“My education and my consciousness comes from my voice. That’s how I see and that’s how I witness you, and that’s how you witness me. That’s why the eye is in the mouth,” Katy Perry said, explaining the imagery and concept behind her fourth studio album Witness to Jimmy Fallon. While her statement seems tame and innocuous, upon a few listens of her new LP, it reveals some interesting contradictions. Aside from its conceptual slipperiness, it’s just not a very captivating listen.

With the album’s first single “Chained to the Rhythm,” Perry dug a little deeper lyrically than usual, deciding to critique complacency in the face of adversity. When Billboard editor Jason Lipshutz jokingly tweeted, “Love that @katyperry just invented woke-pop as a genre,” the pop star replied “We gonna call this era Purposeful Pop.”

Her statement initiated a widespread internet eyeroll, especially after countless accusations of decidedly “unwoke” instances of cultural appropriation in her career. But people learn, grow, and are capable of change - she’s trying to do better, so let’s give her that.

“Today, young people are less interested in engaging with an artistic chameleon and more interested in personalities that feel real and authentic. The evidence of this can be found in the response to Katy Perry’s recent musical efforts.” - senior editor Stephanie Smith-Strickland wrote in a recent op-ed arguing that the singer’s identity crisis is indicative of the state of pop music on the whole. Perry's gear switches might be well-meaning, but just don't seem very authentic. It was perplexing when she followed up the political-leaning "Chained to the Rhythm" with "Bon Appétit." Beyond featuring a very popular hip-hop trio and making a bunch of sex jokes, its purpose is lost on me.

“Swish Swish” is at best an anthem for female empowerment, but is mostly a miss save for Nicki Minaj’s verse. A hasty pastiche of catchy underground dance tracks, it lazily uses a sample from a deep house track by Maya Jane Coles that already appears in Minaj’s “Truffle Butter” from 2014.

Witness on the whole is an underwhelming listen punctuated by moments of promise. “Power” stands out with rollicking drums, wavy R&B-inspired production, and slightly distorted vocals. “Mind Maze,” “Miss You More” and “Bigger Than Me” produced in part by Canadian duo Purity Ring also stand out as forward-thinking with their whispers of witch house and futuristic pop.

When asked if Witness would contain any Taylor Swift clapbacks, Perry explained, “This record is not about anyone else! This record is about me being seen and heard so that I can see and hear everyone else! It’s not even about me!" In a very confusing statement, it would seem Perry is attempting to use her music as a platform for social change, claiming that her visibility can help her better understand others.

In reality, most of the album is just plain ol’ poppy love songs, with the occasional track like “Bigger Than Me” describing a very vague political awakening. In “Hey Hey Hey,” Perry says she’s “Karate chopping the clichés and norms all in a dress” yet the rest of her album is rife with platitudes like “They say everything in moderation / And sometimes, you got to give in to temptation,” “You broke me wide open, open sesame” and “Don't try and reinvent your wheel.”

Adding another manic layer to the perplexing world of Witness is the Big Brother-style livestream called 'Witness World Wide.' Spanning over 72 hours from this past Thursday night to Sunday afternoon, with 41 cameras installed in an LA apartment, it depicted Katy Perry’s strategic goings-on. There was a lot of talking going on with her famous friends, a therapist, and other guests. Most notably she sat down with activist Deray McKesson, and a clip discussing her past cultural appropriation was widely circulated. Many thought she came off as disingenuous - would she have ever had this change of heart if she wasn’t called out countless times?

Katy Perry’s willingness to be open and held accountable for past wrongdoings is commendable. She’s been using that eyeball in her mouth to tell us all that she’s committed to doing better after becoming more acquainted with her privilege as a wealthy, white, conventionally attractive woman. But in covering her eyes on her album cover and insisting she’s seeing and being seen with her own voice, perhaps she’s missing the point. Maybe if she opened the eyes in her eye sockets, closed her mouth, listened to others and properly communicated the important messages of people she’s wronged in the past - Black Lives Matter comes to mind - she could truly create pop that is purposeful.

For more of our reviews, read why Toro Y Moi is the indie Travis Scott on his new track "Girl Like You" right here.

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