Katy Perry is back - and it's about time. Teenage Dream follows what feels like a lifetime without the powerhouse of bubblegum pop that is Katy Perry. So how, when she seems to have been in our lives (and our glossies) forever, is this only the first proper follow-up to One of the Boys?
Either way, with the exception of a couple of 'featuring' special appearances, this is the first proper chance to find out if KP can follow up on her earlier success, or whether it was just beginners' luck. I'm a fan - I won't try to deny it - so my hopes are high for this one. Let's sit back and find out how she's done second time around the block - read on for the highs, the lows, and the final tally.
I'd like to give just the briefest of mentions to the first single releases from this album - California Gurls (feat. Snoop Dogg) and, in the US, E.T. are already making their way into the public consciousness. They don't need too much help here.
For the popsters, Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.) is a spot-on instalment in the Katy Perry pop franchise. Upbeat, emotional and laced with popular culture references, critics might argue it's cynical and formulaic, but they'd be harsh to do so. How many other recent songs have had a 21st century stab at the classic 80s sax solo? Surprise surprise, Perry pulls it off.
Ballad lovers - because, let's face it, KP's albums are home to the slower songs - try The One That Got Away for a bittersweet but still punchy and poppy Perrytale with a story to tell and a chorus you'll be singing while you sob next time someone does you wrong.
Here comes what you could argue is praise and criticism all in one - if Teenage Dream were Katy Perry's first album and One of the Boys her second, nothing would really be any different. Her 'sound' hasn't really matured or mellowed. Maybe it didn't need to. Stick the two albums on a single playlist, put it on random, and no one track will sound out of place. If you wanted more of the same - and I did, I think - then you've got it.
If you were hoping for something along the lines of Kylie's progression from I Should Be So Lucky to Where the Wild Roses Grow, it's not to be found here. Perry doesn't need that yet, does she? She's all-pervasive, even after a fairly length gap between albums. Her sound is not unique, but she does it better than the rest. And hey, she's hot, so cut her some slack. Look out for Teenage Dream (Deluxe Edition) for bonus tracks and the chance to get those special appearances with 3OH!3 and Timbaland with Katy Perry's name listed first instead of second - the way it should be.
Final Score: 86%