After a four year hiatus, Katy Perry’s “Witness,” which features none of the superstar’s trademark joyful pop or her surprisingly powerful vocals, can’t help but feel like a letdown. It’s not that the album is bad per se: It’s got plenty of effective dance hits, many of them modeled after 1990s house music like “Swish Swish” and lead single “Chained to the Rhythm,” but there just seems to be something missing. Perhaps it’s that Perry seems whiny this time around, with many self-pitying songs that sound repetitive and treacly, not to mention some genuinely pedestrian, awkward lyrics (such as “You look as cute as an old coupon expired”). Those clumsy lyrics manage to sap away the energy on several songs, in particular the catchy “Hey Hey Hey,” which has a terrific beat but is held back by some truly cringe-worthy lines like “Karate chopping the cliches and norms all in a dress.” Pop music has never lived or died by virtue of lyrical prowess, but there’s a difference between simplicity and stupidity, and here Perry hands her fans a handful of the latter. Hopefully she’ll find her way back to her strengths, which are effective, infectious and fun pop featuring her fiery delivery, but until then, we’ll have to settle for this misguided effort.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)