The Katy Perry We Knew

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perry.JPGIt’s been a while since Katy Perry stopped by to chat with me about her music.

Yes, that Katy Perry. Although it may be hard to believe, a decade ago Katy (then known as Katy Hudson) dropped by Focus on the Family to help get the word out about her self-titled, just released Christian album. She was 16 at the time, seemingly happy to be singing for the Lord and anxious to make a name for herself.

Fast forward 10 years to today, and she’s made a name for herself, all right. But not singing the music she was talking to me about in 2001.

A recent USA Today article asked, “Which Songs Will Rule the Summer?” and on their short list was Perry’s song “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” The paper is right. Currently, the tune is No. 4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. But the question I’d like to ask doesn’t involve chart action. Instead, it goes, “What is Katy Perry communicating with this song?” In it, she talks about finding a “stranger in my bed” and smelling “like a minibar,” and how she and her friends “went streaking in the park/Skinny dipping in the dark/Then had a ménage a trios trois.”

It’s a problematic song no matter how you slice it. But the thing I find particularly sad about it is that Katy knows better. She’s gone from extolling the wonders of our Creator (“You could throw me in the fire/And I won’t be burned/For my faith is Your desire/And Your love endures”) to extolling all sorts of harmful, degrading, illegal and perverse behaviors.

hudson.JPGSecondly, Katy no longer influences just hundreds. Now, she influences millions. These impressionable fans hear her express how wonderful it is to be intoxicated and unaware of who’s next to you in bed, and indifferent to “warrants out for my arrest.”

It’d be easy to assume that Katy’s turned her back on her faith and upbringing, cutting the cord to everything she stood for back in 2001. She’s certainly not the girl she was when I met her—but maybe she’s not exactly what we see now, either. Take a look at what she told Rolling Stone:

“When I was a kid, I asked questions about my faith. Now I’m asking questions about the world. I think we are largely in desperate need of revolutionary change in the way our mindset is. Our priority is fame, and people’s wellness is way low. I say this knowing full well that I’m a part of the problem. I’m playing the game, though I am trying to reroute.”

But she hasn’t rerouted yet, as “Last Friday Night” shows us.

Katy, of course, is not the first person to bring objectionable content to the radio. Hopefully, this prodigal will come back some day. But in the meantime, I’d like you to ask yourself these questions:

1) Are my musical choices pleasing to God? 2) What songs rule my summer? 3) How can we culturally get beyond this time in which it’s perfectly acceptable for artists to use their platform to glorify all sorts of ready-to-mimic, yet troublesome antics? (Any thoughts here? Let me know.)

Oh, and by the way, Katy, if you’re reading this, it’s been too long. Please stop by again. I really would like to talk to you again … about a lot of things.

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated "Plugged In Movie Review" feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster's award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Lisbeth:

If the purpose of having Katy Perry over for an interview is to launch a half-hour-long verbal assault of her pop music and to bombard her with accusations that she's thrown away her religion for fame, all to her face, I will lose any respect I have for PI.  When Christians degrade people who are not Christian or who are not devoutly Christian, it drives me crazy.  These people wonder why nobody wants to join them in their religion and it's because nobody likes to get verbally harassed for not being Christian or not being devout enough.  As a Christian, I've been harassed by ultra-devout Christians for liking "Harry Potter", associating with non-Christians, and celebrating Halloween.  That harassment is, in my opinion, part of what has given us Christians a bad name in today's society.  If we want more people to convert to Christianity, we need to stop being so harsh.  Harassment is always unpleasant and, when I see a Christian harassing someone who is not Christian, I'm always embarassed because this is not the side of Christianity that anybody outside of it should see.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  CC:

Dani, there is such a thing as turning your back on God...rejecting Him. And God accepts that b/c we have freewill. The fruit of her life does not depict submission to God. True, only God knows her heart, but "...out of the heart, the mouth speaks" and we can see a glimpse of what is inside of Katy Perry through her music and how she is living out her life. My guess (and hope) is that God will tug at her heart and she will eventually find her way back home into His loving arms. But it could take a number of years for that to happen.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Dani:

I personally am a fan of Katy and I love her music..both genres she's been into. And it kinda sounds like a lot of you think that Katy's no longer a Christian because she sings secular music? I believe in once saved always saved so I have no doubt that we'll see Katy in Heaven one day.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Cosette:

It's so heartbreaking to see someone who was once giving it all for Christ and then so quickly let her beliefs fall to the wayside at the promise of fleeting fame and fortune. I think for now, all we can do is pray for God to show himself to Katy and draw her back to him.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Victoria:

Maybe if Christians spent more time loving homosexuals and less time fighting against them they would want to know who Jesus is.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Victoria:

The last part of this article sounds condesending. "I would really like to talk to you again...about a lot of things." It sounds like you want to give her a lecture. I think if you want to talk to her you should give her some respect. She is an adult now not 16. Maybe I read you wrong. Maybe you are a very loving man who cares about her. Maybe you wouldn't lecture her but spend time getting to know her again. Maybe you would be a good Christian more like Jesus. Maybe you would care about her heart and see the goodness in her also. I hope so. 

