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Katy Perry’s ‘Witness’: A Track-by-Track Analysis

Don’t Judge An Album By Its Promotional Singles

Katy Perry’s fourth studio album Witness was one of the most anticipated and yet least anticipated albums of 2017. With the highly polarizing singles (“Chained to the Rhythm” ft. Skip Marley, “Bon Appétit” ft. Migos, and “Swish Swish” ft. Nicki Minaj), Witness was disliked by many who believed that the singles were not cohesive, not “Katy Perry enough,” and frankly not acoustically pleasing. However, a great handful of people actually loved the three promotional singles, because they represented a new, progressive Katy Perry with her new, catchy beats and with exciting featured artists.

If you didn’t like the promotional singles, don’t judge the album just yet; Witness shocked us all with those three tracks, but the rest of the album was stellar.

Witness

“Witness” begins with some rather laid-back vocals paired with a series of instruments and heavy emphasis on the piano. As the chorus breaks, the song snaps and that signature Katy Perry sound (restrained, yet undeniably powerful vocals) comes into play. This track definitely has a progressive sound different from more traditional pop. It discusses how Perry desperately wants someone to venture into her life and see everything exactly the way she sees it so that they can better understand her. As a lead track, “Witness” definitely encompasses the theme of the entire album: finding purpose in life and sticking with it. The restrained vocals and extreme instrumentation (including some vibrant whistles at the end) completely oppose tracks like “Bon Appétit.” With purposeful lyrics and a sonically pleasing chorus, this is definitely one of the stars of the entire album.

Hey Hey Hey 

One of my personal favorites, “Hey Hey Hey” is a song of self-empowerment and joviality. With lyrics like “Cause I’m feminine and soft, but I’m still a boss,” Perry juxtaposes her vulnerable and soft character with her boss-like and powerful prowess. The verses pack a punch with fantastic rhymes that will definitely leave you singing along as you dance. When Perry gets into the chorus, she continues the theme of empowerment by singing “You think that I am cracking, but you can’t break me,” further proving how she is incredibly persistent. The chorus’ instrumentation sounds similar to the instrumentation in the verses, but the base of the chorus truly adds the extra kick that makes the song enjoyable. Perry uses autotune in an interesting way, not to make her voice sound better, but to enhance the song with an electronic feel. Overall, “Hey Hey Hey” is one of the strongest songs on this album, and it is reminiscent Katy Perry’s previous album Prism.

Roulette

“Roulette” is the arguably the best song on the album, with the unique mingling of keyboard and drums and the iconic lyrics. Perry sings the verses somewhat restrained, but she unleashes all of herself in the chorus, which is exactly what the song is about. With lyrics like “I’m uptight, playing by the rules” and “I might need to unwind,” Perry is definitely trying to open up to us as the song progresses. The chorus packs a major punch as Perry says she’ll “let go like roulette,” which obviously makes sense artistically as she releases her most powerful line with the most powerful instrumentation. This is definitely a banger song that has an incredible potential to do well on the charts if it is released as a single and marketed well. In the third and final chorus, Katy Perry sings with large and uninhibited vocals, further emphasizing the message of letting herself free. So far, the album has been exceeding my expectations.

Swish Swish ft. Nicki Minaj 

Many have already heard this Taylor Swift shade song packed full of Katy Perry throwing jabs at the “Bad Blood” singer, with the best example being “your game is tired, you should retire.” This song utilizes heavy instrumentation in the chorus with EDM-like sounds, and in the pre-chorus, includes some piano, tying in multiple different genres and tone switches. As one of the better promotional singles, Nicki Minaj solidifies “Swish Swish” as a true diss track with her rap “swish swish aww, my haters is obsessed. Cause I make M’s, they get much less.” Minaj even sings on parts of her verse, saying “I already despise you” with electronic enhancement to ensure her message is crystal clear. The vibrant duo of Minaj and Perry on “Swish Swish” is likely the reason why it is doing the best on the charts out of the three already released singles.

Déjà Vu

“Déjà Vu” is a somber dance song that explains how Katy Perry’s relationship is still plagued by the problems and arguments of the past (hence “Déjà Vu”, which is a French expression that means “already seen”). One of the saddest lyrics is “I live off the echoes of your ‘I love you’s,” which hints at the fact that her significant other no longer says they love her anymore (and the “I love you’s” are relics of the past). The chorus is captivating with strongly-extended vocals and an incredible instrumentation that includes some very nice beats. “Déjà Vu” is another powerful song that could possibly fair quite well on the charts.

Power 

As described in the album description, “Power” is a song that confronts misogyny with references to Perry’s own life. The song begins with a melancholy tune, broken up by drums, and is then developed by Katy Perry’s quiet vocals. The song is slow, yet her voice and message are both quite powerful. Perry sings “I have to break the cycle, so I can sit first at the dinner table,” meaning that as a woman, she should have the right to be the head of the household as well, instead of it almost always being a man in our patriarchy. The chorus is captivating with a base noise humming throughout the background as Perry sings “I’m a goddess and you know it” and “I’m done with you siphoning my power.” “Power” does not follow the trend of the EDM-esque style of her earlier tracks, and instead, it introduces the theme of “purposeful pop” that Katy Perry is very fond of.

