Dissecting Katy Perry’s “ET”

editorial on pop culture 

The piece of popular music discussed is Katy Perry’s “ET” remix and music video with Kanye West. I will analyze the popularity of Katy Perry’s remix “ET” music video featuring Kanye West and discuss why the video is an artistic failure.

As a fan of Perry for the last couple years, and one of the 23,417,997 members on Facebook that openly “like” Perry, I feel adequate enough to discuss who she is as an artist and what as a fan I have come to expect. Perry’s lyrics hold a hidden message or critique of the current culture. Perry or her manager has cleverly created an excellent marketing scheme and successfully conceived invention. Her physical image took the stereotypical look of a pretty young female who sang pop songs who could attract not only the younger female crowd, but also older females and males with her looks and vocals. Perry’s physical appearance and literal lyrics tend to be what the public focuses in on.

Her lyrics target certain parts of the population with each song. Perry’s first hit song “I Kissed a Girl” gained her publicity from a larger demographic of fans but also through the negative verbal lash outs from groups in the community. Negative verbal outbursts came from conservative parents, older generations as well as disapproval from her church as well as her parents. This song came as such a shock because she had released an album before One of the Boys, which featured “I Kissed a Girl”, but it was a Christian CD. It was released in 2001 under her birth name Katy Hudson and was a self-titled release. The Christian community praised it. With this song, Perry delivered a good use of invention; not only did she have the convention down through her attractive exterior, powerful and melodic vocals but she added a scandalous personality, clothing and diction in her songs. This resulted in a quick rise to popularity with a league of fans that followed.

“ET” off of Perry’s most recent album Teenage Dream, was not what I expected to be the next single; it is not developed enough to make it popular. I fully understand the need to make a remix, as remixes can be more popular than the original and using a rapper on the remix, and West’s lyrics did just this. Not only did they add a raunchier meaning but also a more literal message to the song. In the past Perry’s songs have forced the viewer to find the hidden message, but with West’s lyrics he has given the song a literal meaning not giving the inkling that there is more to the song than the words at surface level.

His lyrics also play off the convention of alien abductions, giving no clues to invention. Although convention cannot work at times to describe an event, it did work in this case. The gritty upfront natural of his vulgar lyrics added an attitude to the song. Before the remix the lyrics were very ambiguous but with the addition of West’s lines, a rough and strong feeling is associated with this song now. At first the lines are too upfront and vulgar to automatically connect to the song, but after watching the music video to the song as well as thinking about what Perry and West were going for; the song becomes more interesting. Although much of the public may not take the time to look further into this song and merely go with what is seen on the surface.

The Official Katy Perry Vevo account music video for “ET” remix was released March 31, 2011. By Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 9am the number of total views of this specific video was 23,318,010. Prior to the official music video coming out, Perry pumped the fan boards on Facebook, as well as her website promoting the video, even posting teaser images from the video and hosting a contest to the fans. The contest was to recreate Perry’s two different looks from the video and then upload the images to Facebook. There was also an “E.T. Abductions” event across some parts of the country. What happened was fans dressed in black and wore Katy Perry alien masks from the “ET” remix music video, and either took images or filmed them in the downtowns of some cities in the US. Perry has done a good job to be inventive but also allow her fans to be inventive with her, giving them the opportunity to essentially become her. She encouraged them to imitate her as well as promote her, which is definitely not convention and something that the public does not normally see.

The failures of the “ET” remix and video can be seen in the visuals of the video. Visually the video starts up at a real life Last Man on the Earth (1964) feel, except the video promotes this “aliens will ultimately save us” mantra. Perry attempts to use invention with the image of a distant future, where man was transformed into a robot when an alien in the form of Perry comes to bring life to humans. Although there this was potential for the success of this invention, with the use of depicting technology that does not yet exist, portraying a possible technology advancement in the future; all attributes of the video was not positive. Visually, the video was shot beautifully. The video contains high quality film as well as visuals; time was put into creating the set digitally as well as physically within the video.

The fashion style and “out there” look of Perry seen throughout the video including the alien form of Perry was a very bad use of invention. It continued the idea of what “aliens” look like with a big head with big eyes and a thin stretched neck and body. Aliens have been portrayed this way since aliens were first “described.” Knowing Perry and her out there, at times slightly uncomfortable style, I would have figured Perry would have tried to “remake” the alien appearance more than it was. Yes, she did physically change throughout the video but during her initial form she is presented in the stereotypical alien form.

Throughout the music video there are clips of “human life” throughout the world. The video creates a “David Lynch” feel with the use of video clips throughout the song. The difference between this video and Lynch’s film style is that the video clips were the provocative part of the video as well as West’s lyrics. Perry’s lyrics can be read as provocative, even though they are not as explicit as her lyrics tend to be. The clips portray a provocative behavior, which does not appear to be the only reason behind their addiction within the video. Although Perry is known to push past what is on the edge of inappropriate; there is no reason why these clips were added. They do not add more to the video, only further visually complicate it and take away any deeper meaning for those not looking for one. It does not make sense how Perry becomes half animal at the end of the film.