by Melissa Scott
I don’t often give much thought to Katy Perry--her music is fine, and she knows how to make a statement (clothing, hair color, or cupcake bras). But I’m not an avid fan, nor do I keep up with Perry-related gossip or headlines. In fact, with the recent relentless spotlight on Taylor Swift, Perry doesn't usually warrant front-page real estate.
That’s all changed within the past two weeks. After delivering a surprisingly impressive and bold halftime performance at the Super Bowl, Perry made another forthright statement at the 57th annual Grammy Awards, followed by a second reputable performance.
Perry’s halftime show at the Super Bowl caught me off guard. Of course I expected the quirky, almost tacky outfits, and the over-the-top flashy props prancing. It is Katy Perry after all. In fact, I was genuinely surprised at her invitation to perform. Previous performers like Beyonce and Bruno Mars maintain a broad and diverse group of fans. Katy Perry is wildly categorical within her fan base. She’s quite the opposite of what I would picture relevant to the National Football League.
She proved me wrong. Perry delivered a striking performance--the most-watched NFL Super Bowl halftime show in American television history. Her performance was the perfect mixture of confidence, ease, and authority. Her sparkling outfits—three in all—were the usual ostentatious spectacle, but the awe stemmed from Perry’s own control and talent during her songs. Perry’s voice was astounding. It was loud, passionate, and exceptionally on-pitch. Not once did she sound breathless, or stumble on a note. And while riding an enormous mechanical lion at one point, and a soaring, firecracker-spitting platform all around the stadium at another . . . OK . . . I’m impressed.
Perry also rebuffed a complete spotlight during the show. Lenny Kravitz collaborated in a humorous and edgy rendition of “I Kissed a Girl,” and Missy Elliot blew spectators away, leading the show as Perry took a backseat towards the end of the performance. In an interview for her March cover issue of ELLE Magazine, Perry admitted to rehearsing for the show nearly forty times, taking a duration of over six months to prepare. “In my show, I am boss daddy. I am boss mommy. They call me boss. Everything goes through my eyes; I call all the shots, one-hundred percent of it,” she explained.
With the NFL, I have to be accountable to several levels of red tape. There are many committees I have to go through for my costumes, the budgets of my show, every interview—everything, I have to report to somebody. So I am no longer the boss; I have to relinquish that control.
Perry added, “we love this opportunity, but once you decide you’re gonna do the Super Bowl, you’re gonna have no f*****g life for six months.”
Predictable though it was as a Katy Perry routine, the preparation paid off. I was amazed at the flair and conviction Perry held, and thoroughly impressed at the way she made her music unique and memorable through the performance. And she didn't stop there.
After her prominently lighthearted piece at the Super Bowl, she addressed a much more solemn issue with her performance at the Grammy's. Instead of using her performance to emphasize her individuality and carefree views, Perry shined the spotlight on a campaign against domestic violence, and its harmful impact on social justice. Teaming up once again, Perry aligned herself this time with President Barack Obama and domestic violence victim Brooke Axtell, to once again make a memorable statement.
President Obama began the tri-performance, making an unexpected video appearance. He called on musicians to pledge a stop to domestic violence. President Obama stressed the enormous influence artists can be to encourage victims of domestic abuse to get help and change views. “Right now, nearly one in five women in
America has been a victim of rape
or attempted rape. And more than one in four women has experienced some form of
domestic violence,” Obama declared. “Artists have a unique power to change
minds and attitudes,” he concluded. Domestic violence survivor and activist
Brooke Axtell then took to the stage with a self-written speech. Serving as an
example to speak out, Axtell shared her own story of abuse. She addressed a
silent audience with poignant power and grace. “Authentic love does not devalue
another human being,” Axtell quietly pronounced. “Authentic love does not
silence shame and abuse.”
Finally, Perry concluded the campaign with an un-embellished ballad, “By the Grace of God.” Rather than her flamboyant sequins and bouncing skirts, Perry chose instead to stand tall and manifest. She donned a lengthy white gown, and sang behind a similarly pure-white background, contrasting stoutly with her black hair and vivid makeup. Once again, Perry commanded awe and respect as her voice resonated with a faultless touch of emotion and defiance. Her manner, so distinct from the airy take of her Super Bowl halftime show, still delivered the same impressive wonder and respect. Perry’s performance was once again calculated and illustrious, yet articulating a completely different matter.
Perry showed a different aspect to the typical brand name of “Katy Perry.” I found myself truly impressed at her zeal in both performances. The way she easily flipped her shows: one with electrifying entertainment and caliber, and the other with stunning vigor and drive. In barely two weeks, Perry demanded attention as a leading pop artist, performer, and activist for women’s rights.