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Katy Perry gets pop-litical in new single, ‘Chained to the Rhythm’
(Ali Shaker, Wikimedia Commons)

Katy Perry gets pop-litical in new single, ‘Chained to the Rhythm’

(Ali Shaker, Wikimedia Commons)

It’s been over three years since pop superstar Katy Perry released her last album, “Prism,” and ever since, fans have been clamoring for new music. On Friday, February 10, it finally arrived in the form of “Chained to the Rhythm,” the lead single from Perry’s forthcoming LP. Musically, the song doesn’t diverge too much from Perry’s past music. A bouncing, disco-inspired beat and a fabulous feature from Skip Marley carry the song, working to make sure that it’s a hit at clubs and parties around the world.

But even more interesting are the lyrics to the pop veteran’s newest single. While some of Perry’s lyrics have accrued social relevance in the past, such as the infamous opening line to her #1 hit “Firework” (“Do you ever feel/Like a plastic bag”), “Chained to the Rhythm” features lyrics of a political nature — albeit rather subtly. In the song’s lyric video, the lyrics are spelled out across the screen while small rodents (hamsters, maybe?) are seen living in a tiny model of a human house; human hands reach in to prepare food for the hamsters and light fires to keep them warm.

The song’s political nature becomes obvious as soon as it starts, with Perry singing, “Are we crazy? / Living our lives through a lens,” followed by pre-chorus lyrics where she preaches, “So comfortable we’re living in a bubble, bubble / So comfortable, we cannot see the trouble, trouble.” The chorus masterfully blends a radio-friendly sound with highly politicized lyrics, featuring a chant of “Turn it up, it’s your favorite song / Dance, dance, dance to the distortion.” Essentially, Perry is calling out people’s propensity to ignore serious issues in the world and to continue living their rhythmic and routine lives. She’s calling out people who mirror the hamsters in the video, who consume whatever the hands reach down to give them. For instance, she might be calling attention to the socialization that entreats people to see many members of different racial, sexual and religious groups in a negative manner. Perry was a big Clinton supporter during the most recent presidential election cycle, and has spoken out about these issues many times before on her Instagram, so the message shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who follow her; for casual fans, it may come as a shock.

This might be starting to sound a bit like a research paper, but Perry’s message here is important. We’re all “chained to the rhythm,” affected by the issues and hugely imbalanced power structures of the world — to varying degrees, of course — and while some of us can live our lives without noticing them, many of us are not so fortunate. She’s also calling attention to the apathy people often demonstrate concerning these matters and even to people who take advantage of social structures such as racial and gender inequality. Regardless of whether you’re apathetic or deplorable, you’re still dancing to the distortion, and ultimately contributing to it. “Chained to the Rhythm” is not only sure to be a hit, it’s also sure to inspire conversation. Hopefully, it will inspire people who take notice of the lyrics to look deeper into the themes behind them and educate themselves.

 

Contact Dante Laird at dlaird2@stanford.edu.

About Dante Laird

Nick Burns—an Austin, TX sophomore—studies Science, Technology and Society. In his spare time, he likes to watch Netflix, feed his coffee addiction, read young adult novels, and write. His favorite kind of music is pop/electronic—especially if you can dance to it.