Katy Perry hasn’t put out a new album since 2010’s Teenage Dream, but you might not know it because its singles (“California Gurls,” “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “E.T. (ft. Kanye West),” “Last Friday Night,” and last year’s “Part of Me,” from the re-release) spent almost three years topping the charts.
Now Perry is trying to keep her streak going with “Roar,” the lead single from her new album, Prism. The song sticks pretty closely to Perry’s proven recipe for a hit confection: Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Bonnie McKee (the team behind “Teenage Dream,” “Last Friday Night,” “California Gurls,” and “Part of Me”) are back as co-writers. But the song has a dash less sugary pop and a dollop more hammy arena rock than what Perry has typically put out before.
While some have already criticized the song for its “easy clichés,” I think this slightly misses the point. With its claims of “I am a champion” and “I got the eye of a tiger” on the chorus, “Roar” aims to be a pastiche, with Perry self-consciously taking her own shot at the pre-game canon. While this meta-Jock Jam might not have the originality of Jumbotron classics from Survivor and Queen, Luke’s production is slick as usual, and Perry gives a powerful vocal performance (complete with her and Luke/Martin’s signature “oh oh ohs,” on the melismatic “Ro-oa-oa-oa-oar”).
And then there’s another influence: Sara Bareilles’ “Brave.” Though some are accusing Perry of ripping Bareilles off, I don’t hear enough to make a strong case. Yes, “Brave,” too, blends the synthpop clichés of the moment with an anthemic rock sound (it was co-written with fun.’s Jack Antonoff, who knows that territory). But there’s little that’s terribly unique to “Brave” in the first place, and even less of that to be found here. Instead, “Roar” seems like another example of the growing influence glam rockers—from Gary Glitter to Queen—are having on some of the year’s best pop songs: “Roar” isn’t quite the monster that Kanye West’s “Black Skinhead” and HAIM’s “The Wire” are, but it fits comfortably beside those tunes.