Katy Perry wasn’t kidding about that “Eye of the Tiger” stuff. The “California Gurls” singer, who previewed her October 22 album Prism with this week’s motivational anthem “Roar,” goes head to head with Frank Ocean among high-profile guests on John Mayer’s upcoming album. And at least for now, it looks like Perry might’ve bested the man whose channel ORANGE was SPIN’s 2012 Album of the Year. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, for real.
Mayer’s Paradise Valley, due out August 20 on Columbia Records, is streaming in full now over at iTunes. Ocean sings on “Wildfire,” a mellow, roughly 90-second tone poem. It’s inventive and evocative, with lovely outdoor ambience, but it’s also slight and a bit strained: “It’s not a vacation if I lose you to the Eiffel,” Ocean croons, but people don’t talk that way unless they, say, need a Paris-based rhyme for “suicidal.”
By contrast, Perry’s Mayer collaboration “Who You Love” is a percolating ballad that evokes Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” as channeled through Mayer’s tautology-as-truth “Say.” In a world where Adele and Gotye can have massive pop hits without condescending to “the club” — not to mention Daft Punk and Robin Thicke — this one just might have the star power to break through.
Gentle horns hark back to one of Mayer’s best singles, ?uestlove-backed “Clarity,” while Perry puts on a full-throated performance the likes of which one rarely hears on her more electronic-based fare. A key moment comes when Mayer sings, “You can’t make yourself stop dreaming who you’re dreaming of,” thus opening the song up to anyone with a crush. “Who You Love” works not because it’s about two celebrities in a tabloid romance, but in spite of it.
Returning to Ocean, it’s worth noting that Mayer performs on channel ORANGE‘s “White,” which like “Wildfire” is barely longer than a minute. The blue-eyed blues-popper also turned in a memorable appearance in the video for “Pyramids” and played the song alongside Ocean on Saturday Night Live. And “Wildfire,” the title of Ocean’s new track with Mayer, is also the title of a second song on Paradise Valley, the latest lyric-video selection.
Is it possible both “Wildfire” songs could be combined for an epic video that serves the twofold purpose of letting Ocean return Mayer’s favor while reclaiming lost honor by outdoing Perry? Well, anything’s possible, but a publicist says Ocean’s only involvement right now is on the album. Oh well.
In the meantime, Perry has been hit with another round of plagiarism accusations. First, moombahton producer Dillon Francis accused her of biting his idea for her “Roar” visuals. Elsewhere, as the Hollywood Reporter points out, chatter about the similarity between Perry’s new single and Sara Bareilles’ “Brave” has reached the mash-up point. It doesn’t help that Perry praised Bareilles’ song in a May 15 tweet. Both songs have booming, gym-stomp percussion, bouncy keys, and inspirational themes, but we wouldn’t say the song’s architects — Dr. Luke and Max Martin, of course — veered too far toward outright theft here. And now excuse us while we go listen to Miley Cyrus’ pre-#twerking “The Climb” and accomplish every goal in our bucket list.