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While Katy Perry burst on to the scene with a bang with \'I Kissed A Girl\' back in 2008, few expected her to go on to be one of the world\'s biggest stars. Fast forward to 2016, though, and her soaring, inspirational new song \'Rise\' will soundtrack NBC\'s coverage of the 2016 Olympics in Rio this summer.
It was a song that Perry felt that she had "brewing inside [her] for years," and that got us thinking about some of Katy\'s other massive tunes. We\'ve put on our detective hats and delved into her discography to unearth the surprising stories behind her biggest hits…
Here\'s everything you need to know about Katy Perry\'s new album
1. \'I Kissed A Girl\' isn\'t about a lesbian clinch
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Following a few missed starts trying to crack into the music industry, Katy Perry made a humongous impression with her debut single \'I Kissed A Girl\', topping the
Chart for seven consecutive weeks and reaching number one on the UK Official Singles Chart.
Surprisingly, the inspiration behind the song wasn\'t actually a sapphic love affair. Instead, Katy says, the song just popped into her head. "It was one of those moments where you hear artists talking about songs they get in dreams or in the middle of the night," she said to the BBC. "I was like \'Wow, what an interesting subject matter to kind of pop into the head\', and I didn\'t do anything with it for about a year-and-a-half."
Originally, Katy claimed that the song wasn\'t actually about a specific incident or person. While she said that, she did indeed kissed a girl at 19 (and maybe liked it), the song wasn\'t really based on that moment. Neither was it based on the girl crush she had on her friend. Speaking to
magazine, she said: "I never kissed her but she was very beautiful and she was like a ballerina and I wanted to copy everything she did. But I think that was kind of the extent of it."
, Katy revealed that the idea of the song was sparked, in part, when she saw a picture of Scarlett Johansson in a magazine. "I was with my boyfriend at the time," she said, "and I said to him, \'I\'m not going to lie: If Scarlett Johansson walked into the room and wanted to make out with me, I would make out with her. I hope you\'re okay with that.\'"
"People said, \'This is never going to get played on the radio. How do we sell this? How\'s this going to be played in the bible belt?\'," recalled Katy\'s A&R, Chris Anokute, to
."I convinced one of the radio guys to believe in the record. So I had to use him to try to convince everyone to give this record a shot. So we have one shot – if this doesn\'t go Katy is probably going to get dropped."
Luckily, one radio station in Nashville picked up the song and it started to snowball. Katy wasn\'t the only one that liked it in the end. (And her boyfriend didn\'t mind it.)
\'Teenage Dream\' is practically pop perfection, the niggling hits of nostalgia punctuated by a guitar riff and wrapped up in lustful lyrics.
The song itself was a creation of Bonnie McKee, who helped shape much of Katy\'s second album of the same name. Speaking to John Seabrook in his book
and her own adolescence. "I was like, \'teenager\' ... that\'s such a great word. It packs a lot of emotion and imagery into three syllables," she explained. "I finished it and I drove up the coast to Santa Barbara to pitch it to Luke and Max and Katy, and I got there and sang it and everyone was like, \'Hell, yeah!\' And I went to my hotel and got into the bathtub and I just cried and cried. I was just so relieved."
Perry remembers how writing the song was a "pure moment" for her. Speaking to
, she told how the song came together in Santa Barbara, where she grew up, which helped her channel that teenage angst. "It kind of exudes this euphoric feeling," she said of the song, "because everybody remembers what their teenage dreams were."
Apparently, parts of the song were inspired by Perry and McKee\'s obsession with
. Similarly, there was a version of the song that was loosely based on Madonna\'s 1985 hit \'Dress You Up\', too. Ultimately, however, Benny Blanco and Dr Luke rejected both these concepts.
While the song features writing and production credits from pop heavyweights including Max Martin, Dr Luke and Benny Blanco, \'Teenage Dream\' didn\'t come too easily and was rewritten five times in 10 days. Perry and McKee would get together and work on the song, returning to Martin and Luke with new ideas. "We were all so pumped that it had paid off," McKee recalled. "I remember Max sitting back and saying, \'I wish we could bottle this feeling.\' It was really magical."
On the surface, \'Firework\' is an inspirational song about believing in yourself. But as they say, you should never judge a book by its cover, because \'Firework\' is actually a song about death.
Katy explained how the song was actually her "epitaph". It all stems from what she wants done with her body when she dies. "[W]hen I pass, I want to be put into a firework and shot across the sky over the Santa Barbara Ocean as my last hurrah," she said to
"I want to be a firework, both living and dead." Each to their own, we suppose.
