You might remember that I watched Justin Bieber: Never Say Never a few weeks ago. It was a surprisingly pleasant experience and so I decided to change it again. This week I’ll give you my thoughts on Katy Perry: Part of Me.
Before I start watching Part of Me, and I will be going in cold, I just want to make clear that I have nothing against Katy Perry. To be honest I actually adore quite a few of her songs. Astrologically me and Katy are a horrible match and I feel like this is why I try to keep my distance from her personality and instead just try to enjoy some of the bangers she has delivered in the past decade. We’ll see if I can warm to this Scorpio after an hour and a half of intel.
Katy Perry: Part of Me is set during her 2011 tour of the world. This tour followed the release of her sophomore album Teenage Dream which came out the year prior. In case you were not aware of Katy Perry’s aesthetic you quickly catch up. After some introductory minutes of fan love (Katy helped them realise it’s ok to stand out, let their freak flag fly, etc.), we delve into what can only be described as the costume department of the tour. Dream-like cotton candy fantasies are clearly among Perry’s favourite things. “ How can you ever be too cartoony?” she asks.
During the credits I spot Dr Luke and a shiver runs down my spine. 2011 was a simpler time.
Katy Perry’s live shows are extravaganzas. There are numerous costume changes, explosions, dancers, anything else you could expect, Katy shoves it in there. Wouldn’t you do the same if you could? The fans–of all ages, but mostly white women–love it. Whereas Bieber’s fans were all girls who wanted to be his girlfriends, Perry’s fans all want to be her instead.
We catch the first glimpse of Russell Brand. Based on the small part he played in the scene, I assumed this doc was post-divorce. This it was, but more on that later.
We then are introduced to the crew. Many are very close to Katy and have worked with her from “the start”. It is unclear what that signifies, but they seem nice so I’ll let them have that one. There appears to be a theme of linking your tour crew to family ties in these docs. Katy’s actual sister Angela also works with her as a kind of manager/vessel (as she looks exactly like Katy). All crew members find it really important to point out that she’s such a “real girl”. They don’t explain what this means (mystery seems to also be a common theme in this film), but it’s probably a dig at other pop divas.
Angela serves as a segue into meeting the family proper. We start with a sassy grandma that means no harm but takes no shit. Apparently Katy was a little show off when she was young, and was always being silly. Katy’s parents were travelling ministers of the Pentecostal church, and her youth involved a lot of that. She and her siblings were “shielded” from the secular world for much of their younger years, they weren’t even allowed to eat Lucky Charms (as luck is “of the devil”). We see Katy singing in church as a little girl. At 15, Katy recorded a Christian record. There weren’t many options are she wasn’t allowed to listen to anything that wasn’t Christian music. Then one day she hears Alanis Morissette at a friend’s house. She was forever changed. She started singing about her life as a young women. Her parents didn’t appreciate this.
The phase between this epiphany and her move to LA aged 17 is glanced over. It’s not seen as a rebel move to infuriate her parents, it is basically described as a career move. I don’t believe this for one second as Katy was raised in a strict Christian family and 17 is very young, but it’s all we get.
I would like to pause here to note that this film is a bit of a train wreck. It jumps from year to year like it’s Infinite Jest and it becomes quite hard to follow what the makers want us to focus on. It feels like the actual interesting bits about Katy’s past are plunked in there because it feels like a necessary step to make this film pass as a documentary. What they really want to show us is Katy being lovely with the fans. Let’s not dwell on the fact that her parents are most likely quite narrow-minded republicans and that Katy was obsessed with fame from a young age. No, let’s focus instead on her extreme selflessness in her relationship with Russell Brand. She flies all over the world to be with him for a few days every two weeks. Meanwhile we are made to believe that Russell does not do this to the same extent. I don’t know if this is admirable or sad, but Katy is definitely sketched as the saint.
We’re now back with young Katy, who is now living in LA and trying to catch her break. Her early sound is clearly heavily influences by Morissette. She signs with several labels and gets shelved or forced to change her image to match the trends of the day, told to become the next Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson. All the people involved seem very angry and bitter about the music industry, and it feels as though they’re just trying to poop out the next pop star. Needless to say this fails. Columbia shelves Katy and it takes a brave exec named Angelica Cob-Baehler to steal her demos and bring them to her new employer at Virgin.
We are made to believe Katy was in total power of everything now, although she co-wrote her first smash hits “I Kissed A Girl” and “Hot n Cold” with Dr. Luke.
In case anyone was worried at this point, Katy makes sure to mention that she is definitely still religious, just not in the same way as her parents are.
To distract from the fact that this film is really not that interesting from this point onwards, we now get the censured details on Katy and Russ. After they met, Katy made him wine and dine her. I’m not sure why any woman is comfortable with this behaviour but I guess when you feel like a princess this sort of stuff justifies itself. It made me cringe a little. At this point it’s all very loving although we already saw earlier that Katy sacrificed a lot of time for Russell where he seemed to not be doing the same thing. We get some meet & greet scenes and miscellaneous tour workout routines fed into the mix. Katy also breaks a record with 5 number one hits from one album. Adele, Jessie J, Rihanna, and some others are shown saying how great she is. I doubt this was unprompted praise but again this is all very random and mysterious. We are told the same thing again and again and it’s getting old now.
Katy goes to Japan and this deserves some screen time because she likes Japan. We see the live performance of “Peacock” which is one of my favourite Katy Perry songs so I am briefly entertained again. It is worthwhile to note that the live clips are severely edited and Katy sounds amazing in them. Please scroll all the way down for a more realistic live performance. It’s not horrible considering the amount of lyrics and choreography, but I still felt slightly cheated.
Out of nowhere Katy Perry starts to breakdown. She’s exhausted all the time and after a while gets very dramatic. She doesn’t talk to anyone, just lies in a corner and cries. No one understands why and it is very annoying. Why doesn’t she talk? The shows go on even though Katy’s constantly crying. You want to feel bad for her but then you realise that literally everyone needs to go to work even when their marriage is falling apart so this is really not that inhumane. It’s still sad, though. I forgot to mention that the live footage always matches whatever narrative is going on (to give the film some sense of continuity). We now get a rendition of “The One That Got Away”.
The divorce happens and the best way to portray this appears to be news reports and support tweets.
After this the film is basically almost over. Katy says something about how hard it is to combine a career as a pop star and have a stable marriage, but at least now she has more time to focus on her career.
Although I learnt a lot, I felt like there was plenty of lying by omission in this story, and it definitely felt one-sided and at times insincere. Whereas at the start of her career others told Katy what she should be, with Part of Me she crafted a very smart image of herself with just enough imperfections to be believable. I didn’t come out with a newfound respect for Perry per se, although I definitely believe she is dedicated to her work and her fans. I’m not so sure that makes you a sincerely nice person, but I’m also not sure sincerity is one of Perry’s main concerns. I feel strange indifferent, and I doubt that’s a good thing.