Katy Perry: Total Access


Whatever you might think of Katy Perry (the best pop princess that America has turned out since Britney, or an overhyped madam who can’t even be relied upon to hit the right note when singing live), it cannot be denied that she is not easily avoided. Not only have her five albums sold millions of copies around the world, she is extremely adept at self-promotion.

Her singing career aside, she has appeared in several feature films and has even made her own ‘access all areas’ documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me in 2012. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the cynics will claim) her brief marriage to British bad-boy comedian, Russell Brand was imploding at the time of filming and Perry spared her audience nothing of her tearful meltdowns. If Brand was treating their marriage with contempt there was no way that the world was going to be denied her response to the fallout.

Born in Santa Barbara, California on the 25th of October 1984 to Pentecostal preachers Maurice Keith Hudson and his wife, Mary Christine Perry, Katie’s love of singing soon resulted in her being a regular performer in her parents’ church and, as a teenager, pursuing a career in gospel music.

Much has been made of Perry’s religious upbringing, but the truth is that both Maurice and Mary found religion comparatively late after both experienced what they later described as a “wild youth”. Perry’s image scarcely conforms to the basic tenets of Born-Again Christianity, but she retains a close relationship with her parents. Her childhood certainly sounds different: as children Perry, her older sister Angela and younger brother David, were banned from eating the popular American cereal, Lucky Charms as the name reminded her mother too much of Lucifer and when devilled eggs were served they had to be referred to as “angelled eggs”. That the post-fame Perry has never sought to ridicule these bouts of maternal religious mania says a great deal about her loyalty and sense of family honour. What Mama Perry thought when young Katy brought Russell Brand home for the first time can only be imagined.

Perry, who seems to have been a bright student, left school at the age of 15 to pursue a career in music, briefly studying Italian opera at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. After being talent-spotted by Nashville-based musicians, Steve Thomas and Jennifer Knapp, who took her to the music obsessed city to hone her songwriting and performing skills, she also started to record demos and, as a result of her new friends’ hothousing, managed to land a recording contract with Red Hill Records. Her debut album was a gospel collection entitled Katy Hudson, which was a hit with critics but sold a meagre 200 copies before Red Hill Records suffered financial collapse. Deciding that using her real name might cause people to confuse her with the actress Kate Hudson, she employed her mother’s maiden name to become Katy Perry and made the move from gospel to mainstream pop, writing songs with musician Glen Ballard, who most famously co-wrote and produced Alanis Morissette’s ground-breaking album, Jagged Little Pill back in 1995. As early career moves go, this proved that Perry was a young woman with an eye on the main chance.

In 2004 Perry signed to Ballard’s label, Java, which formed part of the much larger Island Def Jam Music Group, a decision that must have taken her all of five seconds to make. However, the next few months proved not to be plain sailing as Java was dropped but Ballard, clearly taking his responsibilities to his new charge seriously, introduced Perry to Tim Devine, an influential A&R man at Columbia Records where she was soon signed as a solo artist. Columbia was good to Perry for a while, carefully nurturing her talent and introducing her to proven songwriting talents such as, among others, Desmond Child who had written hits for Bon Jovi, Cher, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Ricky Martin and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Greg Wells (who had written and performed with Mika, Rufus Wainwright, Celine Dion and Crash Test Dummies to name but a few), Dr. Luke (who would later go on to work with Pink, Flo Rida, Pitbull, Jessie J, Miley Cyrus and Kesha) and Max Martin (also linked with Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and N Sync).

Perry was finally where she needed to be – but unfortunately this situation was not to last and, in 2006 when an album was nearing completion, she was dropped. This must have felt like a major setback but Perry’s resilience proved invaluable, as she took on a job at Taxi Music, an independent A&R company.  

Despite the downturn in her fortunes that resulted in her eviction from Columbia Records, Perry also experienced some good luck. She was chosen to provide backing vocals for Mick Jagger’s ‘Old Habits Die Hard’ which was included in the soundtrack to the 2004 remake of the 1960s Michael Caine classic, Alfie. Even more rewarding was the news that ‘Simple’ – a track that she had recorded during her time with Glen Ballard – had been chosen to appear on the soundtrack for the 2005 movie, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Eventually, in April 2007, Perry managed to find another record deal, this time with Capitol Records, the company working quickly to pair her with Dr. Luke to add a copper-bottomed smash hit to her earlier material. The result was ‘Hot n Cold’ and ‘I Kissed a Girl’, which quickly became an international earworm following its release in April 2008.

From this point on the well-oiled Katy Perry publicity machine barely paused. Her album, One of the Boys, was heavily promoted and spawned four hit singles: ‘I Kissed a Girl’, ‘Hot n Cold’, ‘Thinking of You’ and ‘Waking Up in Vegas’. Perry also embarked on the Warped tour in 2008, which was a handy platform for promoting the new album, not that it seemed to need much help because, on the back of the ‘I Kissed a Girl’ it flew off the shelves.

