Dark Horse

Dark horse by thebutterfly-d77ir4k.jpg

Date Aired
February 22, 2014
Running Time
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Todd plays "Dark Horse" on the piano

A pop song review

Todd: I don't get you, Katy Perry.

Video for "Dark Horse"
Katy Perry: I knew you were
You were gonna come to me

Todd (VO): And what the-what the hell is this? What the hell is anything Katy Perry's done in the last couple years, I don't... it... what?!

Katy: Make me your Aphrodite

Todd: I... I'm not gonna draw this out: I find this song exceptionally unpleasant...

Todd (VO): ...which, I guess, is better than finding it exceptionally unpleasantly boring, which is everything else Katy Perry has done lately. Th...this is a #1 hit, really?! Why?! [Clip of...] And why was "Roar", for that matter?! How did she get a #1 hit with a song that weak? [Billboard article: "Katy Perry's 'Dark Horse' Gallops to No. 1 On Hot 100"] Has Katy Perry just signed a contract with Billboard? [Screen shot of Billboard Hot 100 chart with "Dark Horse" at #1...] Wait, let me check here. [...and closeup on "Sponsor Content"] Ah-hah! I knew it!

Todd: Look, my feelings about Katy Perry have been...complicated.

Clips of "Hot n Cold..."
Katy: Cause you're hot, then you're cold

Todd (VO): Over the course of her first two albums, Katy Perry was a huge guilty pleasure of mine, never meant to be secret at that. [..."Last Friday Night (TGIF)"...] And yet, right at the moment that I gave up and just decided to embrace her wholeheartedly, [...and "Wide Awake"] she started pumping out song after song I couldn't find a way to enjoy at all. What...what happened?

Todd: Well, if we wanna talk about where Katy Perry's going wrong, first we have to examine what she was doing right. So, what was she doing right? [Pause] What was she doing right? [Longer pause...]

Clips of "California Gurls"...
Katy [in the cream-shooting bra]: Fine, fresh, fierce
..."Ur So Gay"...
Katy: You're so gay
And you don't even like boys
...and "Last Friday Night"
Katy [as a braces-wearing nerd, Kathy Beth Terry]: Friday!

Todd gives up

Clip of "Waking Up in Vegas"
Katy: Remember what you told me

Todd (VO): Look, "guilty pleasure" is never really quite the right word. Whenever I said that, I don't mean I actually feel guilt for the things I like that's stupid, especially for music, which doesn't really have to follow logic or anything like that.

Todd: No, when I call something a guilty pleasure, all that means is, I have difficulty finding anything good to say about it, and I'm painfully aware of its faults; and that's especially true for Katy Perry, whose faults are not easy to ignore.

Clip of "Hot n Cold"
Katy: PMS like a bitch

Todd: She's not subtle.

Clip of "The One That Got Away"

Todd (VO): But it's more than just her numerous faults that make her difficult to defend; I have difficulty making sense of her in general. She has tons of presence, yet...

Todd: ...somehow not a lot of personality.

Clip of "Teenage Dream"

Todd (VO): It's difficult to pin down who Katy Perry really is. She's not like Gaga, or even Miley or Ke$ha, who've all carved out distinct identities for themselves. Katy always has that kind of plasticity in her. And I don't mean, like, [images of...] "plastic" like Barbie, I mean "plastic" like Plastic Man. (also Barbie)

Todd: You know, she's a shape-shifter.

Clips of "Last Friday Night", "I Kissed a Girl", "Unconditionally", "Firework", and "ET"

Todd (VO): "Ooh, I'm a dirty sex kitten. I get drunk and do crazy things. I make out with other women. And I'm also a devoted, sincere girlfriend, and I'm an inspiration to cancer patients and fat girls. And I bang aliens." There's no consistency or common thread between her songs; she just is whoever the song says she is.

Todd: That said, I think I can find common ground between all the songs I do like from Katy Perry.

Clip of "California Gurls"

Todd (VO): 1., they're all really fun and upbeat and catchy; and 2., they're all just really, horribly tasteless.

Todd: Basically, the perfect recipe for guilty pleasure fodder. And that also explains what she's been doing wrong. Her songs since her divorce just aren't stupid and obnoxious enough.

Clips of "Part of Me"

Todd (VO): Just...blah. Most of them are breakup songs that reflect on her divorce, but if there's any personal connection, I don't feel it. Katy Perry can't pull off personal tragedy, she's just too artificial for it.

Todd: Now granted, I guess none of that is true of her latest smash...

Video for...

Todd (VO): ..."Dark Horse", though. It isn't the most horribly tasteless thing she's ever released, but it's at least in the same ballpark.

Yeesh. But...

Todd: ...it's just not catchy. At all. At all.

Katy (distorted): There's no goin' back.

Todd (VO): I'm sorry, is it 2006?! When I turn on the pop station, I expect to hear something fun and upbeat, not this ugly-ass trap beat complete with speaker-destroying bass, annoying-ass chorus of goons shouting, "HEY," and a noxious, pitch-shifted voice bawding out at you from nowhere.

