Song: ‘The One That Got Away’
Artist: Katy Perry
US chart peak: 3
Release date: October 4, 2011
Writers: Katy Perry, Lukas Gottwald, Max Martin
Producers: Dr Luke, Max Martin
Quintessential Max moment: The general happy/sad feel
Video synopsis: Sad old Katy Perry remembers the good times in a nice mansion
‘The One That Got Away’ is an interesting single in the Katy Perry canon, not least because it was the first time she proved she could do wistful heartbreak and not just tongue-in-cheek vampy LOL-pop (yes I realise ‘Thinking Of You’ exists, hence my point). It was also a pivotal single in the already record-breaking ‘Teenage Dream’ album campaign – having ‘scored’ five US Number Ones in a row and equalling the record held by Michael Jackson and his ‘Bad’ album, ‘The One That Got Away’ – originally titled ‘In Another Life’ – was supposed to be the one that put her out in front. In the end it peaked at Number 3 (don’t worry though, ‘Part Of Me’, from the ‘Teenage Dream’ ‘repack’ thing did get to Number One although it’s not from the same album exactly so doesn’t really count. Or something).
Anyway, when the single was announced her label Capitol stressed that they hadn’t picked it with an eye on breaking the record, but more that it was just a nice song. “If it goes to Number One, that would be great,” said EMI Music/Capitol Records EVP/marketing and promotion (!) Greg Thompson. “If not, we still have a Katy song on the radio in fourth quarter.” As I used to say to liars as a child – ITCHY BEARD. In the end – and what a shock this was – the label did all they could to get the song to Number One, releasing a new, cheaper version featuring rapper B.o.B when the song stalled in the Top 5, and then releasing a Jon Brion-produced acoustic version to give it another nudge. (As discussed elsewhere, renting a rapper for a remix was a key part of Perry’s single blitzkreig for the album).
To be honest none of this really matters does it? All that matters is the MUSIC and ‘The One That Got Away’ is just really lovely. The original skips along prettily on that typically metronomic beat, all wistful nostalgia and crying-over-a-crumpled-photo melancholia. As with ‘Teenage Dream’, the song, it’s the perfect soundtrack to a lost teen drama. Tattoos are removed, Radiohead are listened to and June and Johnny Cash are held up as relationship goals, while the big sunburst of a chorus is constantly mocked by the lost potential outlined in the lyrics.
Another interesting aspect – which I’ll get to more with ‘Part Of Me’ – is how the song fed into Perry’s real life at the time. Two months after the song’s release, Russell Brand announced he and Perry were divorcing after a whirlwind two year marriage. Award show performances around the time favoured the ‘stripped back’ version, with this one from the American Music Awards being particularly moving. It can also be said to have ushered in the slightly more subdued and reflective ‘vibe’ of ‘Teenage Dream’s follow-up, ‘Prism’.