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REC Series | New Music Tuesday – Katy Perry “Smile” review

Katy Perry - Smile
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The pop star’s new album projects domestic bliss, champagne problems, and a mood tonally dissonant with the current moment

The eighth-best song on Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, which celebrated its 10th birthday last Monday and remains one of the best pop records of the past decade, is called “Peacock.” You remember “Peacock.” It’s the one that starts with a chant of, “I wanna see your peacock-cock-cock / Your peacock-cock / Your peacock-cock-cock / Your peacock.” The one whose chorus rhymes peacock with beyotch. That one.

The eighth-best song on Smile, the new Katy Perry record that came out Friday and is neither as terrible as you might’ve feared nor anywhere near as good as you might’ve hoped, is called “Harleys in Hawaii.” You can clearly picture this song even if you’ve never heard it: the vague mega yacht–reggae vibe, the single-entendre stiffness (“I’m revving up your engine” and whatnot), the way Perry adds several “ai-ai-ai”s to the end of her lines, as though she’s trying to summon that GIF of Rihanna rolling up her car window. It basically sounds like half-asleep 311. “When I hula hula hula,” she coos, “so good you’ll take me to the jeweler jeweler jeweler.” It is not a great or even especially tolerable song, in any sense, but it feels good to cringe again, just a little, and you may come to cherish it as the only moment on Smile when she’s even trying to get a rise out of you.