May’s Super-duper Song Review: “Firework”by Katy Perry

If you’re just tuning in, see one of May’s Song Reviews to understand the difference in critiques.

Katy Perry is the starter sparkler. Instead of triggering a chain reaction, it’s more like a domino effect, which is so much easier to keep track of. I also LOVE how her pinup aesthetic challenges us to consider her to be more substantial in character than we would expect.

I first heard this song on Glee. The word firework in its singular form really bugged me, but the more I listened to it, the more songwriting treasures I found. Oh, yes. Just keep on reading.

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Similes are the kaleidoscope to one’s mind. See what I did there, using a metaphor to describe a simile? The plastic-bag simile alludes to the film, American Beauty, with that scene with that kid videotaping a plastic bag caught in a small whirlwind, and he says how BEAUTIFUL it is. I LOVE how Katy channels into the bag’s desires: the bag wants to start again, after drifting through the wind. Is the plastic bag fromWal-Mart or Target, because that makes a big difference. But what if the bag wanted to keep drifting? Here a philosophical discussion about free will emerges and another movie comes to mind, The Adjustment Bureau. And I cannot even TELL you how much I love Matt Damon. Any song that alludes to Matt Damon is tops in my book.

The second simile refers to one of my favorite bands in the world, Radiohead, who sang a song called “House of Cards.” But do you feel like a house of cards, so unstable, so delicate and defeated and transopaque? Look what Ms. Perry does here by juxtaposing these two images: what if the wind that carries the plastic bag blows down the house of cards? Will the bag catch the cards? Will both objects then have found purpose? Which are you, the bag or the cards? Or are you the wind? If you’re like the wind, then you’re like Baby from Dirty Dancing, and that’s one of my all-time favorite nostalgic movies. This song is batting 1.00 so far.

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you?

Everyone will experience feeling overwhelmed sometime in life. This progression of rhetorical questions is leading to something bigger. From bag to cards to coffins to that single delayed peak on the heart monitor: a spark. How does Katy know about this spark? Are you watching the video? Is it because she has a spark of her very own? Make no mistake, she’s not short-circuiting, she’s letting her light shine, and there’s no way to hide it under a bushel, because the bushel would catch fire and continue inspiring people. What’s more is that the bushel would burn longer than the sparkler would. Bushels are tinderwood. That probably was an alternate lyric: “Baby, you are tinderwood …” That’s a mighty fine simile, too.

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

This intro rides up the scale and builds volume, the song’s continuing to lead – with the staccatoed strings – to the grand refrain. Don’t you feel it? Are we all like Katy Perry and have self-igniting lights? Do we have our own flints to get a spark? I think my favorite Flintstones characters were Betty Rubble and Dino. They seemed to represent best the modern, stone-age family.

I like how this song stirs up debate about the concept of brightness. How can your light shine if it’s daytime and the sun is out? Also, if the sun is out, and it hasn’t rained in a while, that increases the chances of accidental fires. You’ve got to stand out among losers and not get lost among achievers who have too much in common with you. With them, it’s way too bright, and you lose your specialness.

‘Cause baby, you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

I LOVE how this song emphasizes how a single, singular firework can own the night like Independence Day. It doesn’t take the whole tent just beyond the Georgia border, but one, individual sparkler. That’s another alternative lyric: “Baby you’re a sparkler …”

I LOVE the half-rhyme of work and worth. Do you sense the intent with equating one’s worth with the work she does? There’s a lot of potential energy in gunpowder, and it does take work – in the form of heat – to release that energy. The weight that energy carries as it moves across the sky turns into momentum, and we all know to use the momentum of goodness to push us through tough times.

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go, oh
You’re gonna leave ’em falling down

I like the image of colors bursting and making ’em go. And who are we going to leave falling down? That’s right, the bad guys, the guys of the darkness. Because they’re in the dark and can’t see and they trip over stuff.

You don’t have to feel like a waste of space
You’re original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

I LOVE how well-rounded Katy Perry is. I had no idea she studied meteorology and was familiar with weather patterns. That sort of reliability contrasts well with individual uniqueness and purpose. Just like everyone else, you don’t have to feel like your life is pointless, and you cannot be replaced, just like everyone else.

Maybe you’re reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt, your heart will blow
And when it’s time, you’ll know

So, there was the old game show, Let’s Make A Deal, with the three doors, right? But here, the deals are all wonderful and perfect. Open one door, any door, and your life is gold.

I LOVE the lightning bolt imagery and the idea of a heart blowing. Exploding. Being the lone peak on the heart monitor, questioning the need for a heart, because if you’re a firework, then maybe you’re one of those kind that are like trick candles and never go out. You’d outlive your heart anyway. You’re too busy being an example to all those depressed and self-pitying people just like you. Everyone will be a bursty boom of light.

Cue strings!

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go, oh
You’re gonna leave ’em falling down

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It’s always been inside of you, you, you
And now it’s time to let it through

Excellent. Actual fireworks! This is what the song is about, not the wimpy sparklers up to this point. And not the metaphored or personified fireworks that make up most of this video. Now, it’s hard to say that the song could stand strongly enough without the video.

‘Cause baby you’re a firework
Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go, oh
As you shoot across the sky

Ooh, marching band formations that sort of look like a firework: a circle with sparkly arms. They really thought of everything.

Baby, you’re a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go, oh
You’re gonna leave ’em falling down

Katy Perry’s sort of dancing like Tiffany at a mall concert. You would think that would make me like this video less, but no. This is probably the most redeeming aspect of the video.

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon

How can this be a bad song with three booms echo-half-rhymed by three moons? And, do you know how hard it would be to find a light brighter than three whole moons? Your singular firework can do the job. Accept it, and let it burn and shine. Just like everyone else. Best club in the world to belong to.

*Serious Note: Because I can’t make fun of domestic abuse or victims of bullies or girls who hate themselves because they think they’re fat or cancer or gay intimidation or a woman who looks like Amber Tamblyn giving birth to sparklers, and because I actually like when Katy Perry’s voice gets husky, this isn’t nearly as SUPER DUPER! as “Friday” by Rebecca Black.

But I do support the single firework. The one that sets off all the others.

May’s rating scale:

SUPER DUPER!

More mediocrity!

Medially mediocre

Trying too hard!

DUPED.

2 thoughts on “May’s Super-duper Song Review: “Firework”by Katy Perry

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