Mind Maze

“Mind Maze” is exactly as you would guess it would be; it’s a song about the immense confusion when under the pressure of multiple questions and too many choices. Perry uses autotune on some of her notes to enhance the song and fit with the beat, providing a new sound of interesting background beats and small drum taps. The buildup is quiet, yet powerful, leading up to a chorus purposefully filled with that autotune. Although many artists use autotune to make their voices sound much better, Perry is definitely not trying to fix her already powerful voice and is instead embellishing it like Nicki Minaj in “No Frauds” when she sings “I took the price, and lift that b*tch up.” “Mind Maze” is definitely interesting, and is closed off very well with the harmonization at the end.

Miss You More 

“Miss You More” is Perry’s song about her ex, John Mayer, and it describes how she misses many of the moments she shared with him. With piano and snaps in the background, Perry sings “I miss you more than I loved you,” proving how she misses the memories with Mayer rather than the actual love and intimacy with him. This song again features some powerful vocals, but as a more slow and somber song, “Miss You More” is very clean and well-produced. It is reminiscent of  “Unconditionally” (off of Prism), but has a much heavier beat.

Chained to the Rhythm ft. Skip Marley 

As the first promotional single of this new era, “Chained to the Rhythm” definitely continues to popularize dissent of Trump. She introduces this idea that as Americans, we are chained to an everyday rhythm that we cannot break out of. She alludes to how Trump has warped America to be full of bigotry and hate, and how it is hard to release ourselves from that cycle because even raising awareness of issues can be challenging. The song features Skip Marley and contains retro-inspired sounds and heavy beats. It’s the definition of “purposeful pop” for Katy Perry.

Tsunami

“Tsunami” begins with sounds of a wave beating the shore with seagulls chirping in the back. The song is acoustically mesmerizing, with a range of references to the ocean and marine life. The best example of the extended metaphor is “make me ripple till I’m wavy, don’t be scared to dive in deep and start a tsunami.” The song compares love to an ocean and tsunami because relationships are a constant back and forth and sometimes evoke feelings of being completely overwhelmed. “Tsunami” might not be your favorite, but Katy Perry’s whispering vocals and captivating beat make it something you could listen to forever.

Bon Appétit ft. Migos

Surely Perry’s most polarizing single, “Bon Appétit” was a hit or miss for many listeners. Many believed that the Migos feature was unnecessary while the track was also beaten down for not having a very powerful chorus. Listening to the entire album, “Bon Appétit” does not quite fit with the other tracks, but it is still a catchy song with several innuendoes comparing love and sex to eating food.

Bigger Than Me

“Bigger Than Me” is another powerful song that reminds me of an older Katy Perry. This song is the entire meaning of Witness: Katy Perry has a mission and purpose that she is trying to find. She wants something bigger than herself. The song is uplifting and the pattern in which Perry sings is unique but well-done. This is another one of my absolute favorites on the album, and the chorus is heavily EDM inspired. Again, if marketed well as a single, “Bigger Than Me” could really succeed on the charts.

Save As Draft

As the song opens to Katy Perry typing, “Save as Draft” is about how Perry wants to tweet and talk to her lover about their issues, but how she is still too nervous and is unable to actually say anything. She just saves it as a draft and unhealthily holds that emotion inside her. Perry sings to a piano and the quiet, yet rapid beats of her typing emphasize her confusion and sensory overload in this relationship. She writes the tweet but erases it and ponders “what good will it do to reopen the wound?” The song is very grim, but with its heavy instrumentation, it is actually quite fun to listen to.

Pendulum

“Pendulum” is another song about self-empowerment and how we must power through issues instead of letting them bring us down. This song has an uplifting tone and sounds similar to “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5. Some of the most positive lyrics are “so, don’t try and reinvent your wheel cause you’re too original” and “it’s a pendulum, it all comes back around.” Perry compares life to a pendulum, and despite how things can obstruct one’s path to happiness, eventually, everything will fall into place and work out. In addition to the joyous notes, Perry incorporates a school choir to emphasize the unity of happiness.

Into Me You See

Similar to many other pop stars, the final track of Katy Perry’s Witness is a very well-written ballad. “Into Me You See” discusses how Perry created an almost impermeable shell but how her lover was able to dissolve it and help her liberate her inner self. She emphasizes the idea of being trapped within herself with the lyrics “I built a wall so high, no one could reach / A life of locks, I swallowed all the keys.” She then highlights the new love she found with “then you came and started digging for a treasure underneath / And you found a better version of me I had never seen / Into me, you see.” Though Perry somewhat distracts from the message of the song by saying “open sesame” in the chorus, as the track progresses, we hear more of her life story. “Into Me You See” is an answer to the questions of identity Perry has been asking herself throughout the album. She finally found herself and is able to be free in everything she does.

 

Although Witness has been one of my personal favorite albums of 2017, many fans have differing opinions on it because it is definitely a new route to her music. However, it is a definite progression in my mind and I applaud Katy Perry for her adventurous exploration, even if it is not her biggest success. Katy Perry unleashes her true self, and through these fifteen songs, we listeners gain a new perspective to the woman we have been listening to for years.

Written by Sameer Khan

Having an interest in politics and societal issues through his school Speech & Debate team, Sameer has a true love for expressing his thoughts. When he's not writing a powerful article, he's probably listening to Ariana Grande's music, scrolling through Twitter, ranting about Donald Trump, or eating cookies!

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