Song: ‘Hot n Cold’
Artist: Katy Perry
US chart peak: 3
Release date: September 9, 2008
Writers: Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin
Producers: Dr Luke, Benny Blanco
Quintessential Max moment: “…wanna go-o”
Video synopsis: Perry gets jilted at the alter…Or does she??? (No)
According to Jeff Kempler – who as you well know was the executive vice president of Virgin Records at the time Katy Perry was signed – both ‘Hot n Cold’ and the career-kickstarting ‘I Kissed A Girl’ were hastily written and recorded after the label felt (quite rightly) that Perry didn’t have a hit. They thought it might be a good idea to pop her in the studio with Dr Luke and Benny Blanco, who together with Perry (and Max, obvs) created two globe-straddling monster bangers.
So while it’s easy for me and everyone else to moan about record labels being useless, here’s an actual example of them saying, ‘you know what, let’s make sure we get this right and launch a properly good popstar who’s been round the houses with various labels already with not one but two smash hit singles’. It also started a working relationship between the three of them that has done pretty well so far (eleven US Top Ten singles isn’t exactly shabby). The song, ‘fyi’, was inspired by Perry’s relationship with Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy, who would later go on to inspire most of ‘Teenage Dream’.
Anyway, the synth-heavy ‘Hot n Cold’ is a curious one because it’s both super smart and incredibly stupid. Maybe that’s what makes a good Katy Perry song, who knows. For a start the verses are great, the stuttering melody making lines like “You PMS like a bitch, I should know” fizz and pop. The first part of the chorus is basically a primary school class on opposites, but it’s saved by the perfect way it glides out of that and into the “you don’t really wanna stay, but you don’t really wanna go-o” bit. I’d like to bet £50 that that part came from the quill of Lord Max of Martin. If you’re reading this Max – and I know you’re not – then let me know by dropping me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Actually the middle eight is good too isn’t, especially the “Someone call the doctor…” bit, but in general the production feels a little heavy-handed, with the phasers all set so obviously to HIT that it stifles the song itself. Mind you, it worked – the song spent 18 weeks inside the US Top Ten (four more than ‘I Kissed A Girl’) and it was a bigger hit with US radio too. It’s also sold 5.6m copies which is quite literally a lot. Unfortunately for Perry it lost out to Beyoncé’s ‘Halo’ for the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy, but you can’t have everything.