It’s rare to have a song completely capture the tenor of your life at a particular time– you always have to rearrange the lyrics to suit yourself in some way or another, and usually you have to delve into an artist’s back catalog rather than discovering the very words you need to hear in heavy rotation on the radio. Katy Perry hasn’t been really known for lyrical depth in her music, rather for cutesy-ness and fluff, much in the same way that this blogger is often pegged as trafficking in much the same in real life; if I haven’t said before, my name is Holly and “Holly”, in her regular day-to-day meanderings, is synonymous with “cutesy” and “fluffy”, hence this blog’s title. However, in recent days, I have found myself, as Perry’s new single “Wide Awake” describes it, waking up “on the concrete–” something has gone so very, very wrong in Fluffyland that I’ve been forced to re-examine everything about myself and about my life, such as it is. To put it bluntly, Mr. Fluffy, to whom I have briefly alluded in other posts, has joined the ranks of men who cheat on their wives, for whatever reason. In his case, he claims there was a “need” which was not being “met”, and he continues to maintain that he is the same person he was before this happened and to portray himself somehow as the injured party. For my part, I realize that the “intimacy”, so to speak, has been a little lacking on my side recently, but that doesn’t justify what was done, and if he is still the same person, perhaps I didn’t know who he was at all, really.
Anyway, that’s all fodder for the marriage counselor into whose lap we’re going to be dumping all this flotsam and jetsam. Perry’s life has been tabloid gold lately, too, in light of her high-profile divorce from comedian Russell Brand (who bears a rather uncanny resemblance to Mr. Fluffy, by the way), and both the song “Wide Awake” and its accompanying video speak directly to the sense of loss and smashed fairy tales. The arrangement of the music feels much more spare than is typical for Perry, a tremulous vibe with just enough echo to feel as if recorded under glass or under water. In the first verse, Perry asks plaintively, “How did I read the stars so wrong?” Indeed, Katy– how does this crap happen? Apparently “falling hard with an open heart” is ultimately less romantic and more foolish than it has any right to be, but once the blinkers of idealism are lifted and reality rears its ugly head, the connections that are forged are not with any other person, but with one’s self, an entity which may have been pushed aside or even forgotten entirely.
The song’s video carries the metaphor even farther, depicting Perry trapped in a maze. The imagery is evocative of fairy tales and fantastical works, with nods to “Alice in Wonderland”, “Labyrinth”, and many others. As she traverses the labyrinth, she eats a poisoned berry and meets up with, of all people, herself– as a little girl; it is finally this other, true self who saves her from an assortment of perils, frightening characters reminiscent of Freddy Krueger and the scary transformed husband from Stephen King’s “Rose Madder”, and the poison from the fruit her older self willingly consumed earlier. Both Katys emerge at last into a beautiful garden where a handsome (and somewhat smarmy) prince awaits the older Perry. She goes to him, but instead of falling into his arms, she decks him out (sweet!) and escapes to the real world, where her child self presses a gift into her hand before parting with her. It’s a butterfly, a bit of personal magic that flutters with her back onto the stage.
As of this writing, I don’t know what’s going to happen in my immediate future, but the same can be said of anyone at any time at all. I just really wanted to thank Katy Perry and her writing and production team for having the right words for me at the right time. If anything good comes of this, well, at least I can say I figured out that all the answers, whatever they are, are somewhere inside me. Just me. Thanks, Katy.