W eve been on Katy Perrys case since her breakout song, Ur So Gay, dropped in late 2007. She told us then that there's a little gay man trapped inside and that what made her different than other pop starlets was her sense of humor. After One of the Boys (Capitol Records) blew up, in no small part thanks to the controversy of No. 1 single I Kissed a Girl, we tracked Perry to this summers Vans Warped Tour. Im not an abomination, she said then in response to growing right-wing criticism.
After being named Musician of the Year in this years Out 100, we spoke to Perry again. Read on for the extended transcript, in which we discuss reactions to her songs in Europe versus the United States, her childhood dreams of being the next Amy Grant, and her acoustic fantasies.
Out: Hello again.
Katy Perry: We should know each others life histories by now.
We really should. Where are you now?
Im in Paris. Its beautiful of course. Im doing promo for the record. It came out here in September.
So youre right in the thick of it then.
Yeah, Ive been hopping around [Europe] for about three and a half weeks. And then I get to go home tomorrow for like three days.
Thanks for making the shoot
Yeah, thank you for having me! I havent seen how its come out, but Im excited!
They put you in some absolutely stunning dresses.
[Her phone cuts out] Im in the bathroom because theres other people in the room and Im just sitting here and I hear boo, boo, boo. [She makes crying noises.]
Last time we chatted you were in line for the shower during Warped Tour. I think Ive become your bathroom buddy. But the first time we spoke was roughly a year ago. So much has changed, Im sure.
Kind of. Not really.
Did you achieve everything you set out to already?
I never expected to be here. The single for I Kissed a Girl is now just slowly edging off the charts, which is fine. But we never knew it would last for six months. [Pause] Hold on one second, Im sorry. [Pause] Sorry, my boyfriend [Gym Class Heroes Travis McCoy] is leaving from Paris right now. Hes flying home, so he had to give me a kiss goodbye. But anyways! I had no idea that I would be in fucking Paris. The kids in Europe have been amazing, waiting outside and knowing all the words even when the record hasnt been out! You think maybe that you might have success in the States and be a hometown hero, but you never realize that the whole world would actually sing along, you know?
Are you surprised that theyre singing along to a song that has been considered so controversial?
No. I mean, its pop music. I think maybe it is a little bit provocative, but its really innocent at the same time. And if you look at pop music, from Elvis Presley on, you see that some of their subject matter has been provocative. I think that people like singing along to something so universal. And, you know, the song is catchy. If you took out the words, you would still have catchy music. Thats why kids do parodies like I kissed a dog, I kissed your mom -- you know, all these really strange parodies, amazing parodies, that are online! The subject matter is one that some people had thought about but never said out loud, and they maybe are happy to finally be living vicariously through this song. Theres not really that big of an agenda about it.
What about the success of Hot N Cold? Did you fear being pigeonholed?
Ur So Gay was a phenomenon that caught on the Internet -- unbeknownst to me and everybody. We were going to go with Hot N Cold as the first single, hands down. Im just happy to have any kind of #1 song, to have any kind of success. Nothing should ever be thought of as deserved because there are so many amazing musicians that have never had #1 songs. After all this time, especially this year, Madonna has become more of an icon to me. If you look at her catalogue, sure, a lot of it was Like a Virgin and Like a Prayer. But she also did Get Into the Groove. Of course, Id like to have a career like hers, but Im not so sure I could last until 50.
Well, thats to be decided by time.
Yeah, well, if I take more vitamins
Whats next for you, musically?
I want to show off different songs. Im excited to release Thinking of You as a single, because I can do that by myself on my acoustic guitar. My dream, like my ultimate dream -- and I shouldnt say this, I dont want to jinx myself -- [is to] play Thinking of You acoustically on the Grammys. I would love just to be able to strip it all away and not have anything besides me, my voice, my guitar. I think people dont expect pop girls to be like that, and I would love to give them more dimensions. For right now Im focusing on this record and next years big world tour, making that more theatrical. You know sometimes when you go to a show and its just a show and thats it? I want it to be more visual and artistic.