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Chelsea:

except for the video that celebrated homosexual couples.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Tancosin:

No, that's not what said; he simply stated that that makes the most sense from a secular perspective. Christian songs = little money/fame, regular pop = tons of money/fame.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Jazzy_99:

So your saying she should keep on singing away from God? She should relize where she came from.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Spencer:

I agree. I wonder what would happen if we all decided to download what Katy Perry songs that are meaningful. Perhaps if Katy saw her most morally sound songs becoming the most popular, she would write more music that was in line with those themes. It's a longshot, but if we give it to God, it might just happen.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Nicole V:

Yes, it's really sad. When I listen to her old stuff her voice sounds so unique, and her lyrics are uplifting to hear. It's discouraging that she took the road to fame over glorifying God. That's what BarlowGirl's song "Beauitful Ending" speaks about. Throughout history, there are some famous Christians who have lost their way and ended their lives on a low note.I really hope Katy does read this, and that she will stop in for an interview.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Anon:

1) I always have a hard time with questions worded like this. Here’s what I think. I think God created humanity, and I think humanity is so beautiful that, even in its darkest moments, that beauty cannot help but shine through just a little. I think you can see that beauty in any song done well. Maybe these songs express ideas I don’t agree with, or I think are actually morally objectionable ideas to hold. But, if it’s a good song, even in the expression of these ideas a unique expression of the true beauty of humanity (and thus of God) comes through. That beauty is so valuable to me, and, while I may be wrong, I think that beauty is valuable to God too.2) I guess this is supposed to be the part where I realize I’m listening to too much pop and go put on a worship CD? I went to my first real concert this summer. A Perfect Circle, the first show of their first tour in at least 5 years. Don’t regret it one bit.3) I figure I’ll try to interpret this question in the most positive way I can. I think we just need to get audiences to start thinking. If a song makes someone want to do something harmful to him/herself or others, then that person really isn’t thinking too hard about the song. So my answer, then, is education. Teach your kids to interpret ideas and extrapolate them to their ultimate consequences. Teach your kids to understand themselves and others to the point that they can tell what behavior is worthwhile. Teach your kids to think for themselves.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kate:

I didn't mean to suggest that if she was then there's no hope. Atheism is its own religion; I was saying it would be different if she had always been an atheist. It's one thing to return to your previous religion (like C. S. Lewis) than to convert entirely to a new one. (Again, not that it's impossible).

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Hithwenur:

Kate, even if she WAS an atheist, there'd be hope.  Are you familliar with C.S. Lewis?

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  ua13_kendra:

When she writes about things that are actually meaningful, I end up liking those songs (Firework and Thinking of You).  And those are fairly wholesome, if not entirely.  It's when she sings fluff that it ends up delving into objectional lyrics.  Unfortunately, that's the majority of her music.  I saw her live at musical festival a couple of years ago; she's talented and seems like a very nice person that has just lost her way for the time being.  I think the only thing worth doing in this situation would be to pray that she comes across people who care enough to help her get back on the right track.  And that she will rediscover her faith.  I think anyone in the 'Christian music industry' would say but for the grace of God, they would have made the same decisions.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  kate:

It's sad that careers depend on meeting a certain standard in the music industry. I don't think her singing 'T.G.I.F.' means she's a lost cause. I think that her faith is not driving her career, it has essentially taken a backseat. She's not an atheist, so there's hope. Besides, I thought 'Firework' was really inspiring.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Eh:

I think most of your answers can be answered by what you said. When she sung Christian songs she only influenced hundreds. Once she stop singing about god and switched to regular pop music her influence went into the millions. Give the people what they want....... =/

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Carol:

She did what so many have done, including Mylie Cyrus who claims to be a Christian.  Guarantee she had an agent that told her if she wants to make it big, she had to appeal to the world, with suggestive lyrics.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Brittany:

Wow. This makes me sad. Ever since hearing that first single that made her "famous", I couldn't stand Katy Perry because I hate when celebrities make music that corrupts our kids. I just pray that she will return to the God who loves her enough to die for her sins.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  e-anders:

I think it's sad how people can turn their back on their faith, especially when you add fame into the equation. Perhaps Katy Perry is still a Christian as she claims in some of the interviews I've read about her, but then again the Bible does say, we shall know them by their fruit. I will be praying for Katy Perry, that she finds her road back to salvation and really 'reroutes' her life...but I can't say  that I'll be supporting her lifestyle or her music anytime soon.