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Katy Perry’s first foray into pseudonymous stardom, One Of The Boys, turns ten this week — and to be honest, it hasn’t aged well. Perry, who has spoken at length about her strict Christian upbringing leads a musical commentary on what life is like leaving the nest and experiencing relationships for the first time. However, some of her observations about gender stereotypes leave a lot to be desired, particularly a decade later when any artist who produced something of this calibre would be lambasted (and rightly so). Despite its roots in her beginnings, the record delivered a mere handful of bangers among an epistolary exploration of Perry’s early 20s.
Opening with the title track, ‘One Of The Boys’ tells the story of Perry’s transformation from tomboy into Seventeen-reading girly-girl over a mellow pop-rock backbeat. It has been some time since I had listened to this record, but it struck me that despite it being the album’s namesake, it was never released as a single, and for good reason, as the ultimate message seems to be that to be noticed by men, one must shave their legs and use Lolita as a guide to life, which is a pretty dire take from anyone releasing music seven years after Legally Blonde taught us how to be strong and independent while maintaining one’s aesthetic status quo.
The first single from the album, ‘I Kissed a Girl’, is arguably the song that led to Perry’s rise to fame. Initially received as an attempt at controversy, Perry has since made no secret of her interest in women, citing that she believed the song’s 2008 release ‘started a conversation’. Indeed, in the context of the entire record, it seems to be an earmark for a particular chapter in Perry’s post-adolescence.
‘Waking Up in Vegas’ became the last single on the record, an anthemic pop-rock track of the time, and was inspired by a real-life fake wedding Perry and her then-boyfriend staged in Vegas which, if you’re 21 like she was or a fan of the Hangover franchise, is probably hilarious in practice. Nevertheless, it was an absolute bop that hung around in the charts for quite a while.
If you believe ‘Thinking Of You’ didn’t have the raw power to reduce a bunch of fourteen year olds to tears lamenting the loss of their one true loves, think again. This song harks back to Perry’s first ever self-titled tender explorations, and ‘Mannequin’ followed thematic suit, though this was more of a semi-scathing indictment of someone not returning her affections.
The problematic attitude to gender stereotypes did not finish there, reaching a crescendo in ‘Ur So Gay’ which can be surmised as an unnecessary comparison of gender stereotypes and the use of negative connotations associated with homosexuality, which, a decade on, thankfully is societally frowned upon. Purported to be a pisstake of the emo scene, the release of the music video for this track sparked rumours that the song was about Pete Wentz, though upon recent listening, her issue seems to be with hipster men with terrible opinions. ‘Ur So Gay’ would’ve been an excellent diss track had she opted for ‘you’re so lame/ and you don’t even like/ no you don’t even like To-ol-stoy’, but alas, that was not the direction she chose. Perhaps on some level one could assume that a combination of it being 2008, and a Christian upbringing where she and others in her community were encouraged to ‘pray the gay away’ which would reinforce terrible gender stereotypes led to the inception of this track but for the most part, it signals the crumbling of what could’ve otherwise been a kaleidoscopic exploration of her contributions to the genre.
‘Hot N Cold’ is the last song from the album that made it into the charts and marks the last cheery synth-filled pop track on the record. Again, it doesn’t stand the test of time and relies on antonyms enforced by gender stereotypes, going so far as to drag PMSing into the mix. After that, ‘If You Can Afford Me’ is a syrupy venture that attempts to assert Perry’s sense of self-worth, followed by ‘Lost’, which seems to reference the early 20s need to fit in and succeed after flying the nest. Indeed, the last three tracks on the record encompass the fiery passions of first love and the cold endings of those relationships, with the broken-hearted woman emerging from the other end with plenty to prove, a la Avril Lavigne, for some reason.
Ultimately, the record leaves a lot to be desired, but for a 2008 pop offering, it could be worse.