With her latest single "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)," Katy Perry has again hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100, her fifth single from Teenage Dream to do so. She is only the second artist in the chart's history to achieve this feat, the first being Michael Jackson, on Bad.
We've known for weeks that this was going to happen; Perry has somehow morphed from a male fantasy to a female one, and everyone knows ladies are who take you to the top of the pops. (Remember "I Kissed A Girl"? No one else does either.) But despite the fact that most folks don't find Perry despicable, at least not in a Rebecca Black way (apart from my wife, who finds Perry manufactured-looking and not hot in the way people like her husband seem to), there is nonetheless considerable hand-wringing over her tying this record.
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Even before he died, MJ's music had become something sacred, particularly Thriller but also Bad; albums that came from a more gentle time in our pop cultural history, Buddy Holly-ish in their Pollyanna-ness. It was the PG mainstream's last stand before gangsta rap became synonymous with urban music, de-fanged enough so that white people would feel comfortable making "bad as in good?" jokes. It also helped that the production was impeccable, the song structures were sturdy, and MJ was still trading in that androgynous intensity that made him famous.
People don't realize: This is something that neither Katy Perry (nor even his family) will be able to destroy. Yes, it seems clear to everyone born before 1995 that Teenage Dream not only doesn't belong in the same ballpark as Bad, it's not even really the same sport. Sure they're both pop, but only the former is of the disposable variety, and Dr. Luke is certainly no Quincy Jones. To return to the baseball metaphor, this is Barry Bonds shattering Hank Aaron's record, not with the help of the clear but with gaudy makeup and push-up bras.
This is just misguided nostalgia, however. I can understand if it were the fucking Eagles breaking Thriller's sales record, but, when was the last time you listened to Bad? "Smooth Criminal" is pretty sweet, but the Alien Ant Farm version has done us just fine for the past decade, and, c'mon, "Dirty Diana" is awful. "Man In The Mirror" foretells the whiny pandering that would inform Jackson's later work, and "The Way You Make Me Feel" is so overplayed on radio that it may as well be muzak.
This is not to defend Teenage Dream, which does not reach even Avril levels of guilty-pleasure-bliss. (In fact, I'll take Ke$ha, thanks.) But to piss and moan, as folks did in the comments section here, about Perry tying a record we weren't even familiar with in June? That's just PMSing like a bitch. I would know.