Artist: Katy Perry feat Kanye West
US chart peak: 1
Release date: February 16, 2011
Writers: Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Joshua Coleman, Kanye West
Producers: Dr Luke, Ammo, Max Martin
Quintessential Max moment: That big stomping chorus with about five hooks
Video synopsis: Perry raids the face paints and snogs an alien
By 2011 Katy Perry’s schtick was pretty much cemented. She was the vampy, nudge-nudge-wink party girl with the cream-filled bra and the pin-up good looks. ‘Teenage Dream’’s fourth single, and fourth US number 1 single in a row, the foreign-object loving ’E.T.’, flipped that caricature, showcasing a slightly harder, more hip-hop-leaning sound. In fact, ‘E.T.’’s ‘We Will Rock You’-esque beat was initially meant for actual Oscar winners Three 6 Mafia. Katy, please, tell us a funny story about it all (via MTV News): “I’ll tell you, it’s funny…this song, I remember writing with Max Martin and Dr. Luke, and there’s this producer they wrote with, named Ammo as well, and they were just showing me different samples of songs or tracks or beats, and they accidentally pulled up this beat, and it was for Three 6 Mafia.” Unbelievable. Do continue… “I heard it and I always knew I wanted to write this futuristic, alienistic song, and they pulled it up and I was like, ‘Wait, I can wrap my head around this. I know this seems like a long shot, but I think I have the perfect material to put on top of this sound.’ And I did, and it really worked out perfectly.” (‘Alienistic’.)
I wouldn’t say perfectly but it certainly has its moments. One of those moments is the celestial middle eight bit, which features Perry utilising that underused (no sniggering) higher register as she sings about walking on wavelengths and being there when vibrations are happening. Unfortunately this bit is ripped out of the song for the single mix, which features Kanye West rapping about probing and such like. Obviously it makes sense to liven up the fourth single from a massively successful album with a new guest feature, but it still feels like a bit of shame. Mind you, the original still exists so no one panic. Perry had this to say about why West made so much sense on this particular song: “It’s a whole different vibe for me. It’s kind of a bit harder, it does have that urban feel underneath it. I think that’s why Kanye added even another layer on top of it. And it has…amazing…sonics — I mean, there’s so much to it, there’s a lot in the song if you really put your headphones on and sink into the song.”
She’s right there’s a lot going on. Little synth noises bubble up to the surface, there are lovely pulsating backing vocals that zip around in the background and by the song’s final chorus that big hoover-like synth noise throbs so much you worry there’s about to be a huge musical ejaculation at some point.
Also can wee just take a moment to salute (reference) the fact that if there was no ‘E.T.’ then there’d be no Little Mix performance of said song on The X Factor and, more importantly, no ‘DNA’, i.e. Little Mix’s best song. It’s also better than ‘E.T.’ ‘DON’T @ ME’.