Katy (distorted): There's no goin' back.

Todd (VO): Ugh. No, no, I don't think...

Todd: ...the song's quite annoying enough. Can't we add some... [overlaying a symphony of air horns]

Katy: 'Cause I, I'm capable of anything

Todd (VO): There we go. Good, good. Christ! I half-expect to see some mid-2000s...

Todd: ...washout to show up, like Yung Joc or Jim Jones.

Juicy J: Uh! She's a beast
I call her Karma

Todd: Close enough.

Todd (VO): This is Juicy J. He was once a member of the [clips of "Stay Fly" by...] dark 'n dirty southern hip hop group Three 6 Mafia. Nowadays, [...and Mike Will Made It ft. Miley Cyrus, Juicy J & Wiz Khalifa - "23"] he apparently spends his time lending hip hop credibility to white girls who should know better.

Todd: Now this isn't the first time Katy Perry's worked with rappers, of course.

Clips of "California Gurls" and "ET"

Todd (VO): But she hasn't really gained much street cred from it as much as the rap guest tends to lose it. Or, in Kanye's case, just let him further embarrass himself.

Todd: But we'll get back to Juicy J in a sec. Now let's look at the song as a whole.

Katy: 'Cause I'm coming at you like a dark horse
Are you ready for, ready for

Todd (VO): "Dark Horse" is an assertive, girl-powery message to a potential lover. You know, like the Spice Girls used to do.

Katy: So just be sure before you give it all to me

Todd (VO): See, [clips of "Wannabe" and "Say You'll Be There" by the Spice Girls] if you wanna be her lover, you have to promise that you'll be there.

Todd: And if you don't keep your promise, she'll...


Todd: I think I summed that up properly. Now see,...

Todd (VO): ...in this song, Katy Perry is playing the role of a...witch, I guess. Some kind of vengeful woman scorned with horrible magical powers. Sure.

Todd: Now obviously...

Clips of "Roar" and "ET"

Todd (VO): ...where "Roar" was a lame attempt to rewrite "Firework", "Dark Horse" is a lame "ET", except she's the unstoppable supernatural force now.

Todd: Is...Katy Perry just gonna wind her way through all the genres?

Todd (VO): Like, she's done the alien thing, now the fantasy thing. What next, [brief clip of Pitbull ft. Ke$ha - "Timber"] western? Oh, I guess Ke$ha beat her to that one.

Katy: Perfect storm...

Todd (VO): So she's an amazing force of sheer amazingness, but don't piss her off or you'll regret it. That's basically the entire song. And I realize this is all, like, you know, a metaphor, but relate it to the real world here.

Todd: Gentlemen, if a woman warns you that she's a horrible, vengeful destroyer when scorned, feel free to believe her. This is not usually an idle threat.

Katy: Yes or no
No maybe

Todd: [checkboxes appear] Yes or no, huh? Well, let's see here.

Katy: Don’t make me your enemy, your enemy

Todd: Well, uh...I say, if she sees you as a potential enemy before you've even done anything, that's...that's usually a big, giant red flag.

Todd (VO): No, hold on, let's see where this goes, 'cause after all, Katy Perry also has a positive side, and it's apparently really just awe-inspiring.

Katy: Mark my words
This love will make you levitate
Like a bird
Like a bird without a cage

Todd: Okay...levitate like a bird? Her lovin's so good, [picture of man standing in mid-air] it'll make you levitate. Woo? I...I don't really get it. I guess that could be cool. But...

Todd (VO): ...if you cross her, she'll destroy you?

Todd: Seems like the reward-to-risk ratio's a little off.

Todd (VO): Am I being unfair to Katy Perry? There must be some kind of logic behind the songs she picks.

Todd: I guess the whole dark magic thing could be a reaction against her parents. See...

Todd (VO): ...she was raised by [Huffington Post article: "Katy Perry Has Preacher Parents, Needless to Say They Aren't Her Biggest Fans] super-religious fundamentalists, you know, which...is probably why so many of her songs seem designed to piss them off. You know, [single covers of...] "I Kissed a Girl", "Last Friday Night", [evolutionary chart] "Evolution is Real!"

(joke stolen from Mara Wilson)
(please don't hurt me Mara)

But this whole song is...it's out of her wheelhouse. She does, you know, [HuffPo article] wink-wink, tease-tease burlesque. She's not, like, Nicki Minaj. She doesn't feel right with this hard-ass street music. No matter how dangerous and powerful she tries to sound, she cannot pull this off. It does not work for the simple reason that she's Katy Perry.

Todd: There's a reason Mariah Carey doesn't sing over death metal.

Mariah Carey sings "Dreamlover" over clip of Dethklok - "Thunderhorse"
Mariah: Dreamlover, come and rescue me

Todd (VO): For that matter, where does the gangsta beat fit with this whole fantasy witchcraft theme? Where all the Teenage Dream singles were tight and focused, this is just a mess. And even if the song was more darkly magical, it's not like Katy Perry's Stevie Nicks or anything. She doesn't have the voice [images of, in flames...] of a witch, at least [...and 3D model of the Witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs] not a sexy witch.

