If last night’s Grammy Awards taught us anything, it’s that Katy Perry may be fierce and awesomely feminist, but she still has some learning to do. Despite the woke proclamation she made last December saying she was newly motivated “to fight against social injustice and to promote equality and kindness as best I know how, through my art and influence,” her potshots at Britney Spears’ 2007 meltdown highlighted another misstep in the singer’s long record of throwing shade at other women.
Slowly, I am coming down from the beautiful cloud that was Tuesday night's @UNICEF Snowflake Ball. First and foremost, I am incredibly grateful to have received the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award from my hero @HillaryClinton. This award will be a constant reminder to get out of my bubble and back into the field to shine a light on issues that matter most, especially to illuminate the plight of vulnerable children who are living without basic human needs and rights. This honor is a starting line, not a finish line, for me, and I am excited for where my new ambition and purpose leads me! I was profoundly moved and thoroughly surprised when Hillary showed up to give me this award. I broke down and wept watching her take the stage. The last time I was in NYC was for Election Night. I left covered in a blanket of sadness and despair because for me, and I imagine others, the results triggered a lot of dormant fears and emotions to the surface. I feared that we were not ever going to see the light of justice or fairness. I felt vulnerable, confused and frightened like a child. From the outside it probably looks as though I've always had a "voice." Truth is, I have never had one like I have found in the past year. I have a found a new voice, a more determined voice. I grew up sheltered, suppressed and kept silent for fear of giving the wrong answer. I would reveal my poor education. Or I was just scared. Hillary helped me see that we're all in this together, no matter where we come from, what color we are, or what status and education we have or don't have. Hillary lit a fire inside of me that burns brighter and brighter every day, and that fire will NEVER be put out. Feelings of despair still comes in waves, but now more than ever I am MOTIVATED to fight against social injustice and to promote equality and kindness as best I know how, through my art and influence. I am continually inspired by her strength and how she continues to rise like the Phoenix she is, every time. It's funny, sometimes people who disagree with me just say, "Shut up and sing." Boy, will I do so in a whole new way... next year. Hell hath no fury like a woman REBORN.
Before I break down Perry’s Grammy performance of new single "Chained to the Rhythm," let’s talk about those two not-so-great red carpet interviews.
Perry showed up rockin’ a blond bob and looking fantastic, but told Nancy O’Dell, “It’s the last color in the spectrum that I can do. I’ve done all of them and the only thing left to do is shave my head, which I’m really saving for a public breakdown. I’m down for that.” Umm... subtle dig at Britney Spears?
A few minutes later she responded to Ryan Seacrest’s question about that “pause in [her] music,” saying, “Yeah, that’s called taking care of your mental health.” He asked how that went and she said, “Fantastic. And I haven’t shaved my head yet.”
Setting aside the fact that anyone who’s struggled with mental health issues deserves all the respect we can muster, you can’t promote equality and kindness while tearing people down, no matter how cutesy the jabs. And Perry seems to think this is her divine calling.
On another note, what is Perry's beef with Britney Spears? Insert eye roll.
In 2012, after the breakup of Perry’s marriage to Russell Brand, Rihanna invited her newly single friend for a visit to her Barbados home. The next summer, Perry told Elle UK, "I love [Rihanna] and every time I see her, I'm reminded of the light that she has. There's a lot of dark in this business.” Perry paused, then carefully continued, ”I know a lot of people out there with the most detrimental entourages — they are the root of their demise. It's really unfortunate but you can't save these people. My days of celebrity saving are over."
Kind of innocuous, kind of superior.
Perry’s feud with Taylor Swift is a hairball of high-school drama. The two were sticky sweet BFFs from 2009 until late 2012.
Neither singer has revealed the facts, but speculation is that something related to John Mayer started a tiff. Swift dated Mayer for a hot minute, then wrote her trademark breakup song Dear John in 2010. Perry started dating Mayer after her marriage to Russell Brand crashed, so maybe Mayer was the spark? Or was it the defection of three backup singers (at Perry’s invitation) from Swift’s tour over to Perry’s?
While promoting her 2014 single Bad Blood, Swift told Rolling Stone her new song was about another female artist who she wouldn’t name. “For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not," she said. "She would come up to me at awards shows and say something and walk away, and I would think, 'Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?'" Then the unnamed singer crossed a line, "She did something so horrible. I was like, 'Oh, we're just straight-up enemies.' And it wasn't even about a guy! It had to do with business. She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me."
So, yeah, definitely the backup singers.
Perry’s response? “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing.”
Watch out for the Regina George in sheep's clothing...— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) September 9, 2014
And #TeamTaylor vs. #TeamKaty was born.
Swift is just as guilty of participating in girl drama and at some point she’ll also have to think about how that gels with her feminist claims. If you want more on their fight People has a handy timeline.
The next hit was to Miley Cyrus after Perry attended a 2014 performance, and at one point, approached Cyrus and kissed her. Not unexpected from the gal who penned I Kissed a Girl. It was her report about the moment to an Australian morning radio show that was surprising: “She has this one part where it's like a kiss cam, and I just walked up to her to give her like a friendly girly kiss, you know, as us girls do, and then she, like, tried to move her head and go deeper and I pulled away. God knows where that tongue has been. We don't know! That tongue is so infamous!"
Cyrus shot back, of course, on Twitter, the argument portal of choice: “Girl if ur worried abt where tongues have been good thing ur ex boo is ur EX BOO cause we ALL know where THAT been.”
Girl if ur worried abt where tongues have been good thing ur ex boo is ur EX BOO cause we ALL know where THAT [tongue] been pic.twitter.com/IO6KwRzw2y— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) March 6, 2014
The most shocking of Perry’s digs may have been her 2012 crack at Beyoncé to BBC Radio 1. Taking on Queen Bee is just begging to lose some crossover fans. The moment arose when Perry was asked about a rumored collaboration with Rihanna. The pop princess replied, “I want it to be like that Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin song Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves, not Beautiful Liar."
Surely she didn’t mean the Beautiful Liar released by Beyoncé and Shakira that hit No. 1 on more than a few charts worldwide, right?
Men aren’t immune to Perry’s biting brand of humor. She’s also thrown shade at Russell Brand and Alabama football, and inserted herself into Calvin Harris’ feud with Swift.
Perry obviously enjoys the freedom to have a sharp tongue and what she perceives as sass. Exhibit A: this Snapchat conveniently timed to Kanye’s “Famous” lyrical dis on Taylor Swift, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex, why? I made that bitch famous!" Subtle.
Katy Perry dancing on Famous by Kanye West is everything. QUEEN pic.twitter.com/ISYeV2tGhm— Floh(@dxrkhxrs) October 26, 2016
This habit of attacking women has to be shelved if she wants an effective voice. And I think she genuinely does and that she cares deeply about causes. But you can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth and expect to communicate clearly.
That was the case last night when Perry’s performance could have been musical history. The song was meaningful and catchy. The white suit hearkened back to the suffragette movement, and the "Persist" armband honored Elizabeth Warren’s Senate drama. The closing shot of the Constitution backing Perry and collaborator Skip Marley was a massive success. That image of a black man and a white woman raising clasped hands with “We the People” towering over them gave me all the right chills.
But her closing shout of “No hate!” felt disingenuous when her Twitter feed so obviously sends another message.
Hopefully, she'll address the issue soon and show everyone that mistakes, and growth, happen.
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