Artist: Katy Perry
US chart peak: 1
Release date: August 10, 2013
Writers: Katy Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Henry Walter
Producers: Dr Luke, Max Martin, Cirkut
Quintessential Max moment: Those lovely bell sounds in the final choruses
Video synopsis: Typically low-key found footage from her summer holiday
Considering how wonderfully generic ‘Roar’ is, there was a lot of extraneous stuff surrounding its release. For a start the whole thing was ‘teased’ (fairly interestingly actually) by some amazing clips showing Perry literally burying and burning her old outfits while dressed as Charli XCX. The pretext was simple: The ‘Teenage Dream’ era is over – goodbye tongue-in-cheek vamp and hello pissed off goth. Obviously that darkness didn’t really materialise in the end. ‘Prism’ is less pissed off goth and more slightly irked Alanis Morissette fan. I like ‘Prism’ a lot but the first few plays of ‘Roar’ were definitely tinged with frustration.
Then of course there was the whole ‘hang on, this song sounds a bit familiar’. Basically still-popular-in-America Sara Bareilles had not long before released a song called ‘Brave’ that also has a similar life-affirming message (she wants to see you be brave, Perry wants people to hear her roar), a similar military beat and some similar pretty plinky plonky piano bits. In an internet age where comparison videos can be knocked up in an instant, everyone went mad calling Perry out for being a thief or something. Bareilles, meanwhile, was pretty chill about it all. “Katy’s a friend of mine and we’ve known each other a really long time, so she even texted me about it and we went back and forth,” she told ABC. “The shame that I feel that’s happened is that it’s become a drama. It’s putting this negative spin on two artists that are choosing to share positive messages,” she added. Her label even ‘re-released’ the song, sending it back to adult radio or whatever it is you do in America. “If I’m not mad I don’t know why anybody else is upset. I’m like, ‘Relax, let’s just celebrate that we can be out there and encouraging people to, like, feel strong and empowered.’” Like, totally.
OBVIOUSLY there was this too:
Basically, right, Gaga’s ‘Applause’ was meant to come out on one date, then it started leaking and so she chucked it online three days after ‘Roar’ came out. The consensus was that Gaga was confident ‘Applause’ would hold its own against ‘Roar’, which it didn’t. There were accusations that Gaga was trying to manipulate sales, with Billboard’s Editorial Director Bill Werde criticising Gaga’s social media activity around the release of the single: ”An artist tweeting out and Facebooking a link that enables a fan to hit play and leave their computer is not in the spirit of what we chart”. It was all a bit sadface really. In the end ‘Roar’ entered at Number 1, selling 557,000 copies in a week. ‘Applause’ entered at Number 6, peaked at Number 4 and stayed in the Top Ten for a pretty impressive 14 weeks so no one panic (I mean, people were panicking, but still).
As for the song itself, well it’s just a massive bloody pop song isn’t it. The verses are great, the pre-chorus is immaculate and the chorus itself is the kind of universal, crowd-pleasing classic that feels like it’s existed for decades. Then, just for good measure, they chuck in a wordless post-chorus to make it almost illegally catchy. Oh and it does what all good pop songs should do and basically cuts the second verse in half so we can get to that chorus quicker. ALSO, those lovely twinkly bells that come in for the final few choruses are actual genius. Lyrically the song is one big pick me up. Bonnie McKee said to MTV that it’s “a ‘pick yourself up and dust yourself off and keep going,’ female-empowerment song” and “an epiphany song”. Perry herself said the song, like all of ‘Prism’, was inspired by her trips to therapy. “I wrote it because I was sick of keeping all these feelings inside and not speaking up for myself, which caused a lot of resentment,” she told Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills. “Obviously I’ve been through a lot of therapy since my last record and that’s what this is about.”
Of those ‘teaser’ clips, and her ditching ‘Teenage Dream’ in general, she said: “You’ll see a bit more of a grown-up version of me, which does not equal boring.” ‘Interestingly’, on ‘Prism’, it was when she was self-consciously trying to not be boring (‘Birthday’, ‘This Is How We Do’), things started to fall apart. ‘Roar’ suits her just fine.