Katy Perry’s latest video, “Unconditionally,” premiered last night on MTV.com, and it is yet another piece of the confusing aesthetic puzzle of the Prism era. The clip features Perry as an ethereal snow queen, an upscale ball straight out of Anna Karenina, and a fuckload of fairy-tale romance. There’s a lot of velvet and brocade happening. It’s very wintry. And then there’s a slight callback to “Roar,” as Perry holds an owl. She is still mistress of all the animals. Then she bursts into flame, either because she is a witch or because her sex is on fire. Then the bed literally bursts into flame because John Mayer’s dick is made of butane. That’s how insane and otherworldly his bedroom skills are. His penis is literally gas. Then she gets hit by a car and her pudenda combust into a rain of flowers that blanket the car. It’s visually stunning and she looks beautiful, but it’s also kind of dull.
The video for “Unconditionally” looks expensive and marks the shift from camp and kitsch toward adult sophistication that Perry kept warning us was coming. It’s a little too much like a fashion editorial. I wanted more plot. Perry dances with herself while a bunch of fancy couples swan around her in long coats and lace gowns. The video kind of plays like a darker gloss on Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” which feels a little pointed since several of Swift’s dancers defected to Perry over the summer. Given that Swift and Perry already have Mayer in common, I feel like Swift might get over her old princess aesthetics for a while when she sees this. I’m always just waiting for the day Swift gets into Kate Bush via “Wuthering Heights.” She’s so close! She just got into F. Scott Fitzgerald!
There’s a lot going on in “Unconditionally,” but some crucial spark is missing. It plays like a weak attempt at “Like a Prayer,” but it’s far too safe as a song and a video to approach her Madgesty. Does Perry know that “Like a Prayer” is about blowjobs? Ever since a commenter pointed out that it sounds like Perry is singing “Uncle DeShawn Ali” in the chorus, it is impossible for me to hear it as anything but that. One fun thing about Prism is that any of the references to Mayer double as references to Jesus, and vice versa. The lyrics to “Unconditionally” can be easily read as being about devoting yourself to a higher spiritual power, rather than an earthly love. The video is a nice diversion, but it’s not worth multiple watches. For sheer epic scope and romance, I’m sorry Katy, but Kimye won this week.