As she strolled to center stage, in a typical day in the life of a world-famous superstar, pop music and pop culture icon Katy Perry gave Jetset a little sample of what it is about her that makes her so successful, so famous, so likable and so fresh: her abnormal ability to appear normal.
Oh, there’s nothing normal about her talent, her straight-from-the-heavens ability to charm a microphone and an audience, combined with her mind-blowing ability to create fun, listenable, radio-friendly, groove-inducing music. And the gift she possesses to make cash registers sing and iTunes downloads ping is something the music industry hasn’t seen before. Simply put, Katy Perry sells songs and moves product.
As she explained some of the methods of her magic to Jetset on the syndicated entertainment show Extra as she launched her brand-new perfume Meow (appropriate for someone whose cat has its own blog), it was easy for a person to understand how Perry has basically gone from being an unknown up-and-comer with three recording deal failures to a globetrotting chart-topper who travels the world with her entourage in Gulfstreams. And what’s really amazing is, she’s done it in the time between opening ceremonies of the Olympics. Which brings up another aspect of the Katy Perry phenomena that helps explain where all the success has come from and where it appears to be going: She’s still grounded enough to know how magical things have been for her lately — while also smart and savvy enough to know she’s going to have to keep working as hard as she has to keep the machine humming.
While changing the color of her hair might elicit more buzz on the Internet and headlines in tabloids, what Perry has accomplished in regards to record sales is, well, to put it bluntly, off the charts. Her second studio album, Teenage Dream, has produced five No. 1 hits. That feat has only happened one other time, when Michael Jackson cranked out the same number on his iconic album Bad. For Perry, that record is still within grasp.
“Listen, I don’t know if it’s going to happen,” she told Jetset. “We’ll see. I’ve had such an insane run this year that I don’t need to top anything. I’m good. If it works, it would be great, but I’ve just had a great year so I feel like I’m fine, and I’m so happy with all the support the fans give me, and that people have decided to come onboard to my whole vision. That feels great.”
Considering the fact that her hit song “Firework” was nominated for a Grammy in February, the year 2012 is already off to a bang. Outside of the honor of the nomination is the fact that “Firework” also just happens to be Perry’s favorite song. “It really is important to me because it was an important song for me to write,” she says. “‘Girls’ (‘California Girls’) is fun and nostalgic, but I feel that ‘Firework’ is doing something right because people are affected by it in their own personal way. I’m really proud of it, so I’m really proud the Grammys have nominated that song.”
Yes, things are going to be exciting and unpredictable in 2012. And that’s just how this Southern California native with evangelical parents and a tattoo of Jesus (to remind her where she came from) likes it. And quite frankly, she has no choice now, because her life and career have been swept up in a tsunami of stardom that shows no signs of dissipating any time soon. Which is why she has to, and loves to, keep her friends and fans guessing. Take her appearance, for instance. The natural blonde has had almost as many hair colors as No. 1 hits. From black, to blue, to pink, to the shorter, dirty blonde coif she more recently unveiled. Combined with the fine-fitting, muted pink dress and black bow tied around her neck, she resembled a 1960s flight attendant. Well, a sexier, more daring and dangerous one, whose outfit on this day undoubtedly cost more than a first-class ticket from Miami to Morocco.
If there’s one thing you can count on from Katy Perry, it’s that she is going to keep surprising people. It comes with the territory, fits her personality and goes with the job. She can also easily morph from serious to silly at Mach speed, such as in the way she explained her association with felines, which have become symbols of her image and brand. Even though her perfumes’ names have gone from Purr to the aforementioned Meow, her love of cats, she says, actually sprung from her annoyance with them.
“I’m allergic [to cats],” she says. “Half my family is as well, unfortunately, but I was such a dog person growing up, I didn’t really understand cats until my first cat, Kitty Purry walked into my life and wouldn’t leave. I had to get to know her, be patient with her. I was interested in all her little characteristics and idiosyncrasies, and I started to realize, ‘Gosh, women are like cats.’ They want to be loved on their own time. They want people to earn their affection and they’ll eat whenever they want. Do not shove food down their throat. Plus, they won’t meet you at the door unless you’re really, really nice.”
Its that tongue-in-cheek wit that sets Perry apart from other music superstars — many of whom seem completely out-of-touch and weird, despite the number of monsters following them on Twitter or the level of shock they manufacture with bizarre outfits and outlandish hats. “I just thought a lot of people know me as the cat lady,” Perry continues, “which I’m trying to turn more chic than she typically is, and it went with my whole thing. My fans are called Katy Cats. They all know I’m madly in love with my cats now.”
