No one could say that Katy Perry is an ordinary artist. Her songs are not just about sweet romance and heartbreaks, but usually have bigger and more empowering themes. Take the songs Firework (2010) and Roar (2013) for example, where Perry sings about being our own master (主人) and discovering our true value.
But actually, these themes are not daring enough, at least not for Perry. Earlier this year, she announced her new album Witness, together with a new idea for pop music. Perry calls her new style “purposeful pop”, meaning pop with a social and political message. It seems that Perry has become tired of simply encouraging people. Now, she wants to educate them politically as well.
Part of her inspiration (灵感) came during the 2016 US presidential election between Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. Perry was a very public supporter of Clinton because Trump was a candidate (候选人) with a record of disrespectful behavior toward women.
The best example of Perry’s purposeful pop is probably the song Chained to the Rhythm, in which Perry criticizes people’s obsession (痴迷) with their own ideas and the fact they are unwilling to think more critically (批判性地) about the world. As the song’s lyrics say, “Aren’t you lonely? Up there in utopia (理想国). Where nothing will ever be enough. Happily numb (麻木的). So comfortable, we’re living in a bubble (气泡), bubble. So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble.”
Even though the election is long over and Trump won, Perry’s political message seems to be continuing.
But when it comes to the concept of purposeful pop, it is, in fact, something a lot of pop stars have been doing for a while. Beyonce’s 2016 song Formation, for example, deals with various social problems such as the dispute (争执) between white policemen and black citizens (公民) in the US, hoping to create change through music.
“Formation isn’t just about police brutality (暴行) – it’s about the entirety of the black experience in America in 2016, which includes standards of beauty, disempowerment, culture and the shared parts of our history,” wrote Jenna Wortham in The New York Times.
“《站队》不仅是关于警方的暴行 —— 它包含了美国黑人2016年的所有经历，如审美标准、去权、文化以及我们历史中的共有部分，”詹娜·沃瑟姆在《纽约时报》上写道。
To singers like Perry and Beyonce, songs are not just entertainment, but part of a movement. It may have seemed strange when this concept was first introduced, but it’s on its way to becoming normal.
“The truth is, not speaking up in 2017 means you’re part of the problem. It’s no longer OK to be quiet and complacent (满足的),” wrote Shannon Carlin on entertainment news website Bustle.
(Translator & Editor: Wang Xingwei AND Ji Yuan)