There's no doubt that Katy Perry is a gay icon.
She crashed onto the pop music scene back in 2008 with "I Kissed A Girl," a flirty dip into the pool of bisexuality that, at first, angered conservative listeners and even some people in the LGBTQ+ community. But over the years, the track has evolved into a bonafide queer anthem.
As a junior in high school, the pop-rock #1 hit song was the first time any type of same-sex attraction was not only sung about on the radio, but a topic of conversation. I first heard "I Kissed A Girl" on a sunny day in Houston, Texas. It played on the radio while I was in the car with my mom. That scandalous chorus shocked my Methodist mother, 34-years my elder, and she promptly turned off the radio, turned to me, and made me promise not to show it to my little sister. I nodded in agreement, simultaneously shook and enraptured by the blasphemy. I listened to the song religiously in secret, something resonating within me before I even understood my own sexuality. It was consistently played at high school parties, where my classmates cautiously explored same-gender attractions for the first time.
"For me in that time, bisexuality kind of got its label of sorts," Perry tells Out. "It was like, 'Oh, so that is what this is,' you know? This feeling or this experience or what have you. I was just writing about my own experience."
In the years since "I Kissed A Girl," Perry has heard countless stories of people opening their eyes to their own sexual desires. She's always openly embraced the LGBTQ+ community and we've embraced her as one of our own.
"I came from a very sheltered upbringing where it wasn't okay to be friends with anyone from that community. And now that is my community," she points out. "That is my show. That is my people. It's my everyday life. It's in my house, it's in my work. I wouldn't have survived without the community and couldn't, quite honestly. It's amazing how full circle it's come and how much growth has happened since I started."
In 2021, Perry's music has a lasting legacy. Fletcher sampled "I Kissed A Girl" for her steamy sapphic fever dream "girls girls girls." Ariana Grande recently called "The One That Got Away" (from Perry's record-breaking 2010 sophomore LP Teenage Dream) "one of the most perfectly written pop songs ever from one of the best pop albums of all time." And Olivia Rodrigo wonders "Where's my f*cking teenage dream?" aloud on "brutal," the opening track of her Grammy-nominated album Sour.
How does it all make Perry feel? "Old," she laughs. "Honestly, old."
It's strange to hear her songs are "coming back around. Things are nostalgic. What?" But really, "it means that the music is still resonating. It means that the message still rings true for people."
Katy Perry's upcoming Las Vegas residency feels like a victory lap. The show, entitled PLAY, will run for 16 dates beginning December 29 on the strip at Resorts World. She calls it the "the kookiest, most camp show I've ever put together."
"It's just gonna be a feast for both the ears and the eyes and it is like the most laughter I've had in a rehearsal setting ever in my life. My co-creators and collaborators and the dancers and the band, everybody's just like, 'This is the kookiest idea.'"
Fans know to expect one hell of a show from Perry, but she's stepping it up even more. The inception of PLAY began during lockdown, as Perry introduced her nieces and nephews to some of her favorite '90s films like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Pee-Wee's Playhouse, and Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. "Those ideas of things being larger than life seeped into this show. These inanimate puppets seeped into this show."
Perry will play a doll who gets "chosen by a little boy and get run through it. I mean, he just (whistles) demolishes me." She's then "found by a little girl, but meanwhile, I am in all these different setups that are like...I have like a 30-foot toilet that's 10 times my size. I pop out of it. I have a bedroom scene, a bathroom scene, an outdoor scene where I maybe take some mushrooms. One of the sets is in a trashcan and there's trash all around me."
As far as songs go, Perry reveals the setlist will include the highest 20 performing songs on streaming services, "So you're getting all those hits, right? Those are the songs you came to see."
She even teases "LGBTQ+ favorites that are coming back that I haven't played for a while, that [fans] have left in the comments." For obvious reasons, "Waking Up In Vegas" is getting a facelift, but Perry confirms her house-inspired PRISM track "Walking on Air" is also making a triumphant return.
"We have given some BPM to some of them and they are beefier and better. It's so fun."
And though she only hinted at the time of our interview, Perry has a new song coming with DJ Alesso. "In the future, there's definitely gonna be something, definitely, that is going to take some wigs," she winks. "The wigs are falling."
"When I'm Gone" drops December 29, the opening night of PLAY, which runs through March 19, 2022. For more information and to get tickets, visit Resort World's official website.