Music Video Relapse: "California Gurls" (2010) by Katy Perry
Posted by Adam Fairholm on February 26, 2014 in Music Video Relapse
A Noisey article from last week made a pretty good point about Katy Perry music videos: "as far as music videos go, Katy Perry seems to have two speeds: sad, and batshit fucking crazy." The article was about her "Dark Horse" video (a video that is definitely evidence for their point), and looking through Perry's catalog, it does seem true that Katy Perry is an artist that oscillates between the serious and the kind of out there.
But "batshit fucking crazy" seems to imply more crazy for the sake of crazy rather than crazy for the sake of a bigger goal. And no matter what the content is of a Katy Perry video, you can be sure that it's serving to round out a piece of her for a bigger brand.
Today we're looking at a video that did a pretty amazing job of encompassing Perry's knack for visual branding with just the right amount of "batshit fucking crazy," "California Gurls" (2010), directed by Matthew Cullen.
After the success of Perry's first few singles from her first album ("I Kissed A Girl," "Hot N Cold"), it seems that Perry's mind was focused on creating a grand, unifying vision for her second album. She frequently talked in interviews about how she needed to make a big impact with a second album or else she risked remembered as the person who sang "I Kissed A Girl" and little else.
So as the first single off of Teenage Dream, "California Gurls" represents not just a music video but a sort of brand launch for an album that could have easily damaged Perry's career if it hadn't taken off. It was also the first step in a relatively significant image shift from a sort of quirky girl next door type to a full-fledged pop star, a move that now seems necessary.
The key to all of this was American painter Will Cotton, an artist who is known for creating landscapes where the landscape features are made out of candy. Sometimes, nude models are included in these paintings - sound familiar?
Cotton's work wasn't just the inspiration for the Teenage Dream-era imagery, he was actively involved in creating the visuals that would come to define this period in Perry's career. For example, the cover of Teenage Dream is actually a Will Cotton painting entitled "Cotton Candy Katy." Here's another one of his paintings for comparison:
On the "California Gurls" video, Cotton served as art director and made/designed much of what you see in the video - including the game board that Snoop Dogg uses. Musicians have long drawn inspiration from artists in other mediums, but as far as these sorts of collaborations go, this one was a very, very close one.
The video itself takes place in a board game called "Candyfornia," a play on the game Candyland. Snoop Dogg (who features on the track), is playing this game, and Perry is on the board. As he plays, she goes through the game and finds other friends - including a gingerbread man and a popsicle that straight up has an orgasm. It culminates in a sequence where Katy Perry defeats a group of gummy bears by spraying them with whipped cream. And, the whipped cream cans are attached to her breasts.
From the moment Snoop Dogg physically puts the Katy Perry board game piece down on the board he controls, it's clear that this video is a dream come true for film theory majors all across the world (if anyone hasn't written at least a term paper on this, I'd be disappointed). There are so many fun, loaded visuals here, like the candy canes that turn into snakes. Many of these visuals (sans the snakes) would later pop up on Perry's tour.
But what really makes the video for "California Gurls" an interesting case is how neatly it tied up humor, sexuality, and an album's overall visual vision in one video. It set the tone for many things going forward for Perry's Teenage Dream era, and it seems like it was a winning combination. There was, appropriately for Katy Perry, a touch of the batshit fucking insane as well.
Adam Fairholm is the co-founder and lead developer of IMVDb. You can find him on twitter at @adamfairholm.
More Music Video Relapse:
Posted by Adam Fairholm on April 15, 2014 in Music Video Relapse
Most of the time on Music Video Relapse I am writing about a music video that is a classic for a good reason - either being iconic or just fondly remembered. Sometimes I write about a music video that was release relatively recently but I think needs a second look… Read More
Posted by Adam Fairholm on April 1, 2014 in Music Video Relapse
As we've covered on the blog before, ABBA has an interesting history with music videos, using the form back in the late 1970s to spread their music to overseas markets. The videos, while pretty primitive, are well-done for their time, and they are almost all on their ABBA Vevo account,… Read More
Posted by Adam Fairholm on March 31, 2014 in Music Video Relapse
When a video gets pulled off of YouTube, they usually tell you who made them do it. Usually it's a record label, but sometimes it's a random name. For instance, Iggy Azalea used to have a video called "Pu$$y," but it now says "This video is no longer available because… Read More
Posted by Adam Fairholm on March 18, 2014 in Music Video Relapse
People whose jobs revolve around throwaway "viral" stories hit pay dirt last week when someone noticed that a radio station in LA was playing Nelly's 2002 hit "Hot In Herre" over and over again. This is apparently relatively standard procedure for radio stations undergoing a format change (it has since… Read More
- Jason Baum's Top 10 Music Videos of 2016
- Caleb Jackson's Top Ten of 2016
- The Perez Brothers' Top 10 Music Videos of 2016
- John Merizalde's Top Music Videos of 2016
- Andrea Allen's Top 10 Music Videos of 2016
- BRTHR's VR Fantasy for "Diamonds" by Keith Ape ft. Jedi P
- UKMVAs Call For Entries
- Cool New Music Video: "Mad At You" by 3oh!3
- Cool New Music Video: Hunger by Pekko
- Video Chats: Phil Mucci on "Sorrow" by Huntress
- December 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- May 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- February 2014
- January 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- Behind the Scenes
- Cool New Music Videos
- Dom’s Sketch Cast
- Event Coverage
- Hall of Fame
- Interactive Music Videos
- Lost & Found
- Most Popular Music Videos
- Music Video Premieres
- Music Video Relapse
- New Releases
- Original Content
- Site News
- Taped Before A Live Studio Audience
- This Week in Music Videos
- Video Previews
- Videos I <3
Content on the IMVDb blog is ©2012-2017 IMVDb and FilmedInsert, LLC. All Rights Reserved.