Dog lover. Cat lover. Rhinoceros connoisseur. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter too much until it comes time to name the next incarnation of her perfume. She’s got multiple millions of Katy Cats who want to smell like their heroine, and a lot of them who want to look like her too. Her style is emulated around the world, not unlike a certain pop star from the ’80s whose success Perry would like to model hers after. She’s made it clear she wouldn’t mind being as well-known as Madonna, and she’s already accomplished more in a shorter period of time than the Material Girl did at this stage in her career.
One thing she certainly has in common with Madonna, more so than any other female recording star in the last 30-plus years, is the ability to make a music video come alive. Perry’s videos are mini movies. There is a beginning, middle and an end. A hero and villain. A plot. Go to YouTube and watch the videos for “Hot and Cold,” “Firework” and her recent hit, “The One That Got Away.” Her performances are as natural as they are impeccable, and they beg the question: Does she want to go the route of Madonna and try to transfer her abilities from four-minute music videos to full-blown features on the big screen?
She certainly got a good taste of the craft when she hosted Saturday Night Live in 2011, and while she enjoyed the experience and was praised by critics, the jury is out on how far, and ultimately, if, she wants to pursue it. “What I really found out, surprisingly, on SNL, was that acting is very hard. It’s not that easy. Doing a music video is very different than doing a film. A video is five or six days going 13 to 15 hours a day, and that’s a lot for me. It takes a lot of discipline and self-control.”
Those types of decisions can come later. Right now, she has a life to lead so she can have more experiences to write chart-busting songs about. And with the kind of roll she’s been on lately, you would think she’d be nervous about hoping the successes continue. But if she’s worried, she’s not showing her cards. And if history is any guide at all, the level of unpredictability in her life is high, so she doesn’t even try to plan for what might or might not happen. Right now, she’d like to concentrate on her family and getting some rest — two things she hasn’t been able to give as much attention to as she’d like as of late.
For more than three years Perry has been on a nonstop spinning carousel of writing, recording, performing, promoting and touring. And with all that she does, and has done, Perry also wants to do more. On her recent tour, she raised more than $175,000 for a charity called Tickets For Charity, a Boston-based group that actually makes customers feel good about paying top dollar for hard-to-find, high-profile event tickets. “It’s a group that has an allotted amount of tickets to shows, so when everything sells out, not only do they have tickets for people that really want them, but they match what the person pays for the ticket and then donate the money to a specific charity,” Perry explains. “You have to pay a bit more, but they’re getting tickets and feeling great about getting a seat in a sold-out show. I’m really happy about all the support from the fans. We sold out 123 dates around the globe.”
Even though the tour is over, Perry’s fans continue to benefit the charities she personally selected for her program through special tickets to see any of the events on the website Ticketsforcharity.com, including performances by The Black Keys, Jason Aldean and many others in 2012.
“We were honored to work with Katy on her tour this year and were so impressed by her generosity and genuine appreciation for the causes that she and her fans supported,” Tickets for Charity VP Kate Brandeis told Jetset about the experience. “Despite her nonstop tour schedule, it was clear that engaging her fans with these causes was personally important to her. Funds raised through her program are helping Generosity Water bring clean water to 4,000 people by building wells in Ghana, Nigeria, Laos and India, enabling Children’s Health Fund to fund 430 doctor visits for homeless and at-risk children, and helping The Humane Society of the United States fund rescue operations to save dozens of dogs from puppy mills.”
Sharing an authentic, unforgettable, unique experience with her fans is what Perry wants to do when she’s touring. In a world of instant access, a constantly shining spotlight and 24/7 paparazzi surveillance, it’s not always easy. “That’s what makes me feel great every day, because when people see you on tour, it’s a real commitment. You can buy, download or steal a song, but you make it a night when you go out and see somebody.”
Perry knows she can’t please everybody. There are always going to be people who don’t agree with some of her causes. But one thing likely to remain constant as her career and her life progress, is her determination to speak her mind. That’s part of her essence, and also how and why she’s come so far, so fast.
There aren’t many A-list celebs who log as many miles on private jets as Perry, considering tour stops, promotional appearances, music video shoots, and the fact that her personal life takes her halfway around the world to England several times a year. There aren’t any other recording stars on the planet who cut their teeth as performers singing Christian pop music, then later in life got married in a traditional Hindu ceremony. The unpredictability is part of the package, but it’s also a huge part of Perry’s charm, because it appears to be authentic. Unless you’re a really good actress, you can’t fake the effective combo of sincerity and charisma that she is able to ooze onstage and in interviews. It all adds up to where she sits right now: on a multicolored throne, as the unquestioned reigning queen of pop.