Listen: Katy Perry's "E.T."

I'm a sucker for a good artistic use of digital modification. Bjork is an excellent example. She justifies her use of vocal modifications, synthesizer, and sound effects by connecting the theme and content of her song with the arrangement. She also places these songs in the context of a whole album exploring the same soundscape. It's an impressive feat and one that has made me a long term fan. Katy Perry is, for me, very hit or miss. She's a strong pop songwriter, more than capable of writing a catchy hit single like "I Kissed a Girl" or "Hot N Cold." She's also adept at writing the occasional inspiration anthem like "Firework." Perry has a desire, though, to be bold and different and funny, leading to such clunkers as "Peacock," which was mercifully pulled as an official US single after a disastrous television performance.

"E.T." is none of these things. It is strange and challenging and should totally be failing on the pop airwaves. If this is the direction Katy Perry actually wants to go as an artist, I support her.

Perry is writing about someone she is in love with that her family and/or friends doesn't approve of. He is so far removed from her crowd that he is an alien, the ultimate "other." No one understands him, not even Perry herself. She just knows she likes what she sees and feels and wants more. She wants to be "infected" by his every touch because every touch feels so good.

The keyboard used in this song is particularly effective for me. It sounds out of place in modern pop music for sounding so different. The only problem with that is it's simulating a late 1960's manual synthesizer. There is almost a ringing quality to the processor on the track that produces the same manually-manipulated soundwave used on tracks by The Monkees and The Beach Boys. Paired up with an overly-processed digital drum kit and a measured use of autotune--not for pitch correction, but for vocal harmonies--and you have a song that's getting a lot of airplay despite being removed from what is on trend at this point.

Thoughts? Love to hear them.