With three months of hot weather fun looming on just the other side of Memorial Day weekend, it seems high time for Katy Perry to drop a fresh new sunshine pop anthem, as she’s done since “I Kissed a Girl” took over the summer of 2008—and the world!
Alas, for 2015, it looks like Katy’s going to keep on innovating as a live performer, as her ongoing Prismatic World Tour continues to conquer the globe (she was just in the Philippines) and she’s got no new singles slated for release at present.
So while we may have to wait for 2016 for the next Katy Perry Summer Jam (although, who knows—she’s always full of surprises), let’s kick off Memorial Day properly this year with an opinionated ranking of Katy’s greatest hits to have ever rocked the universe from June to September.
“Waking Up in Vegas”(2009)
“Waking Up in Vegas” was the last single released from Katy Perry’s 2008 breakthrough LP, One of the Boys. The song capped an incredible year on the heels of “I Kissed a Girl,” “Hot n Cold,” and “Thinking of You,” and it spins an amazing, amusing, all-too-easy-to-identify-with saga of feeling last night’s fog clear and today’s hangover setting in—especially as it does in Sin City.
Katy has even revealed that the details of “Waking Up in Vegas” stem from a real-life run she once went on… well, sort of. She and a boyfriend once picked up a bridal gown and marriage license in Vegas, posed for photos, and pranked their friends and Katy’s management by pretending they’d gotten hitched. “It was the most hilarious, stupid prank I’ve ever pulled,” Katy recalls. “I still have the wedding dress and the certificate.”
Deft, danceable, and disco-riffic, “Birthday” first made springtime spin in April 2014 and then continued to keep booties moving all summer long. As intoxicating a sonic confection as “Birthday” is, the music video is even more deliriously pleasing. It’s a gift from Katy in which she amazingly, hilariously gets done up as five distinctly different party entertainers and then crashes real-life birthday celebrations in full character.
Employing astonishing makeup and prosthetics, Katy portrays elderly burlesque veteran Goldie, mustachioed Jewish comedian Yosef Shulum, Kriss the clown, animal wrangler Ace, and Princess Mandee, a charmer who specializes in painting faces. Like Katy’s take on classic dance dynamics in “Birthday,” the music video is outrageous, sweet, moving, insanely fun, and truly one-of-a-kind. Do not miss Princess Mandee’s big reveal at the end, when Katy reveals who’s under the wig and mask to a backyard full of little girls.
“Who You Love”(2013)
Summer 2013 saw Katy Perry competing with herself on the radio and in our hearts as “Roar” heralded the advent of her Prism album and “Who You Love,” Katy’s dreamy duet with her then (and maybe still sometimes?) boyfriend John Mayer, from his LP Paradise Valley.
Mayer says he wrote the lilting, country-sprinkled “Who You Love” as a declaration/confession of how he felt opening his heart up fully to Katy. He also likened it to the soulful soft rock duets of the 1970s and ’80s to which he grew up grooving on the radio.
In terms of presenting “Who You Love” to Katy, Mayer said, “”I wouldn’t have brought [Perry] a song if I didn’t think it was good and great and she wouldn’t have said she would do it if she didn’t think it was going to be great. So it was a completely artistic transaction.” In turn, Katy said of the song, “I’m so proud because people hear it, and they hear a different side of me.” We love every side of you, Katy. Please keep them coming!
“This Is How We Do” (2014)
Katy unleashed “This Is How We Do” in the dog days of summer, slamming down real dance pop heat and tricking out the track with big beats, booming bass, wiggling squiggles, bubbling blips, soaring synths, and more sonic highlights that you can fully absorb in the first hundred hearings.
In her own way, Katy also signals that she’s growing up a bit in “This Is How We Do.” Whereas previous stompers such as “Waking Up in Vegas” and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” immortalized the burning-down-the-town blowouts of youth, here Katy sings of hanging with her friends to eat tacos, sing karaoke, and get fancy manicures. Still, as only Katy can, she makes it sound like the greatest party that ever could be, every time you hear the song.
“Wide Awake” (2012)
Because summertime heartache seems to be just about as common as summertime romance, Katy’s lush, dramatic, huge-sounding ballad “Wide Awake” soothed a lot of bruised hearts between Memorial Day and Labor Day in 2012—and it still does (and always will).
Katy says the song emanated from the crash-and-burn of her marriage to comedian Russell Brand. “This song in particular is a dose of reality. It’s kind of like coming down from a high. You’ve been on cloud nine for so long, and it can’t always be so sweet and sometimes you need to realize that, and you have to pick yourself up and move forward and face the facts of life and know that this is just a lesson you learn and you’re stronger because of it.”
