Katy Perry talked with Amy Kaufman of The Los Angeles Times about dealing with her depression, making public statements about “hot button” issues, checking in and reeducating herself, her career no longer being her life, and more. You can also check out the photoshoot she did with Jay L. Clendenin here.
But then “Witness” fell short of her previous efforts. The New York Times labeled her a “pop star without ideology.” Her social media was overrun with trolls.
“I think the universe was like, ‘OK, all right, let’s have some humble pie here,’” Perry says now. “My negative thoughts were not great. They didn’t want to plan for a future. I also felt like I could control it by saying, ‘I’ll have the last word if I hurt myself or do something stupid and I’ll show you’ — but really, who was I showing?”
She found a confidant in Sia, whom she’d met when the “Chandelier” singer was rising to success around 2014. At first, Sia jokes, Perry served as her “pop-star concierge” in Hollywood, instructing her on how to get a private doctor to make a house call or putting her on the list for Madonna’s Grammys after-party. But their bond was cemented when they connected through their respective mental health struggles, with Perry turning up at Sia’s home “in a bad way.”
“She had a real breakdown,” recalls Sia. “She’s on stage with 10 candied lollipops and clowns and dancers, selling the dream, the joy, the happiness — and that’s really hard sometimes when you’re not feeling it yourself.
“I knew she was driven and ambitious, that was clear from the beginning. But I didn’t realize that she was so reliant on that validation for her psychological well-being. She did say ‘I feel lost.’ I think it was a big kick to her ego, but it was the best thing that could have ever happened to her, really, because now she can make music for the fun of it. Getting number ones does nothing for your inside.”
Before “Witness,” she says, her music was “getting a bit too saccharine” even for her own taste. Amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, she’s been “constantly checking in and reeducating” herself, questioning if beliefs she held even a few years ago still hold up.
“Having more awareness and consciousness, I no longer can just be a blissful, ignorant idealist who sings about love and relationships,” she insists. “Even my travels have afforded me a new perspective on cultures, class systems and the inequality around the world, not just in the United States. There’s definitely a reckoning — an uncomfortable but necessary reckoning — that is happening right now.” […]
Perry won’t go as far as to say she doesn’t hope “Smile” performs well. She doesn’t need to project that energy, she says. But she knows that music has undergone a seismic shift since she scored her first No. 1 with “I Kissed a Girl” in 2008. Hip-hop now dominates the streaming charts, fans create TikTok hits out of bedroom dance routines and, as Perry notes, “There’s 30,000 songs that come out a day, pre-COVID, on Spotify.”
Her career, she says, used to be her life. But that had to shift so that she could welcome in something more “expansive.”
“I’m thankful that I’m out of the loop of how intense it is to be red hot for 10 years,” she says. “Because I’ve had all the numbers, honey. Still set those records, honey. Talk to me when you’ve done that. Do I need to keep ringing that bell, or can I start ringing others?”