Last month, on James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke,” Katy Perry put some old beef back on the grill.
While discussing the meaning behind her new track “Swish Swish” (featuring Nicki Minaj), Perry revisited a years-old feud with Taylor Swift about backup dancers. The “California Gurls” singer expressed annoyance at Swift for writing “Bad Blood” about her, adding, “She started it, and it’s time for her to finish it.”
On Thursday night, Perry got a response from the “1989” star — but in the wrong place, and at the worst time. As the California girl unveiled her new album “Witness,” Swift quietly stole her thunder by releasing her entire back catalogue on streaming services.
Conversations about returning Swift’s albums to streaming have been ongoing since 2014, when the singer pulled her music from Spotify after taking issue with its royalty payments to artists. So while it’s definitely not a rushed decision, choosing the exact same date and time as a Katy Perry album release is no coincidence.
It’s a boss move that cuts deep with minimal effort — petty, but not unclassy.
It won’t have escaped Swift’s notice that Perry has been struggling to recreate the impact of her last album, “Prism.” The lead single off of “Witness,” “Chained to the Rhythm” (featuring Skip Marley) — which Perry dubbed “purposeful pop” — charted at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, but showed little staying power.
The follow up, “Bon Appétit” (featuring Migos), disappointed with flaccid double-entendres. And for all its Swift-flaying sass, “Swish Swish” was met with a shrug, too.
Perry’s decision to dredge up the past with Corden felt like a desperate attempt to ramp up interest. Now it may be backfiring on her even more.
It’s a shame, because “Witness” is a surprisingly decent album, overall. It’s far from wall-to-wall protest anthems, but Perry makes pointed attempts to open up her worldview on “Bigger Than Me.”
The album is most effective when Perry picks at old relationship wounds. “Save as Draft” elegantly captures the difficulties of making a clean break from an ex when technology inevitably keeps everyone connected, while “Miss You More” gets a chilly production sheen from Canadian duo Purity Ring, and makes heavy lyrical allusions to her relationship with John Mayer. “So strange you know all my secrets/Please keep them safe,” she pleads.
But for all Perry’s efforts to move beyond the bubble-gum pop she’s known for, there’s no doubt that “Witness” has been upstaged.
This weekend, pop fans have the choice of listening to a middling new Katy Perry album, or Taylor Swift’s greatest hits. That’s no choice at all.