[Editor's note: Why This Song Sucks determines why particular tracks blow using science. It appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday.]
Song: Katy Perry's “The One That Got Away”
History: “The One That Got Away” is the sixth single from Perry's most recent album, Teenage Dream. Sixth, bro. SIXTH. If you didn't know anything else about it, that's how you know it's not good. The sixth of anything has never been good, let alone important. No evil, evil villain has ever demanded anyone's sixth born son.
“The One That Got Away” is the kid that gets left at Walmart and the parents don't call the cops for a few hours.
Atmospherics: Pop ballad; timid drums; economy of sound; what they play in the movies when some girl is pulling pictures off of her wall; probably what Jessie Spano would've played right after she made Showgirls while holding a picture of A.C. Slater.
By the way, did anyone ever explain what went wrong for Spano after high school? She seemed like she had that shit all figured out. How'd she end up a stripper? Was it those pills? It was, wasn't it? Sucks.
Scientific Analysis: The song seems simple enough: It's about a girl reminiscing about a guy that she dated that maybe she should've married. It seems entirely innocent and sweet and even a little sad. The video, though, the video tells an entirely different story.
It starts with a prosthetically-aged Perry involved in a presumably loveless relationship. She's rich, which is good, but she's not happy, which is stupid because she's rich.
There are flashbacks showing what happened. She was dating the Mexican guy Diego Luna from The Terminal, an entirely underappreciated Tom Hanks movie. He was handsome and he was an artist. And they seemed to be getting along perfectly. It plays like the parts of Rihanna's “We Found Love” video that didn't get all of those anti-rape* groups upset.
*Do humans really need to be described as being part of an “anti-rape group”? Isn't everyone anti-rape by default? Can't we just say “normal” instead? Are there pro-rape groups?
But then, and here's the sneakily nefarious part, Perry sets in place a plan to get rid of her beau.First, she feigns artist's block while she's supposed to be working on a piece. She knows his first reaction, because he is a painter and a loving and compassionate person, will be to help her. And he does just that, taking her brush and making the first initial marks on the blank canvas.
She loses her brain, then sprays paint all over his work, which has got to be the worst way to thank someone (Oh, thanks for helping me, how about if I destroy something you love?).
His feelings are hurt and he's confused, so he gets in his car to cool off some.
She knew he'd do this, which is precisely why she placed her hair accessory in the visor.
When he flips it down, the hair thing falls out. He grabs it, then studies it forlornly, still trying to figure out what he did wrong. He's sad and maybe about to cry.
Then when he looks up, there are a bunch of rocks in the road (we don't see Perry put them there, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume she did). He swerves to miss them, then drives right the fuck off a cliff and dies.
That's not one that got away. That's the opposite of one that got away. Unless away is murdered? Then yeah, he got away like a motherfucker.
I guess “The One I Murdered Slyly” wouldn't have played as well as the title of her sixth single?
(I) If someone offers you the sixth of anything, turn it down.
(II) Katy Perry has maybe murdered one person already.
(III) If Perry dies in a plane crash tonight, guaranteed Zooey Deschanel is playing her in the biopic. Also guaranteed: that shit is going to be worse than the crash itself.