Katy Perry is on a tour with a mission to give the world an overdose of sugary pop.
Thirty seconds of her is probably enough to cause a glucose overload, based on her recent European shows.
The 26-year-old singer arrives in a rah-rah skirt made of primary-colored cupcakes, skips around giant lollipops and flirts with dancing gingerbread men.
Waves of pop confection bounce perkily from the sound system. There’s an echo of Madonna’s “Sticky and Sweet” tour, though Perry is at the frivolous end of the pop spectrum. She does jokes. Madonna takes herself too seriously to do that.
Perry’s giddily intoxicating rush has made her flavor of the month and more: Her “California Dreams” shows at London’s Wembley Arena and HMV Hammersmith Apollo will be followed by even larger ones at the O2 Arena in October. In the meantime she will play Japan, Australasia and about 50 dates across Canada and the U.S. during the summer.
The West Coast singer has replaced the controversy of “I Kissed a Girl” with the notoriety of being the wife of comedian Russell Brand.
Her set is pure Willy Wonka. The demented dancers behave like children’s entertainers. The band members are dressed in sharp white suits and look as if they have stepped out of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine.”
The tune “Hot N Cold” is brassily ditzy and “Peacock” a dire concoction of lame innuendo. Perry belts out her garish choruses: She sang gospel when she was growing up, releasing a Christian rock CD aged 16. Since her pop conversion, she has only released two albums.
She makes up for this lack of material with an acoustic medley of covers. She turns Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” into something like a lost Rolling Stones classic. Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair” sounds like it was sung by the Queen. It takes talent and guts to successfully take on Jay-Z’s “Big Pimpin’” accompanied only by acoustic guitar and a recorder. There is more to Ms. Perry than brash power-pop and silly sweet-shop shtick.
Perry’s tour continues on April 28 in Melbourne, Australia, moving to New Zealand and Japan in May. Her American concerts start in Atlanta on June 7 and continue through September before she moves to Brazil and the U.K.
Perry’s CD “Teenage Dream” is on Capitol, priced from $12.98 in the U.S. and 8.99 pounds in the U.K. Download fees vary across services.
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(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)