Is Katy Perry ready to be a Big Pop Girl again? An Official Charts investigation

A new album is set for release this year, with a lot at stake. But can (or even should?) Katy want to relive her blockbuster past?
katy perry big pop girl investigation

Once upon a time (2010), when our big pop girls were multiple and multi-faceted, there was no big pop girl (BPG) as big as Katy Perry.

Across three albums - One of the Boys (2008), Teenage Dream (2010) and Prism (2013) - Katy curated a bold and bright pop persona and became, for a time, the dominant pop star on the planet. While Lady Gaga's eccentricities on ARTPOP saw her imperial phase come to an end, and Rihanna re-aligned her priorities (going from releasing one album a year for nearly seven years to just one, ANTI, in the last eight) Katy kept working, although no-one's big pop girl era can, or should!, last forever. 

For the better part of the last decade, Katy Perry has worked and released music steadily, but her career has been in something of a flux; does she want to still pick up where Prism's run of blockbuster singles ended, does she want to transition into a legacy act or does she want to become a full-time reality TV judge?

While Katy hasn't released a full-length album since 2020's Smile, or issued a single since When I'm Gone, a 2022 collab with the DJ Alesso, she's been kept busy with her role as one of the three main judges on American Idol in the US, alongside Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. But something is in the air, whispers have abounded that Katy (who will apparently not return to Idol after its current season) is ramping up to finally release material from her sixth studio album.

Don't believe us? Hear it from the lady herself:

The lady in the video with Katy - who she proclaims to have helped her write one of her "biggest songs ever" that hasn't come out yet - is LU KALA, a US-based singer who sang the hook on the rapper Latto's severely underrated (and, actually, quite Katy Perry-esque) 2023 single Lottery

Appearing on several red carpets in the last couple of weeks, not only has Katy looked sharper and more of a pop star than she has in recent years (even if she does, in a certain light, look like she's living that life, von Dutch) but has been dropping several subtle (OK, not really) hints that KP6 is, in fact, on the way.

But we here at Official Charts want to ask the serious questions. And the question is, of serious is this comeback for Katy Perry? What does she stand to gain (and, in equal measure, lose) from re-entering the pop music gladiatorial arena again?

The first thing to get out of the way is the elephant in the room; commercially, Katy's last two albums delivered modestly compared to the previous two chart toppers. 2017's Witness was a stab at a full-on club record, but tempered with an under-developed label of 'purposeful pop' and underwhelming lead-in singles, Witness debuted at Number 6 on the Official Albums Chart, whereas Katy's previous two albums reached Number 1.

2020's Smile fared similarly, peaking at Number 5, although none of its singles reached the Top 20 and only one (lead cut Daisies) entered the wider UK Top 40, peaking at Number 37. Katy gathered a very respectable five Number 1 singles but hasn't topped the Official Singles Chart since 2017. (Katy's first UK Number 1 was the sapphic-banger I Kissed A Girl in 2008, her most recent is Feels with Calvin Harris, Pharrell Williams and Big Sean). 

The fact that only one song, the aforementioned When I'm Gone (which peaked outside the Top 40, at Number 49), was released in the wake of Smile tells you something of Katy's reaction to this campaign. She doesn't need a big pop comeback - she could, quite easily, rest on her laurels, cash in her Idol cheques and go back on the road with a greatest hits tour. 

But, maybe, this key is not simply needing a return to commercial prominence but wanting it. Much of what made Katy's first three (and still for our money, best) albums was her fortuitous partnership with producers Max Martin and Dr Luke and songwriter Bonnie McKee (Max hasn't worked with Katy since Witness, while Dr Luke hasn't been credited since 2013's Roar and a controversial lawsuit with pop star Kesha that was settled out of court in 2023). Could she bring the old band back together, or is some new blood needed in Camp Perry?

One true flash of brilliance in the post-Witness years was 2019 bop Never Really Over (a Number 12 hit in the UK) which was co-produced by Zedd and seemed to confirm that people will respond well to new Katy Perry material when its of a high-quality. Similarly, a team-up with Charlie Puth birthed Harleys In Hawaii, a perennial burst of sunshine that, despite never reaching the UK Top 40, has gone viral countless times on sites like TikTok.

Could she reach out to pop's go-to hype man, Jack Antonoff? Maybe the architect of Olivia Rodrigo and Chappell Roan's success, Dan Nigro? Or perhaps a link-up with, if not Max Martin, then some of his Swedish affiliates like ILYA (Ariana Grande), Oscar Gorres (Troye Sivan) or Elvira (Tove Lo)?

As Miley Cyrus proved last year with Flowers (the Official biggest song of 2023) sometimes, all you need is a fresh start and an undeniable song to set you back on your feet, while Kylie Minogue's Padam Padam proved that the British public will always respond to a brilliant pop song, especially one that allows you to experiment and be seen in a fresh light.

Katy...we're ready when you are.

Image: Monica Schipper/Getty Images

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