Each week here on VH1 Tuner, our VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown host Jim Shearer (@jimshearer on Twitter) will be sharing his Shearer’s Spotlight with us. Be sure to tune into the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown tomorrow morning when it airs on VH1 at 9 a.m. ET/PT.
Last week’s theatrical release of Katy Perry’s 3D documentary Part of Me seemingly brings to an end her Teenage Dream era, which officially began on May 11, 2010—the release date of the album’s first single, “California Gurls.” (The full-length came out a few months later on August 24).
Though Adele’s 21 is still hovering around the top of the albums chart, not to mention winning six Grammy Awards; in recent memory I don’t recall a more memorable and productive album cycle than that of Teenage Dream.
Sales-wise (over 2 million albums sold domestically and over 5.5 million worldwide) the numbers don’t support this claim, but as you know—and as Katy Perry might’ve sung in her contemporary Christian past—man does not live on bread alone.
Without talking about figures, Teenage Dream has supplied pop culture with an array of Beach Boys-worthy, summertime sing-a-longs (including an anthem that rivals “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Fourth of July playlists); a celebrity wedding and divorce, in a world that thrives on such a thing; and three consecutive years of unforgettable visuals.
In an unrelenting string of music videos, we’ve seen whip cream and fireworks explode from Perry’s bosoms; a geek to sheik transformation at a Friday night house party; an intergalactic bare-bottomed centaur; an elderly version of Perry pining for the past; and a candy-cane-to-boot-camp makeover.
Even the cover of the album, featuring a painting of Perry lying naked on a bed of clouds, won’t be forgotten any time soon. (Oops, seems like we did talk about figures after all.)
Teenage Dream never won a Grammy, however, it was nominated for six, in two consecutive years, both of which saw live performances from Perry. Her trophy case didn’t stay empty for long, as she would fill it with three Moonmen, including the coveted Video of The Year (“Firework”).
Perry got sighs from serious music critics for concocting such simple music confection, but even fans of Sigur Rós were secretly humming along when singles from the album were being played on heavy rotation at the grocery store.
The album’s crowning statistical achievement was being able to tie Michael Jackson’s record of having five #1 singles off the same studio album. Jackson accomplished the feat with his hits from Bad. (And astonishingly “Smooth Criminal” was not one of them.)
Although Teenage Dream churned out single after single, it actually felt like an album, and a concept album at that. How clever that the latest single—from the deluxe, Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection—is titled “Wide Awake.” The dream is over; get it?
In the last handful of years, Taylor Swift’s Fearless sold more units; Lady Gaga’s Fame and/or Fame Monster was more artfully crafted (and talk about unforgettable visuals); Beyonce’s I Am…Sasha Fierce, boasted a video with dance moves that will be mimicked at every wedding until the end of time; and let’s be honest, even on vocal-rest Adele can out-sing Katy Perry.
As a thematic entity though, Perry’s album stands out from the rest. If Adele’s 21 is an award-winning steakhouse, Teenage Dream is Dairy Queen, a franchise that thrives in the summertime, when people want to satisfy their sweet-tooth—or duck inside an air-conditioned movie theater to do the same.