Present day, pop-stars frequently peg themselves into niche markets, with extensive PR and branding. Until recently, Katy Perry had “bubble-gummed” herself quite effectively, labeling herself the “I Kissed a Girl”, the “California Girl”, and the “Teenage Dream”. Lyrical content of her 2012 release, “Wide Awake”, challenged this, beginning her rebranding to a more mature, vulnerable and introspective period for the artist. The song’s story telling promotes youth to adult transitioning, identifying three key phases of development: comfortable ignorance, turmoil catalyzing seeking, and resulting establishment of higher self awakening.
As the story begins, Katy narrates her past conflictedly, referring to it both as “cloud nine”, and a misreading of the stars. The use of paradigmatic self narration creates an introspective and reflective tone within the setting of Katy’s mind. Narrative catharsis creates an intimacy between speaker and listener, like the observing party were being told a personal secret by a close friend. Katy, also being the character of the story, shows some layered roundness from the unpredictable shift her music makes with this release. Previous releases largely focused on partying, love and sexuality; Wide Awake offers a more substantially revealing, authentic side of Katy’s personality.
Incurred experiences of pain causally relate to Katy’s awakening. The lyrics, “Gravity hurts, You made it so sweet, ‘Til I woke up on, On the concrete” illustrate both the active event of Katy’s real world break up with Russel Brand and, the stative event of Katy’s paradigm shift, activating her mental liberation, allowing her to “wake up” and see life in a new way. Katy, picking up pieces of her wounds, realizes the futility of trying to control life, of fighting gravity. This allows her paradoxically to become more free. Now discovering her own limitations, Katy is more able to focus on what she can control. Herself. The story completes itself within a couple of core motions which convey the key moral of the song. Katy’s happiness is disrupted causing associated traumas and she turns the situation into something positive.
Wide Awake’s main claim is about the establishment of higher states of awareness; struggles in life need not just be struggles but instead can be used to build oneself into something higher. Like Katy, when we falling from external comforts, we too can “pick up every piece, and land on our feet” with new internal realizations. As she claims, truly, we “Need nothing to complete [ourselves]”. When one “lets go” of preconceived notions of perfection and attachments to the comfort of how things are, we inherit the opportunity to love and accept as well as reinterpret our realities and grow as individuals. This moral notion very much carries fidelity; each of us in our own lives will inevitably experience some kind of loss or upset and will be forced to rebuild. Lyrics of this record are quite optimistic, reminding listeners of the alchemic relationship we share with life. Whether good or bad, our experiences shape us and give us nothing but opportunity to become richer, fuller personalities with ever expanding understandings of the world around and within us.
Could one artists reinvention mark a shift in pop culture? If it became mainstream to introspect and to continually try to better ourselves, what would happen to the world? What needs to happen for this to become reality? If we’re all our own narrators how much of life is really just perception? If the world is just perception, what’s left to call truth? The truth is, we’ll all find it on our own, but let’s hope these simple art forms can guide us on our journeys.