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10 Essential Katy Perry Songs

With a discography and music video collection like no other, Perry has everything that’s needed to keep going strong for another decade and beyond

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Amit Vaidya Nov 15, 2019

Perry performing at Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival on April 14, 2019 in Indio, California. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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In advance of her first-ever live performance in Mumbai, we are taking a look back at Katy Perry’s catalogue and highlighting the 10 essential tracks of her career. As this decade comes to a close, there is no doubt Perry stands out as one of the most successful artists of the 2010s. With nine Number Ones under her belt, she’s played the half-time show at the Super Bowl and is the most-watched female recording artist on YouTube. While as of late her singles haven’t garnered her the same level of streams and chart peaks, she’s still going strong and there’s no doubt she’s got plenty more fire left in her.

“Ur So Gay”

The only essential track that actually never charted on the Billboard Hot 100. Perry’s first success was the buzz-worthy track she needed to differentiate herself from the likes of the many female pop artists at the time. The song’s tongue-in-cheek style served as a prelude for the many saucy tracks Perry would then record. When you get the blessing of Madonna for your first single, that’s saying something!

“I Kissed A Girl”

It’s no surprise then when her second album One Of The Boys released this track as its first single, it became her first Number One hit. At the time still a somewhat taboo topic, the track was the perfect introduction of Perry as the girl next door with wit for a new generation. Her California cool vibe and candy-flossed music video helped Perry to stand out as did having rainmaker Max Martin penning the track with Cathy Dennis and Dr. Luke.

“Teenage Dream”

Perry’s third album Teenage Dream, her most commercially successful to date, spawned five Number One hits. While “California Gurls” felt like an extension of the Katy we had gotten used to from her One Of The Boys era, it was her second single, “Teenage Dream” that catapulted Perry from a one-style pony into a bonafide star. Those who didn’t enjoy Perry’s quirky style and image were left with little to critique when this single released. Her second Number One single from the album, despite the song title, for the first time, we saw Perry entering a more mature territory.

“Firework”

After back to back number ones, Perry seemingly scored her biggest hit, arguably her biggest hit to date. While self-empowerment and inspiration had always been thematically linked to her hits, “Firework” was an all-out assault on this and boy did it resonate. Becoming her third Number One in a row from the Teenage Dream album, even years later, the single continues to find a home in political campaigns and July 4th holidays!

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“Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”

It seemed like Perry may have ended her Number One streak with her fifth single but thanks to a cleverly planned remix featuring Missy Elliott, this became Perry’s fifth Number One from the Teenage Dream era (she released “E.T.” with Kanye West after “Firework” which also hit Number One). While it was another solid single, the accompanying music video spoke volumes about Perry’s ability to make herself relevant in any moment in time. With cameos from the Glee cast to older pop culture icons like Corey Feldman and Debbie Gibson, Perry understood the impact of attracting her growing audience. She may have been focused on her younger teen listeners but she knew that now even their parents were listening to her and she used her video to make it clear that she can generation-shift her way to further success.

“Part Of Me”

After releasing her sixth single “The One That Got Away” which peaked at Number Three, Perry re-released her album as Teenage Dream: Complete Collection. A reworked version of a track that initially didn’t make the album was released as the seventh single and debuted at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100. “Part Of Me” and its empowering message seemed like another brilliantly calculated attempt to win over generations of listeners and the contrast of the Perry we saw at the start of the era with “California Gurls” and “Part Of Me” – there was no doubt Perry had become the biggest female pop star of the time.

“Roar”

So how exactly do you come back after having one of the most successful streaks of hits from one album ever? You come back with another empowering gem called “Roar,” the lead single from her fourth album Prism and a more mature but still laced with wit and youthfulness music video. Another Number One single for Perry, the song showcased Perry’s vocals and it was clear that there was nothing that was going to stop Perry’s streak. To date today, the “Roar” music video is the most viewed music video by a female artist with nearly three billion views.

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“Dark Horse”

It’s no surprise that Perry was chosen to headline the Super Bowl half-time show during this era. After her second single “Unconditionally” failed to crack the Top 10, Perry came back with probably the least Katy Perry sounding song of her career with the most Katy Perry music video ever. Featuring Juicy J, the single showcased Perry’s grip on everything current incorporating elements of trap and hip-hop, styles she may have flirted with in the past but had never incorporated as core elements of her singles till date. The unlikely collaboration was a smash taking Perry back to Number One and her second music video after “Roar” to have more than two billion views!

“Chained To The Rhythm”

After “Dark Horse,” Perry had a series of less successful singles and by the time her next album Witness released, a lot had changed in the pop landscape. The three years plus since the last album started to highlight some cracks at least chart-wise in terms of Perry’s pull. Regardless, “Chained To The Rhythm,” the first single from the album was a critical and commercial success (peaking at Number Four on the Billboard Hot 100), not the levels of her previous hits, but from its lyrical depth to its bold music video, Perry continued her growth as an artist and the evolution continued.

“Never Really Over”

After a few single missteps (although her YouTube counts have even managed to salvage some otherwise underwhelming singles like “Bon Appetit” and “Swish Swish”), Perry released “Never Really Over,” her second single working with Zedd. While their “365” highlighted a different direction for Perry, “Never Really Over” was a return to the Perry listeners and fans love the most. While the single again failed to crack the Top 10, it was a welcome return for Perry to a style she’s perfected over the last decade. She’s followed up the single with “Small Talk” and “Harleys In Hawaii,” two solid singles that have failed to impact radio as her previous hits did. The good news is that her singles are solid lyrically, musically and her music videos continue to further strengthen her music.

With one of the biggest fanbases in the world and a discography and music video collection like no other, Perry has everything that’s needed to keep going strong for another decade and beyond.

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