Katy Perry evades the sophomore slump by pulling all the stops with her new record Teenage Dream, filled with hugely infectious hooks, massive choruses and unforgettable melodies. Perry addresses love, teenage years, break-up, overnight blurs, insecurities and explores sex in pollination metaphors.

After the immediate success of ‘I Kissed a Girl’ and the release of One of the Boys, Perry had to watch her every musical step to avoid being labeled as a one hit wonder. Her sophomore effort saves her from being mislabeled, and turns her into an absolute star.

Even though it seems calculated and manufactured to appeal to the masses, it has a lot of personality and attitude. There are no duds, no fillers; every track has single potential. It is solid; regardless of it being mostly sugary, it still has a particular acerbic taste. It is well balanced. Dr. Luke brought the best of his downright best. Stargate pole-vaulted outside of the box with his production, contributing with an effervescent sparkle. Tricky Stewart worked magic wonders; his production was enormously shocking and unexpected.

‘Teenage Dream’ is all pop rock should be, with a guitar riff and a subtle dance beat which comes to light in full as the chorus fiercely kicks in; standing still is not an option. ‘Last Friday Night’ picks up where ‘Waking up in Vegas’ left off, and is turned into a weekly mischief; it interpolates a wah-wah guitar driven hook which then explodes in a sax solo after a beguiling T.G.I.F. chant. ‘California Gurls’ is massively upbeat and carefree, enclosing all things summer.

‘Firework’ is orchestra enmeshed with dance; Perry’s vocals are unmatched in this, as they soar and sky-rocket explode; it is uplifting. It is interesting to note it apparently alludes to the motif of a plastic bag swirling in the air off American Beauty. ‘Peacock’ is a cheerleader intrusion in the boys’ locker room. It is rascally energetic and rather racy with its witty yet clear-cut lyrics, as Perry almost ‘bird’ wails in the milieu of the song. It is an absorbing no-brainer; the production is beyond incredible.

The ferociously mordant ‘Circle the Drain’ is not just a slap in the face; it is definitely a knock out. It falls between being a blend of rock, synthesizers, auto-tune, drums and mild pitch gymnastics. ‘E.T.’ is a brilliant astrophysical metaphor and quite a percussion laser storm; the overall composition is ingenious; it almost could do for hip-hop.

‘The One That Got Away’ is a throbbing idyllic love let-go; musically it goes along the same vein of the title track. ‘Who Am I Living For?’ is electrifying and clout, however bitter and finds Perry’s range being shoved into a struggle with keeping the pitch and ultimately manages to (though with notable effort). ‘Pearl’ is sinuously on the ball and cleverly written; it is a call out to women empower.

‘Hummingbird Heartbeat’ is what Perry should have called the album’s obvious innuendo instead of the straightforward ‘Peacock’; Perry sings about spreading her wings to fly, finding the magic seed and sounding like a symphony when in perfect harmony; it is nearly impossible not to take it in a double sense; it is an outstanding poppy rock layered number. The album closes with ‘Not like the Movies’, a piano driven ballad with faint drums, strings and glass harp interpolation.

Teenage Dream is wonderfully written; most of the tracks follow a two-part progression pattern with resourcefully crafted metaphors. Aside the tongue in cheek lyrics and adolescent references, Perry achieves some sort of maturity in her songwriting. The album showcases a more vocally powerful Perry; most of the material is sung in a high range, which works for her two-fold, as it showcases her vocals, but also reveals her limitations to some degree.

Past its bouncy bittersweet numbers, and venture into more pop turf, the album does not murder nor neglect the sound of the preceding record and still incorporates it in the vibe of the new; it does not sell out exactly, but only meshes in with more pop, allowing Perry’s foible and flirtatious personality to come afloat.

The record might seem to lack cohesiveness as Perry tries to keep it all on fun mode, until she addresses more serious matter. What holds the album together is the fact even the slow songs are indeed bangers; despite them being slow paced in comparison to the rest, they manage to uphold the spirited rhythm of the album in whole.

Teenage Dream is grand in all way possible. It may be many things at once, but not enough to be turned into a nightmare. It is composed of anthems, it is stellar, fantastic, and assorted, though it still heaves an exceptional consistency when it comes to themes. Katy Perry outdid herself and exceeded expectations; she just could not do wrong. Teenage Dream is a dream come true, or at least a dream one would not want to wake up from.

★★★★★

C.Perez