Smile is Katy Perry’s fifth studio album, and it was released on August 28, 2020. This album was highly anticipated by many people, me included. But does it live up to the hype?
I personally had very high hopes for this album. All the singles were solid in both production and song writing, and I really liked the vibe that this album seemed to have. After the disaster that was Witness in 2017, it seemed like Perry had finally found her footing again, and that this was going to be her epic comeback, a return to the Teenage Dream days. However, I’m not going to lie, I was a little disappointed when I was able to finally listen to the entire album.
I want to preface my review by saying that I am not a huge Katy Perry fan. I grew up listening to songs from One of the Boys like “Hot and Cold” and “Waking Up in Vegas” and also jammed to songs like “Firework”, “Last Friday Night” and “California Girls” from Teenage Dream. But I wouldn’t call myself a ‘fan’ of her music. I just enjoy some of her songs and think that she is very talented. So I’m coming at this review having only really listened to her big hits before listening to Smile. So if you’re a huge fan, maybe this is the comeback you wanted. And that’s fair enough.
Right of the bat, I love the lyrical themes of this album. I’ve always loved Perry’s inspirational songs like “Roar” and “Firework” so to have those same themes come back in this album made me extremely happy. There are certified inspirational bops here like the lead single “Daisies” and the title track, which in addition to their motivational lyrics have great powerful melodies and production.
However, many of these songs fall flat due to their boring and stale melodies and production. When I listen to a motivational song, particularly one of Perry’s, I want to be able to belt the chorus in my car and thus feel powerful and amazing. Whilst this does happen in songs like “Daisies”, many of the songs have melodies that don’t really move or climax in the chorus. For example, the song “Resilient” has some great lyrics and again I love the themes here. Be strong, you’re going to bloom, be resilient. But the musical aspects of this track don’t match this inspirational theme. The melody never jumps, never climaxes into a powerful refrain like “Daisies” or “Firework” do. It shocked me when I found out that Perry worked with the same people who co-wrote and produced “Firework”, because none of the power, motivation or catchiness from that amazing song comes through in the melody here. All I could think about when I was listening to this song was “How is this supposed to inspire me again?”
And that I think is my main criticism of Smile: whilst the lyrical content is there, the production and melodies are honestly a bit weak here. A listen to songs like “Not The End of the World” and “Teary Eyes”, which have nice lyrical themes (particularly the former), really shows the dullness of the production here. While some of the songs hit the mark well, a lot of them are forgettable and boring. I’ll be honest, after listening to the album the only songs I could remember the melodies for were the title track, “Daisies”, “Never Really Over” and “What Makes a Woman”. This is something I could look past but Perry is trying to make a pop album here, and one of the requirements of the pop genre is to have catchy songs.
With that being said, there are still some great songs on this album. Here are my favourites:
- Never Really Over
This is by far the best song on the album. I remember when this song was first released, in May 2019, and how much I adored it. I still do and I’m so glad Perry decided to include this song on Smile. To be honest, hearing this song is what got me excited to listen to hear her new music. The melody is catchy, the production works so well and Perry sounds amazing. There’s something about this song that just makes it the perfect summer song, the carefree production, the bright melodies, the synth instrumentation, the lyrical themes of hoping a relationship might not be over. It’s just perfect. One of my favourite Perry songs of all time.
I already did a full review of this song when it was released as the main single off Smile (link here), but I have to talk about it here. Of all the inspirational songs that Perry put on this album, this one is by far the best. The melody is powerful and belt-worthy, the lyrics are simple and yet motivational, and I really like the use of ‘real’ instruments in the production, in particular the acoustic guitar line. I also felt like this song really spoke to me, and I got an inside look into how Perry was feeling during the Witness era. I’d glad that she was able to pull herself out of her mental health issues and come back happy, a new mother, and in a loving relationship. Good on you, KP.
3. What Makes a Woman
This was such an interesting song for this album, mainly because of its production. Whilst most of the album is very pop-like, with synths, electronic beats and the odd guitar or piano, “What Makes a Woman” is a mostly acoustic song, with a pretty acoustic guitar line running underneath Perry’s lovely voice. The song does use some electronic beats later on, but this is only for a small part of the song and it quickly moves back to the acoustic production. I love this sound for Perry, and I hope that maybe she focuses more on this sound for her next album, similarly to what Taylor Swift did with “Folklore”. The lyrics are also very pretty as she sings about what it’s like to be a woman. The song ends with Perry whispering “There it is, Katheryn” which I adore, as it shows that Perry has truly found herself and is truly happy now. A great end to the album, I wish there was more tracks like this one on here.
Overall, Smile is a solid album, with some incredible tracks and quite a few weaker ones. I definitely think that this album was a push in the right direction for Perry and her music, going back to her Teenage Dream roots with motivational songs and more pop production. I also think this kind of album is exactly what the world needs right now, some motivation to get us through the next few months. But again, I think some of the melodies and production were a bit weak, but near perfect songs like “Never Really Over” and “Daisies” are enough to make me like this album.
I have to say though, I can’t help but feel that maybe the time for Perry’s pop style music is over, and that she should focus on making more songs like “What Makes a Woman”. I think this more mature sound and style of song writing would be fantastic for her and enable to grow even further as an artist. But, of course, it is Perry’s decision and I will continue to follow her musical journey regardless as she releases future albums and singles.
So, what do you think of Smile? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!