Katy Perry doesn’t make music videos for her songs. She makes soundtracks for her music videos. That’s not a criticism as much as it is an observation. She works with pop music’s uber-producers who, among them, have only five-or-so melodies that are constantly reiterated, not just through Perry but through all the pop stars they work with. The synth tones change but the chords seldom do. There are only so many self-empowerment, stand-up-and-shine exercises one can handle before jaded sarcasm seeps in. The formula has made these stars famous and wealthy, but the songs are not a strong currency and require a level of collateral behind them to prop them up.
What Perry, at her best, brings to the equation is a goofy sensibility and lots of visual bombast, so it makes sense that the document of her big budget concert, The Prismatic World Tour Live, capitalizes on her enduring strengths. There’s a ton of flash onscreen, lasers, pyro, Lion King-esque stagecraft, and of course, Perry doing her deal in a variety of interesting costumes. As such, The Prismatic World Tour Live works best when the visuals act as a diversion from the songs, so as not to engage in over-analysis.
The proceedings surely give television monitors a run for the money. Big, bold colors and tons of sparkle make it all work more like a Cirque Du Soleil extravaganza, and that’s when this presentation is at its most enjoyable. So too, when Perry embraces her more comic persona — bizarre 10-story wigs, etc. — she is at her most likable. When things tone down and purportedly get serious, that’s when the spotlight goes back onto the songs and the show falls apart. They just do not hold up under such intense scrutiny. Katy is on her game less when she’s thinking Beyonce than when she’s thinking Burnett (Carol).
For fans of the artist, I’m sure the DVD of this show is another must-add to the collection. For everyone else, the surprise is that The Prismatic World Tour Live is not awful. It is a glitzy spectacle, but one that is best experienced a single time and done with. Unlike other artists who can take away all the trappings and still have a great song left to stand alone on, Perry’s boots are very shiny but perilous to walk in.