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Friday, July 6, 2012

Katy Perry: Part of Me

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If you're a teenage boy looking for love, you could do worse than buy a ticket for a Katy Perry concert. Judging by Katy Perry: Part of Me, the documentary of her 2011 world tour, the arenas are filled with aisles of screaming, whooping adolescent girls. Plenty of opportunities to meet new friends for boys their age! But of course, the singer-songwriter has boy fans, too. The movie opens with testimonials from middle and high schoolers of both genders, claiming her songs saw them through the dark nights of adolescence. “It's OK to be different,” one of them learned from her lyrics. And like a latter day Cyndi Lauper, Perry sets her many moods to the tune of relentlessly catchy electro-pop.

The documentary digresses into biography, complete with fading home videos. Perry's parents are itinerant Pentecostal preachers; she was raised in a bubble of evangelical religiosity penetrated in her teens by exposure (at a friend's house) to Alanis Morisette. Perry went from the Christian pop subculture to an abortive career among LA's musical hopefuls before her album One of the Boys (2008) launched a batch of hits and rocketed her from obscurity to platinum stardom. And yes, she married British comedian Russell Brand and yes, their marriage unraveled during the course of her year-long tour. Perry learned that romance can be hard to sustain over long distances.


Much of Part of Me is devoted to scenes from her carefully choreographed concerts, whose logistics demand seven tour buses and 16 semis and include a wardrobe change per song, laser lights and a troupe of dancers. It's a kinetic cartoon of visual and auditory overload that, in odd moments, suggests Kate Bush crashing the set of “Glee.” Her shows are spectacles, but the songs are genuine artifacts of Perry's experience and have touched a chord with millions of teens.
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