Todd: Eh, let's kick it over to Juicy J.

Juicy J: She's a beast

Todd (VO): Not that I think even he could make Katy Perry seem like an intimidating force of nature. Like, [Brief clip of Three 6 Mafia - "Shake My Ass"] maybe in his heyday a decade ago, but post-sellout, Miley Cyrus's black friend Juicy J?

Todd: No, I doubt it.

Juicy J: Shorty’s heart is on steroids
Cause her love is so strong

Todd: Pfft! Right.

Juicy J: She's sweet as pie but if you break her heart
She'll turn cold as a freezer

Todd: Who cares?

Juicy J: She eats your heart out
Like Jeffrey Dahmer

Todd: Yeah, whatev...wait, what?

Juicy J: She eats your heart out
Like Jeffrey Dahmer

Todd looks to say, "what?!"

Juicy J: Like Jeffrey Dahmer

Todd: [checkboxes appear again] Yeah, check no. Guys, sometimes it's okay to say no.

Todd (VO): Okay, see, here's another thing. The song is a mess musically, the verse and the chorus have basically nothing to do with each other. But it's also a mess lyrically. I keep bringing up the evil witch thing, but it's obviously my best guess because that's what she wore at the Grammys. I guess there's also sexy mummy priests, too, based on the video. Who the hell knows? But honestly, I can't make sense of the metaphors here at all.

Katy: 'Cause I'm coming at you like a dark horse

Todd (VO): "Coming at you like a dark horse"? Do you even know what a dark horse is? It's an unfairly ignored, come-from-behind, underdog third party.

Todd: Not something I'd really associate with one of the most famous celebrities on the planet.

Todd (VO): But more importantly, "dark horse," I guess you can connect that to witchcraft if you stretch a little, but she never brings up the horse thing anywhere else. She just pulls in all sorts of other things, and it all just keeps piling up.

Katy: Are you ready for, ready for
A perfect storm, perfect storm

Todd (VO): So she's a magical-Egyptian-witch-horse-storm-cannibal serial killer who makes you float like a bird.

Juicy J: ...with a knight in shining armor
She can be my Sleeping Beauty
I'm gon' put her in a coma

Todd: And a princess. She's also a princess who... wait, wait, knight in shining armor wakes Sleeping Beauty up out of the coma, you idiot!

Juicy J: I'm gon' put her in a coma

Todd (VO): What, did you punch her?! You spend a whole verse talking about what a badass she is, and then you talk about knocking her unconscious. What sense does that make? Whatever, it's the rap verse, it doesn't even count.

Todd: Now, even without it, the song has basically no common theme. It's a 20-car pileup of analogies. It's a [picture of...] rat king of disconnected imagery.

[Playing and singing]
Are you ready for, ready for
Mixed metaphor, metaphors

Todd (VO): And look, guys get criticized all the time for enjoying stupid shit that is pathetically obviously power fantasy, but...

Todd: ...now this is kind of a power fantasy too.

Todd (VO): "If you hurt me, I'll ruin you." [Clip of "Irreplaceable" by...] Like, you know, Beyonce tossing out a worthless guy on his ass, reclaiming a five-digit figure worth of property and immediately bringing in a replacement just to rub it in his face.

Todd: Really, who can relate to that? It's a nice fantasy, but who can actually do that besides Beyonce? And that song's...

Todd (VO): ...way better than "Dark Horse", if for no other reason, that I believe at least Beyonce could pull that off. I do not buy that Katy Perry is some kind of implacable rage goddess who could effortlessly destroy the unworthy, [Clips of "Part of Me"...] especially after, like, five breakup songs in a row where she was emotionally devastated, [..."Wide Awake"...] floored by the breakup, [...and "Roar"] and then finally perky and triumphant.

Juicy J: She eats your heart out
Like Jeffrey Dahmer

Todd: Yeah, she'll eat Ben & Jerry's and maybe drunk-text you.

Todd (VO): So yeah, basically, none of this works. I can only assume that Katy Perry's success is self-sustaining at this point.

Todd: It's not even that they sound bad, they sound unfinished.

Todd (VO): None of her post-divorce songs feel like they came from the biggest pop star on the planet; they just keep running up the charts out of momentum.

Todd: Katy Perry sucks, she's always sucked, I sucked for liking her, and I'm just gonna stop listening to her from now on. You hear that, Katy Perry? You suck! What are you gonna do about it? Nothing! That's right! I'm Todd In The Shadows, and I'm...

Todd is struck by lightning, out of his chair. He points up...

My opinion has not changed.

...and is struck again.

Katy (distorted): There's no going back

Closing tag song: The Bangles - "Walk Like an Egyptian"

"Dark Horse" is owned by Capitol Records
This video is owned by me

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