Katy Perry's Unplugged and the Anticipation of Prism

When Katy Perry released her MTV Unplugged album in 2009, she was riding the major wave of success following "I Kissed a Girl," but her image and talent were still finding their footing. She was not yet the polished, bold, and assured pop star we see in her fun new video for her eighth number one single, "Roar." However, Unplugged anticipated both "Roar" and Prism because, more than her pop music debut, it first made a strong case for her skills as a songwriter, camp figure, and pop-rock performer.

Perry has made her strongest impression on the pop music consciousness as a dance performer. Some of her most popular tracks--"Teenage Dream" and "California Gurls" chief among them--are dressed in beats, and it's easy to miss the pop-rock chops Perry can display underneath. On Unplugged, those production accoutrements are stripped away, and the performer successfully moves through the many faces of the rock star in her short set: the showman on a cabaret-styled "I Kissed a Girl;" the joker on "Ur So Gay;" the cover artist on her lovely version of Fountains of Wayne's "Hackensack;" the lovelorn balladeer on "Thinking of You" and "Brick by Brick;" the disillusioned star on her insightful "Lost;" and the straight-up rocker on "Waking Up in Vegas." Some of these shoes fit her better than others in 2009--she's a particularly affecting singer of ballads--but each showed great promise and the dexterity of her talent.

It is projected by Billboard and other music press that Perry is moving towards "singer/songwriter pop." This may seem like a dramatic change for listeners only familiar with Perry's most famous singles. However, she has long been headed in this rock direction. In the interview portion of her Unplugged Perry says her career started with her songs and her guitar--the humble beginning for many rock artists. Her rock instincts seem to be coming into fruition and at an ideal time when Perry is a polished, mature performer at the peak of her powers.

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