The song was co-written by Ester Dean, who is responsible for some of Rihanna and Beyoncé\'s biggest hits. "Katy already had the concept and the name in her head," she recalled to
. "That was one of the times when you allow yourself to be led by somebody who knows what he or she wants. She knew what she wanted, so I was like, \'I\'ll follow you."
Luckily, Katy doesn\'t see the empowerment anthem as cheesy. In fact, she\'s rather touched that people co-opted the song for themselves. "It\'s a fine line," she told
"and I think \'Firework\' ... would be like the opus or my one song — if I had to pick a song to play — \'cause it has a great beat. But it also has a fantastic message."
We couldn\'t agree more, even if it is secretly about death…
4. \'Wide Awake\' is about her divorce from Russell Brand
was just calling out for its own 3D movie and a re-pack to join it. Luckily, Katy had a couple of songs, \'Part of Me\' and \'Dressin\' Up\', left over from the recording of the album. However, \'Wide Awake\' came from a different place.
"I knew we were doing this re-release, so I was like, \'I\'ve got to get into the studio, because I can\'t wait eight months to be able to put out this feeling that I\'m feeling right now\'," Katy explained to
"I had two days to write, and I wrote it with my regular crew — Dr. Luke and Max Martin and Bonnie McKee — and then I had two days to record, and it was literally like, I submitted the lyrics before I submitted the music, because it was like by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin that I put that song on the record."
The inspiration for the song stemmed from Katy\'s whirlwind year of highs (from the success of
and lows (her divorce from Russell Brand), with co-writer Bonnie McKee explaining that Perry was "going through some major life changes" while writing the track. "It\'s real and it\'s deep and she has a lot to say. So I think people are anxious to hear it," she said.
For Katy, the song was an act of therapy and catharsis. "This song in particular is a dose of reality," she explained to
"It\'s kind of like coming down from a high. You\'ve been on cloud nine for so long, and it can\'t always be so sweet and sometimes you need to realize that, and you have to pick yourself up and move forward and face the facts of life and know that this is just a lesson you learn and you\'re stronger because of it."
Katy\'s sudden appreciation of unconditional love was born out of a trip to Madagascar with UNICEF. "We live in such a world that is run by social status and material possession, and it can get really overwhelming and tiring to keep up with that," she said.
"We\'d go in these cruisers up the mountain for two or three hours, to the middle of nowhere, to check out these schools that they\'d built. I saw all these children, and the love that they had towards each other, they had no idea what Twitter or Facebook or any of that stuff was, they didn\'t care about it.
"It was this unconditional love between all of them. It was that kind of pure love that\'s unaffected by the trends of the world."
While Katy was most definitely drew upon the wider concept of love, she was also pretty wrapped up in her then-relationship with musical lothario John Mayer. According to
Katy explained how, along with her trip to Africa, the security she felt with Mayer was also a contributing factor to the song\'s conception.
"It\'s just a simple message about loving someone and accepting them and kind of driving at how you don\'t have to be so self-conscious, you don\'t have to fear, because essentially, everybody has their stuff," she said. "Everybody has their things and you\'re never going to be perfect, and accepting that and understanding that, especially in a relationship, it makes room for a real, genuine kind of love."
as a "brooding, borderline sleazy trap-pop excision" (yeah, another one of
), \'Dark Horse\' was the third single lifted from
following a vote organised by Pepsi as to which song Perry should reveal from the album as an "instant grat".
Katy was inspired by the 1996 supernatural teen film
, saying the song was "about warning a guy that if you\'re going to fall in love with me, make sure you\'re sure because if not, it\'s gonna be your last."
The song was written in Katy\'s hometown of Santa Barbara, California, with her friend Sarah Hudson, and said: "It\'s got me, a pop artist, with a little bit of an urban kind of hip-hop-flavored background soundtrack to it, and the lyrics are kind of witchy and dark, as if I was a witch warning this man not to fall in love with me."
For the video, Katy wanted to meld two ideologies together, the southern hip-hop that influences the track and Ancient Egypt. "[Perry] said that there\'s actually a place in Egypt called Memphis, and she thought it was so interesting that Juicy J is from Memphis, Tenn.," said director Mathew Cullen. "She basically came to me and said, \'I want to do something Egyptian and I want to combine it with Memphis hip-hop.\' That\'s music to my ears — when an artist has a couple of concepts that they want to mash up to create something fresh."
After the premiere of the video and a performance at the Grammys, however, some accused Katy of colluding with the infamous (and probably fictional) secret organisation, the Illuminati. Unfortunately, Katy didn\'t confirm the existence of the Illuminati, saying, "Listen, if the Illuminati exists, I would like to be invited! I see all that shit, and I\'m like, \'Come on, let me in! I want to be in the club!\' I have no idea what it is. It sounds crazy."
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