There is a reason why Katy Perry continues to sidestep the usual trappings of pop diva stardom. She doesn’t come off as gratingly contrived as Lady Gaga. You never get the sense that she’s part of some brazen look-at-me, culture vulture science project like Miley Cyrus. Perry doesn’t carry the same mean-girl baggage as Taylor Swift nor is she a prisoner of her own bad girl making as is Rihanna. No, Katy Perry is content with cranking out grandiose, we-can-change-the-world, female empowering anthems. For you Wikipedia heads, the bubbly California girl can be summed up as the millennial Helen Reddy who can stop traffic just by sporting an Elmo T-shit.
But on the surface, Perry’s latest offering, “Dark Horse,” seems like the antithesis of the singer-songwriter’s usual hopeful material. A break from fist-pumping sing-alongs like “I Kissed a Girl,” “California Girls,” “Firework,” “Last Friday Night,” and her current official single “Roar,” the Dr. Luke produced track is dark and sleazy without the morning after guilt. Perry cleverly takes on the role of an addictive drug as she warns her lover that he will undoubtedly become hooked: “So you wanna play with magic/Boy, you should know whatcha falling for/Baby do you dare to do this/‘Cause I’m coming at you like a dark horse…”
As if the love-equals-crack nod didn’t get through enough, Perry enlist the services of Mr. Trippy himself, Juicy J, who is amid an improbable hip-hop comeback as you read this review. The former Three 6 Mafia frontman, Wiz Khalifah affiliate and resident vice-king actually plays the good cop (imagine that!), warning Perry’s hook-up to take it easy on the girl-next-door: “Be careful/Try not to lead her on/Shawty’s heart is on steroids/Cause her love is so strong.” Yes, Perry is toying around with her safe-to-take-home-to-mom image by jumping on the Trap Pop bandwagon. But when you have a groove this infectiously sexy and a good girl willing to go all the way, what’s to complain about?—Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)