Have you found it easier to defend yourself?
I never feel like Im actually defending myself. I always just feel like Im answering the question, because other people are the ones who make it controversial. I just look at it as a part of my life, as flirtatious and very tongue-in-cheek. I get a lot of journalists in Europe who are like, Whats the big deal? People are OK with hip-hop videos where there are strippers and drugs and gangs and guns, when youre singing about an innocent kiss? When news people do headlines about it, Im like, You guys are obviously a) not getting the tongue-in-cheek side of it, and b) youre stupid, because we have a war and an election going on and youre helping me sell records, dumbass.
Do you think the questions about I Kissed a Girl and Ur So Gay reflect discomfort with people being gay or bicurious?
I think the world is growing up little by little. Honestly, I have to tell you, I think that the States is probably the worst at it. But I also think that might be a product of us being so young as a country. Were only a couple of hundred years old and Europeans have been here for quite a long time. Theyve lived more life, maybe. I think that the world is growing up, and I think that the States are growing up, too. You find individual cases of prejudice, but thats just a personal problem with those people.
And yet your songs are considered more shocking than most hip-hop or rock.
Its still somewhat of an unfair society. You cant imagine how many times journalists have asked me, How do you deal with all the negativity and controversy? And Im like, Can you please just turn on pop radio or turn on MTV? And if youre gonna throw a stone at one person, you might as well get everybody stoned. I think certain parts of the world -- especially in the U.S. -- are just dying to be offended.
Youve definitely gotten it from both ends this year. Youve been lambasted by some gay advocates and Christian conservatives have been up in arms. Has any of it really gotten to you?
Im aware of peoples opinions, but it wont change how I express myself as an artist. A lot of artists start to get into trouble when they start reading so much of their own press. It changes who they are because they were such an original. Then, all of the sudden theyve got 100,000 people saying yes, no, yes, no and they chase their tail into a ditch. Some of the opinions are just from people who are unhappy in their lives, or critics that wanted to be musicians but never fucking made it. We all know that. Unless theres an amazing, legitimate journalist I respect, I dont really take any of that shit to heart.
Youve been catching up on pop culture since your sheltered youth. What new discoveries have you made?
I have been watching a lot of movies from the 90s that I have absolutely loved, like The Professional. I watched American Psycho the other day and it scarred me for fucking life. Its the worst movie. But its also the best -- its so beautifully made, but its just so horrible. And I wasnt allowed to watch any of that stuff, of course.
Youre so confident for having been sheltered like that.
I started to know who I am at a really young age, and I am comfortable in my skin. Ive traveled and Ive seen all kinds of different people, and I understand you cant please the world. Ive seen lots of people trying to please everybody. They want to be the most popular, and they end up out of energy. Maybe it was the five years it took for me to actually make [this album] while I had a dozen guys in suits saying I should be like someone else, or I should sing like someone else. And Im like, No, there already is that one person. I wanna be myself.
Is that why you abandoned Christian music?
I never abandoned it, actually. I still sing Oh Happy Day. What happened was when I was 15, I put out that record [Katy Hudson, her real name] and so badly wanted to make it in that field. I would have loved to have been the next Amy Grant.
Honestly, come on, it would have been so fun! But my record label at the time went bankrupt two months later. So, it ended my career like that [snaps fingers]. And there was nothing I could do. I was just like, Fuck, its over. Great. What do I do now? And then opportunity showed up knocking again at 17.
I know that some of our readers will be angry about our decision to put you on the cover. What would you say in your defense?
I never say anything in my defense. No defense here. [Laughs]
Why do you think you belong on the cover?
Because if I wasnt straight, I would be gay.
Why do you say that?
I think that any sexual orientation, whether youre gay or straight, is a beautiful thing as long as you do it with pride, as long as there is integrity behind it. I do believe in the gay community and gay marriage, and I believe in straight marriage. But I think that some of the straight marriages are not fantastic or for the right reasons. Its all up to the individual. The world is a better place when people are happy about who they are and being themselves.