The incredibly fantastic 2012 3D documentary Katy Perry: Part of Me is an enormous, transcendent blast, but it also details Katy’s split from Brand. That adds real “oomph!” to the movie, as “Wide Awake” underscores its closing credits—and opens the next chapter (for all of us) in Katy’s life.
“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” (2012)
Exploding like a firework in early June, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” is four minutes of pure party. Katy says she wrote the song and its intensely detailed lyrics after a night of tearing it up in Santa Barbara. In fact, sexbomb co-songwriter Bonnie McKee says, “’T.G.I.F.’ is pretty much a word-for-word description of our trip to Santa Barbara.” So just let your imagination run wild over rhymes like these: “Last Friday night/We went streaking in the park/Skinny dipping in the dark/Then had a ménage a trois.”
Ever the inventive comedienne, Katy busted out her hapless dork character Kathy Beth Perry in the “T.G.I.F.” music video. The clip also co-stars Rebecca Black, the songbird behind the viral video phenomenon “Friday,” Glee actor Darren Criss, and, as Kathy’s parents, ’80s teen sensations Debbie Gibson and Corey Feldman.
Katy Perry uncaged “Roar” in August and, well before Fall, the song stood as an instant classic that will forever reign as one of pop music’s most invigorating and inspirational anthems.
With a unique beat and upward-ascending melody to match the song’s uplifting lyrics, “Roar” proved so irresistible that it even invited a little backlash from cynics who said it sounded too close to Sara Bareilles’s almost simultaneous hit, “Brave.” Some so-called fans even wanted to get a fight going about it! Sara herself quickly dismissed any such notion of a rival between herself and Katy by stating that they were longtime friends and that whatever brouhaha had come up was just “negative spin on two artists that are choosing to share positive messages.” Right on, sister!
The “Roar” music video was a gorgeous jungle adventure, topped only by Katy’s mind-blowing performance of the song atop a regally strutting, Brontosaurus-sized gold lion at the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show. Touchdown!
“Teenage Dream” (2010)
The slow-burning electro-pop onslaught of “Teenage Dream” strikes the emotions first and then impulses. To hear Katy Perry’s #1 chart-topper is to feel it, and also to dance, to sing along, to smile, and maybe even to shed just the teeniest of twinkling tears. Teaming with co-songwriter Bonnie McKee, Katy aimed to explore the world of adolescent romance and awakening passions: perfect summertime topics for a perfect summertime song.
“I Kissed a Girl”(2008)
“I kissed a girl and I liked it!” instantly became the pop culture-rallying cry of Summer 2008 and just as quickly transformed Katy Perry from an unknown into a mega-star. The song itself is contemporary bubblegum at its brawniest, utterly impossible to turn away from musically (not that anyone would want to) and then further bolstered by the bawdy bisexual experimentation come-on of its title and provocatively purred lyrics.
For seven weeks—nearly the entire stretch of 2008’s months when school is out—“I Kissed a Girl” ruled the charts at #1, ultimately selling more than 4.6 million copies and achieving immortal status of as the 1000th #1 song of the rock era.
If you’re a millennial, or just want to make out with a chick like one, “I Kissed a Girl” will rule as a time-and-space transcending touchstone on par with only most history-making of sweaty weather (and activity) sing-alongs.
“California Gurls” (2010)
“California Gurls” is not just the ultimate Katy Perry summer jam; it’s the ultimate summer jam period. Named for a Beach Boys classic that already defines the notion of “endless summer” and whipped up from a tidal wave of new wave, funk, bubblegum, disco, EDM, and, courtesy of Snoop Dogg’s rap break, hip-hop, “California Gurls” taps the source of Katy Perry’s unparalleled power and she channels the mix through her unique talents to an all-time apex of sugar-rush pop-blowout nirvana.
Accompanied by a music video that reinvents the aesthetics of the board game Candyland with a simultaneous avalanche of sun-kissed sweetness and (gin and) juicy temptation, “California Gurls” at once represents the end of pop culture as it was previously experienced and an explosive embodiment and forward thrust of what’s to bombard us all next.
Come the climax of the clip, Katy Perry shoots cascades of whipped cream from her bikini-boosted buxomness. That is the be-all, end-all image to flawlessly accompany the be-all, end-all song of summer. “California Gurls,” just like the song says, is undeniable.