Review: Katy Perry's 'Prism' honors spirit and flesh

The last place you might expect to find Katy Perry is lying on the bathroom floor, apparently contemplating suicide.

Yet there she is, in By the Grace the God, a surprisingly stark, stately track on Prism (out Tuesday), Perry's follow-up to Teenage Dream, the 2010 sophomore effort that secured her status as the reigning queen of feel-good pop.

"Thought I wasn't enough/ Found I wasn't so tough," Perry sings. But then the tone shifts to something more inspirational. Perry picks herself up; "I looked in the mirror and decided to stay," she declares.

That pretty much sums up the message of Prism, which finds Perry stretching herself beyond the sugar-coated sparkle of Dream in search of higher forms of empowerment. There is a self-consciously spiritual vibe to some of the material; on the sitar-laced Legendary Lovers, she asks a new partner to "say my name like a scripture."

Love Me and Unconditionally suggest electronically enhanced self-help manuals. The former advocates self-love as a prerequisite for any successful relationship, while on the latter she pledges to accept a love interest's "insecurities" and "dirty laundry," urging him to "open up your heart and just let it begin."

Perry turns pensive on the more subdued Ghost, plainly haunted by ex-husband Russell Brand. But the heart of Prism lies in more upbeat tunes — most written with Dr. Luke and Max Martin, the album's chief producers — that often build from airy verses to dense, pounding choruses.

There are also straight-out party anthems such as This Is How We Do, a breathless ode to "ladies at breakfast in last night's dress." In her spiritual quest, Perry clearly hasn't forsaken the flesh: On the sultry Dark Horse, she purrs to guest Juicy J of a love that "will make you levitate."

On Birthday, a sweetly naughty Perry vows, over lithe grooves and funky horns, to give her lover "something good to celebrate," and on the '90s house-music homageWalking On Air they "go deeper and harder than ever before," she sings ecstatically.

What strikes us most on Prism, though, is Perry's lust for life itself, a quality that's genuine and endearing enough to redeem a few pop cliches.


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