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.