The Ones of the ’10s: Katy Perry’s “Part of Me”

In The Ones of the ’10s, I’m reviewing every single that hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the 2010s and working my way up into the present.

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Katy Perry- “Part of Me”

HIT #1: March 3, 2012

STAYED AT #1: 1 week

There was no way you could follow up Teenage Dream. Over a couple of years, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream was an absolute hit-driven phenomenon. The album racked up five consecutive #1 singles, tying a record with Michael Jackson’s Bad for the most #1 singles off from one album. With the album, Katy Perry had established herself as one of the most reliable hitmaking pop stars of the early ‘10s with her brand of fun and mindless pop music carefully calculated by the biggest hit-making producers of the era, Dr. Luke and Max Martin. All of this success would be enough to end your career on. But of course, it’s hard to stop when you’re on top. 

The music-listening public should have tired out of Katy Perry after a couple years of hit after hit especially with her often weak singing voice, mindlessly catchy music, and stupid nonsensical lyrics. By early 2012, cracks were already beginning to show as Teenage Dream’s sixth and final single, “The One That Got Away,” ended Perry’s streak of #1 hits peaking at #3 in January. (It’s a 5.) As I mentioned, this isn’t bad enough on its own but considering Perry’s dominance at the time it was a flop by her standards. Perry wouldn’t be this big again but that’s a given. I guess it’s appropriate then that the first big release after Teenage Dream was a weak nothing of a song that even Perry and her people didn’t feel was good enough for the album.

“Part of Me” was originally written and recorded in 2010 during the Teenage Dream sessions with Perry co-writing the song with her usual team consisting of Martin, Luke, Bonnie McKee, and Brian E. Smith. According to McKee, she was up all night coming up with lyrics and recalled Perry being enthusiastic about the song, “We’re buying you a car!” by the time she heard the third line.” Despite that, “Part of Me” was left off Teenage Dream. This didn’t stop a demo version from leaking online in 2010 which isn’t much different from the final result aside from more punchy synths and a couple of lyrics changed for the released version.

After the singles from Teenage Dream ended, Perry and her team announced a re-issue, Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection, which featured all the songs on the original album as well as some remixes and a few new songs including “Part of Me.” “Part of Me” was the lead-off single from the re-issue being able to generate enough buzz on hype alone that it wound up debuting straight at #1 on the Hot 100. That’s the only explanation I can think of because “Part of Me” as a song is just forgettable. 

Lyrically, “Part of Me” shares a lot with “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” the Kelly Clarkson song that “Part of Me” briefly interrupted at #1. Both songs are about coming out of a bad breakup where both Perry and Clarkson sing about being able to overcome it and brag to their exes about how well off they are without them and that they can’t keep them down. And musically, both songs are both boilerplate dance-pop nothings that instantly evaporate after listen. Apparently, people liked hearing this in early 2012.

Unlike Clarkson, Perry does describe what went wrong in the relationship describing her boyfriend as an asshole who took advantage of her, “You chewed me up and spit me out/Like I was poison in your mouth.” One lyric on the bridge, “You can keep the diamond ring/It don’t mean nothing anyway” was seen by many as a shot at Russell Brand, the actor and comedian Perry had gotten divorced from a couple of months before “Part of Me” dropped. Perry stated the lyric was written before she and Brand were even married but that she could relate to it after the divorce. 

Also unlike Clarkson, Perry does do more in her delivery to give off the feeling of being hurt by a relationship and coming out stronger but it’s still not enough to raise the song. Her singing here is just too weak to get me invested in what she’s singing about. She doesn’t have the emotional depth that’s needed to make a song like this work. Despite the lyrical matter, it’s still pulled off like another pop song. It’s not hard to understand why “Part of Me” was left off the original Teenage Dream album. The hits were largely fun and upbeat. This isn’t. It feels like the subpar forgettable leftovers of an album. 

In the song’s music video, we see Perry catching her boyfriend flirting with a female co-worker. She then immediately confronts him at work acting hysterical and breaking up with him. While at a gas station convenience store, Perry sees a recruitment ad for the Marines to which she immediately heads to the bathroom cutting her hair, flattening her chest, and putting on a military outfit. After that, we see Perry fully enlisted as a Marine doing all the activities that the other Marines are doing. Those are real Marines by the way in the video. While I’m sure Perry had good intentions with the video, it’s one that feels incredibly stupid. Like I’m sure many women would immediately join the military after going through a bad breakup. The video was directed by Ben Mor, a man who’s directed music videos for acts such as Britney Spears and Coldplay yet doesn’t have his own Wikipedia page. 

Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection would launch one more big single, another attempt at an empowering pop anthem “Wide Awake” which peaked at #2 later in 2012. (It’s a 6.) That summer, Perry released the concert documentary Katy Perry: Part of Me which got mixed critical reviews but made money at the box office. After taking a year off, Perry would come back in 2013 with her follow-up album Prism which while not a massive Teenage Dream style hit still continued her hit-making dominance. She’ll eventually be back in this column.

GRADE: 4/10

BONUS BEATS: Here’s Katy Perry performing “Part of Me” for a 2012 commercial for the Sims 3 video game:

BONUS BONUS BEATS: Here’s Katy Perry performing “Part of Me” at the 2017 One Love Manchester Benefit Concert:

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