Thursday, July 8, 2010

Katy Perry's hidden talent (or, why MTV should replace all of its programming with episodes of Unplugged)

Just a few days ago I discovered an acoustic version of "I Kissed a Girl" on Youtube. Curious (and somewhat incredulous, because no one ever performs acoustically if they aren't already confident in their talent...and I like "Hot and Cold" and everything, but "Katy Perry" and "talent" don't exactly seem synonymous), I clicked. The incredulity factor multiplied.

It starts off like a jazz standard, all bass and percussion, her voice slow and deliberate. By the time she moves into the second verse with the original's vocal styling/instrumentation, I was completely won over. But part of me (that little piece of my heart that hasn't been completely deadened over the years by cynicism) couldn't help but wonder: why doesn't she go this route, rather than making music that is completely indistinguishable from the rest of the Hot 100?

The same reason Dr. Luke is producing those songs instead of maintaining his artistic integrity in the hip hop underground: $$$$$$$. And where completely idealistic, high-school me would have shunned her completely for being a sellout (which, back then, was my favorite slur to throw around, along with "poseur"), now I can't hate her for making her money. As long as she's still got time to do what she wants--and doesn't feel cheaper for making songs like "California Gurls"--it's all good.

Performances like Katy Perry's are the reason why MTV Unplugged remains my favorite music program. I know that MTV is, itself, just trying to make a profit by abandoning music in favor of reality TV, but I hope that, for as long as the network stays on the air, it never stops producing these.

(Oh, and the rest of the album is just as good; "Brick By Brick" is my favorite from the set.)

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