Success was now Perry’s, but a certain amount of turbulence was also around the corner. In the summer of 2009 Perry was filming a cameo appearance in a black comedy called Get Him to the Greek, featuring soi-disant comedian, Russell Brand, when the pair collided romantically. Perhaps his trademark Victorian cockney urchin schtick struck a chord with Perry, or maybe it was just because he represented something completely different from her strait-laced fundamentalist Christian upbringing, but the Perry-Brand liaison quickly became standard British tabloid fare. Speculation was rife; what would Ma and Pa Perry say when they encountered their daughter’s self-confessed druggie boyfriend? How would Brand adapt to Perry’s hippy-dippy Californian ways?

For a while it seemed that opposites really did attract, although the waves caused by the romance almost overshadowed the launch of her next album, Teenage Dream. This release proved a record-breaker, launching a further six hits: ‘California Gurls’, ‘Teenage Dream’, ‘Firework’, ‘E.T.’, ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)’ and ‘The One That Got Away’. The first five tracks reached Number One on the Billboard Charts, with the sixth peaking at Number Three. With this staggering achievement Katy Perry became the first woman to have enjoyed five Number Ones from one album and only the second artist generally (after Michael Jackson’s 1987 album, Bad). Teenage Dream went on to sell more than six million copies worldwide and netted Perry seven Grammy Award nominations including Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Record of the Year. It went on to win International Album of the Year at Canada’s Juno Awards.

Perry married Brand in a lavish Hindu ceremony in Rajasthan, India on October the 23rd 2010. The whole event was so ludicrously overblown, extravagant and (some would say) vulgar that the international press had a field day, speculating that the length of the marriage would prove to be in inverse proportion to the cost of the ceremony. As it happened they were right.

In the meantime Perry had an album to promote and, in February 2011, she started her California Dreams Tour, which only finished in January 2012 and ultimately raked in an impressive $59.5 million worldwide. However, by the time Perry had played her final venue, Brand had cruelly – and unilaterally – announced the couple’s divorce. When Katy Perry: Part of Me, a documentary feature was released the impending divorce and Perry’s emotional meltdowns on camera rather detracted from the initial intention of the film, although it made a very healthy $32.7 million at the box office.

If 2012 spelled the official end of her marriage, Perry was determined that she should also gain some positive perspective on the year. She started work on her next album, Prism and entered a relationship with John Mayer, a musician who has struggled to make an impact outside America. Before the couple split in early 2014 they co-wrote a duet, ‘Who You Love’ which appeared on Mayer’s Paradise Valley album.

Prism was finally released on October the 18th 2013 and gave Perry a further five hits in the shape of ‘Roar’, ‘Unconditionally’, ‘Dark Horse’, ‘Birthday’ and ‘This is How We Do’. Showing that her previous enthusiasm for hard work was in no way dampened by her growing popularity or erratic private life, Perry took to the road again for the Prismatic World Tour. This mammoth spectacle consisted of 38 dates in Europe, 66 in North America, 25 in Oceania, 12 in Asia and 10 in Latin America and made a staggering $204.3 million at the box office. Fans clearly couldn’t get enough of Perry’s live performances, although the keen of ear could occasionally detect that her tuning was imperfect. A performance of ‘Firework’ on the UK talent show, X Factor was memorably flat and off-key, with Perry struggling to hit some of the higher notes.

Released earlier this year, Witness has already continued Perry’s global domination. While the tabloids were breathlessly following the singer’s latest romance (a brief fling with actor Orlando Bloom) she was busy in the recording studio. Witness has perhaps failed to garner the glowing critical reviews of her previous albums, but the hits have kept coming: ‘Chained to the Rhythm’, ‘Bon Appétit’, ‘Swish Swish’ and ‘Save as Draft’ have kept her in the international charts.

Always happy to take on promotional work, Perry opened her doors to fans via Katy Perry Live: Witness World Wide, a live stream available via YouTube, which ran for four days and culminated on June the 12th with a live concert. This generated 49 million views from 190 different countries and a behind-the-scenes spin-off entitled Will You Be My Witness? premiered on YouTube Red in October.

Katy Perry’s work ethic is second to none and no doubt she will be back in the recording studio next year, although at least some of her time will involve sitting down, as she has just signed a $25 million contract to be a judge on the ABC revival of the classic TV talent show, American Idol.

Who will be brave enough to serenade her with one of her own songs?

Katy Perry Quotes

“People don't understand that I have a great relationship with my parents - like, how that can exist. There isn't any judgment. They don't necessarily agree with everything I do, but I don't necessarily agree with everything they do.”  

“I don't take anything for granted. There are 500 other girls right behind me. And I know that, because I was one of them.”

“I don't believe in a heaven or a hell or an old man sitting on a throne. I believe in a higher power bigger than me because that keeps me accountable.”

“The records are black boxes for me. Like, if you want to know who I am, my views, my perspective, things I love, things I hate, my convictions, my anthems. I've never let people's opinions affect the way I write.”

“I'd go to the farmers' market in Santa Barbara, and I'd put out my guitar case, and I'd test out these little ditty songs that I would write, and I would get a couple of avocados, a bag of pistachios, and, like, fifteen bucks. That was a lot of money for me.”

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