For years, Katy Perry dealt with her depression by writing hit songs. “It was like, ‘You break up with me? I’ll show you. Here’s a No. 1,’” she tells Apple Music. But after the release of her 2017 album Witness, which struggled to resonate with fans and critics, her method fell apart. Feeling creatively lost and emotionally disconnected, the world’s biggest pop star finally got help. It was an adjustment. “I was like, ‘I’m Katy Perry. I wrote “Firework.” I’m on medication. This is fucked up,’” she said.
The next three years were wholly transformative. With the support of her fiancé, actor Orlando Bloom, Perry embarked on a psychological, spiritual, and emotional journey in which she learned how to be kinder to herself and take control of her mental health. She chronicles that progress on her joyous and confessional sixth album Smile, which often feels like a message of hope to her younger self. Through giddy pop beats and breathy balladry, she details some of the life lessons she’s learned during her rebound: that love takes work (“Champagne Problems”), survival is persistence (“Resilient”), and failure is ultimately subjective (“Not the End of the World”). “This is a record full of hope,” she says, and you can hear the determination baked into these songs; even the most anguished numbers (“Teary Eyes”) are designed to be danced to.
The project’s most triumphant moment is easily “Daisies,” which addresses the fair-weather public that “counted her out” when she was down. “They said I’m going nowhere/Tried to count me out/Took those sticks and stones/Showed ’em I could build a house,” she sings. Through that pain, Perry learned to rely on herself. It feels poetic that on the very day that Smile was released, the superstar gave birth to her first child, also named Daisy, and embarked on another new chapter in her life: motherhood. Now, she feels ready. “This record is a representation that I overcame [the pain] and got to the other side,” she says. “I’m not saying I’ll always be on this side. I could fall backwards. But at least I have this body of work that says, ‘You did it once, you can do it again.’”