perry song about… alien sex. No, it won’t be creepy!” I said to the back of her head, “It’ll be an allegory! For, for having sex with foreign people! That way it won’t creep anyone out, or offend them. We’ll call it E.T. because that is one movie I associate with sex. And we’ll get… Kanye West! To write a verse that really drives home how completely ungross this whole idea is, by tying everything into a vague sexual assault metaphor! THIS is the song the world needs right now, this.” I don’t remember falling asleep.

Al Shipley: With Gaga, Ke$ha, Rihanna, and Pink all routinely topping the Hot 100 now even with 2nd tier singles, the only way Katy could up the ante and declare her primacy was by hitting #1 with a 3rd rate 4th single. Keep dragging the bar down below your batting average, ladies.

Martin Skidmore: This Luke/Martin number is kind of like “We Will Rock You” with a bit of “All The Things She Said”, with Katy droning on about loving an alien, and with a heavily autotuned Kanye playing that role. I suppose it’s less obviously catchpenny than her usual, what with being darker and having no big hook or anything, but she still doesn’t interest me at all.

Anthony Easton: Kanye does this thing where he clearly delineates the choruses, but still makes the narrative flow really efficiently. He tries to do this, but for someone who is so obsessed with technology, and is quite clever in how he describes his fucking, this is a mess — it’s obvious, it’s muddled, the autotune is crude, and it’s derivative. It refuses elegance, and even at his ugliest Kanye is usually quite elegant. It also refuses fun, and Katy Perry is pretty much the go-to good time gal. The video is equally absurd.

Jer Fairall: There are a lot of reasons to hate Katy Perry, but the one that nags at me the hardest (on the occasion that I’m confronted with her music, at least) is the WAY! SHE! STABS! AT! EV-ery OTH-er SYL-lable IN THE FUCK-ing CHOR-us! whenever at a loss of how to approach a song melodically. Similarly, there are a lot of reasons to hate Kanye West, but he never infuriates me more than when he adopts that obnoxious, slurry tone that only ever seems to pop up on tracks he has no real reason to give a shit about beyond a paycheque. Which is just another way of saying that “E.T.” merges some of the worst elements of “Teenage Dream” with one of the more odious ones of “H.A.M.,” a toxic combo that was about as necessary as any further exposure for these two at this moment to begin with.

Katherine St Asaph: Fuck you, Katy Perry. You know exactly what your song is doing. No? Let’s break it down. You get Kanye West to guest on your song. Kanye West is still remembered for that little incident with Taylor Swift. You know, the one where the public, even when they weren’t pasting up blatantly racist memes, portrayed West as the scary, uncouth minority guy who encroached upon Swift’s glowy whiteness. You know exactly what happened there. Then you start singing lyrics about wanting to be with an alien, a time-tested metaphor for race even if you hadn’t clarified that he was “foreign.” And then you sing about wanting to be a victim and being abducted. In other words, you’re spouting some really fucking racist bullshit, Katy Perry. And it’s all played for titillation, of course, because that’s what you do. And you know what’s nearly as bad? This is one of your best-sounding songs! You’re not yarling nearly as much as you used to, although in the bridge you still affect that hollow, breathy voice people use when just starting lessons. And even if your song kinda bites “All the Things You Said” and “Gravity of Love” (it’s the “When the Levee Breaks” drums), it still sounds pretty good! And then you had to go ruin it, just like you did with “I Kissed a Girl” and “Hot N Cold” and “Teenage Dream” and all the rest, only this time you ruined it so much it’s completely unlistenable. FUCK YOU, KATY PERRY. I’m gonna go listen to Tanya Donelly’s “The Bright Light” now, and again and again, until you just fucking disappear already.

Hazel Robinson: Big up to everyone responsible for this rape anthem — “wanna be your victim, ready for abduction” and Kanye for adding the unnecessary probe line. Yet against all my better judgement when I actually hear the lyrics, it’s quite a chunky little power ballad. So it would probably have managed at least a seven if it wasn’t fucking gross, which I guess means this must be a Katy Perry review…

Rebecca Toennessen: I am grudgingly giving this a 9, but I really think it’s a 10 and I don’t want to. Creepy, rapey alien sex (though consensual) is not what I want a good song to be about. And I mostly focus on lyrics in songs, so this should be a no-brainer. But it’s so catchy, and despite the slick production/autotuning, there’s real emotion. Real, creepy, rapey (though consensual) alien sexy emotion. I really hope I’m not alone in liking this and something hasn’t snapped in my brain. I’ll be discussing this in therapy on Friday.

Edward Okulicz: It’s so tempting to read this as being problematic or racist, but to me it reads as lyrically far too banal to mean anything; the words are just cliche salad. I think the first half of the chorus might be quite good but the processing done to make Perry sound like a halfway decent singer is a double-edged sword: on the plus side, Perry’s most annoying tics are reined in, but on the negative, her hooks aren’t penetrating because of the (relative) removal of said tics – if he’s the alien, why is she sounding so unearthly? That said the “you’re an alieeeeeen” shriek masquerading as a refrain might be the most annoying thing on the radio at the moment, so not all bad has been excised from Katy’s tendencies towards the wrong end of nagging earworminess. Call me crazy but I prefer her earthier yawping. Kanye’s bits are very stupid but easily fast-forwarded, though it’s easier to just skip the whole song and retreat to the endless bliss of “Hot ‘n’ Cold” once more.

Alfred Soto: Because My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the album-length equivalent of Katy Perry’s voice, I found this pairing inevitable. How canny of Perry to embody every female stereotype proposed by that misbegotten album: she’s poison, slattern, victim, masochist, and pays a premium for a shrewd agent, thank you very much. Of course I praise Britney for a similar shamelessness: being a sound effect is the height of her ambition, realized many times since 2001. Perry, however, believes in the gothic corn yet can’t help being the Pharisee in the first row. Oh right: maybe that’s another role she’s playing. At least Rihanna is a zero.

Josh Langhoff: Wife: “I bet you think this is too monochromatic.” Me, staring skeptically at the TV: “Kind of — it’s more just dumb.” Wife: “I was talking about my outfit.” Me: “Oh, I meant the song. Yeah, that’s a little monochromatic.” She turns a scarf into a belt; fantastic. Katy: “EX. TRAterrestrial.” Wife, mocking: “EX. TRAterrestrial!” Me: “She’s like Alanis.” Kanye talks some shit about Mars, cars, bars, jars, alien sex, disrobing, and probing; I destroy my copy of College Dropout. Wife: “See, he turns into an alien at the end.” AS MUST WE ALL. To sum up, somewhere in this mess there’s a melodic line she likes, so I acknowledge that it is possible to derive pleasure from “E.T.” Some things transcend human understanding.

26 Responses to “Katy Perry ft. Kanye West – E.T.”

  1. Pretty sure Chris Brown’s still got the record. And possibly second place.

  2. Huh. I got so hung up on this thing’s aesthetic unpleasantness that I failed to even note its Birth of a Nation sexual politics.

  3. Hear hear.

  4. I missed the racist subtexts, surprisingly. The sexual ones, however…

  5. This song’d be a 1.8 without the 9 review.

  6. Oh dear. It is just me. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in The Shame Dome.

  7. Hmm, side with Edward O. on this one — the lyrics are far too ambiguous to pin race specifically to them. Could as easily be about being with a lover who is strange to you for some other reason, for one thing — like not being your type. “Victim” is a loaded word, and maybe the wrong one, but it’s more of an unpleasant aftershock of the metaphor than anything. And if we’re taking these aliens to be racially coded…well, I’d think you’d need to make the same argument of (equally stupid, infinitely better) Toy-Box’s E.T..

    I get Kanye’s literally in the song, but do we really take these featuring credits to mean that the artist somehow becomes part of the fabric of the song’s narrative? Certainly don’t think that in 90% of Lil’ Wayne apperances. Or Kanye, for that matter — even in Estelle’s “American Boy,” where she references Kanye as a character, he feels outside of it. Maybe that’s just how I read these kinds of cameos, though.

  8. I’m shocked this is Luke/Martin, though. It’s a soggy towel on the floor productionwise.

  9. Featuring credits and duets don’t necessarily mean the artist’s part of the song’s narrative, but it’s pretty clear that in this particular case, he is. (Chorus, plus bridge.)

    That is, except for the video, which is thankfully a major dodged bullet.

  10. I like this song too! It’s catchy and appealingly simplistic — that, and Katy’s vocals are extraterrestrially awful at times in a kind of amusing way. I agree that the lyrics are little more than cliche salad so I’m actually surprised to see that they’ve inspired so much passion in these responses.

  11. Dave’s impression on the lyrics was essentially my reading, not that this song really calls for deep readings.

  12. Katherine

    As of today I will note the sexual politics more.


  13. Those are notable too! It’s a whole blob of ick, basically.

  14. Me and Rebecca totally win at controversy today!

  15. Let’s stir it up, Kat ;)

  16. In which Katherine possibly breaks the Jukebox record for being awesome

    Fixed that for you, Will.

    I don’t think Rebecca should go into therapy or the Shame Dome (“Two writers enter! One writer leaves!”), but I have to admit if I’d come with anything articulate to say about this one, it would have been a zero for me too.

  17. I don’t know why everyone’s bringing race into it, the song is obviously about falling in love with a really weird-looking British guy.

  18. “really weird-looking British guy” is a loaded phrase, especially in a song with a token rap by a black guy, sung by a woman whose resume is not exactly replete with subtext-free recordings.

  19. Ok, so the song is terrible… but that video… are you guys not allowed to point how the video makes it even terribler by 1000 points? It’s like Wall-E meets Avatar… and then there’s a rape.

  20. It’s like Wall-E meets Avatar… and then there’s a rape.

    Charlie Sheen has expressed interest.

  21. haha I’m sorry I used a ‘loaded phrase’ (?) in my stupid joke.

  22. Glad to see the overall very low score for this, and even though the song sucks, I am glad to hear that between this and Blue’s Eurovision entry, the “All The Things She Said” synths are back in vogue in popular music. This song only dreams of being 1/10000th as good as “All The Things She Said” of course.

  23. there def is a weird racial subtext here & maybe i’m being too cynical but i can’t really muster up getting offended by it. the song was written originally w/o a feature & i’m assuming they wanted to add a guest to the song to give it a lil oomph seeing as it’s her fourth single. they wanted a rapper… every popular rapper save one is black etc. i’m more offended by kanye’s totally awful verses. anyway this song is just straight garbage, one of the two or three worst singles of the year. not to mention that there are still some great songs left on that album.

  24. No, I don’t really see a racial subtext here, actually. But this is quite a bad song, regardless. Katy is so white-bread sometimes.

  25. What a good set of reviews. This is what I come here for.

  26. This is the worst song of 2011. And the racial subtext IS THE ENTIRE SONG, plus there are some rape-y aspects (“I! Tell you what to do!”), PLUS there are some gender things.

    Plus the song’s not even good.