A face I have been watching for 72 hours
Did you watch Katy Perry cry this weekend? If you’ve tuned into her livestream, you might have. It’s part gameshow, part wellness bootcamp, and certainly unlike any other album rollout for a major pop star.
Perry apologized to Taylor Swift. She did yoga with Jesse Tyler Ferguson. She addressed her cyclical cultural appropriation. She ranked her famous exes sexual prowess to James Corden to avoid eating what was allegedly a 100-year-old egg. John Mayer, apparently, has something to be cocky about. In a revealing on-camera therapy session, she confessed to suicidal thoughts and explained why she cut off all her hair, "I didn’t want to be Katy Perry anymore." It’s a lot.
The whole thing, apparently, will end eventually with a concert. But who will stay tuned for the finale?
Friends, casual acquaintances, and YouTube celebrities rotate through the Witness branded house. She only takes off her microphone to shower. If it does actually show what being Katy Perry is like, it’s pretty bleak.
While Perry slept this morning three days into the experiment, a famous pancake artist (to the extent that that’s a thing) made breakfast in her likeness, speaking softly to the small crew assembled in the kitchen. It’s almost like an ASMR video. Perry slept on as her breakfast got cold. Eventually, a gospel choir enters her room and wakes her up with an a cappella rendition of "Firework." She eats a salad while responding to comments and the pancakes get cold. Bon appétit, baby.
There are shades of Real World or Celebrity Big Brother or even America’s Next Top Model without the fun. But there’s one important distinction here: when things gets uncomfortable, it’s all by Perry’s design.
The livestream has a spiritual sister in Keeping Up With the Kardashians, a show that’s struggled with ratings ever since the fame of its subjects eclipsed that of reality show stardom. The TV show itself is playing catch-up with the headlines. Even when the show is painting them in a bad light, it’s clear that the players understand the benefits of negative attention.
These days, KUWTK episodes have two main plot lines. The Kardashians are either explaining their side of a story we already all know or they’re participating in hijinks clearly devised just for plot points. They’re really, really into playing pranks on each other. At least that’s what they’ll have you believe. It’s a jumbled mix of absurdity and tragedy. Recently, Khloe Kardashian confessed that she lied on the show about her attempts to become pregnant while she was married to Lamar Odom.
Caitlyn Jenner herself joined in on Perry’s livestream over the weekend at a dinner party. One of the most notable moments from the livestream came not from Perry herself, but when Insecure’s Amanda Seales gave Jenner a lesson on white privilege. "You can say [‘I believe in this country’] in a way I cannot because you’ve had a different experience. Because this country is here for you. This country hasn’t been here for me in the same way, sis," said Seales. "You, as a trans person have to identify the fact that this country hasn’t been here for trans until like, maybe 2:00 today."
Perry, meanwhile, sat silently and listened. But it’s hard to see how that fits into promoting Witness, especially since she seemingly backed away from the "purposeful pop" that she initially promised.
The major difference between the aforementioned reality shows and the livestream, or even her delightful tour documentary, Part of Me, is editing. The cameras keep rolling as Perry keeps to her schedule. Over the course of the days (weeks? years?) of the livestream, Witness plays in the background. During workouts. While her adorable dog, Nugget, takes a bathroom break for the world to see. Rather than showcasing the pure delight of a pop song (the thing Perry is best at), she shoves the magic away.
The effect of the livestream as a whole is just too overwhelming to accomplish any one thing besides overexposure. One bombshell replaces the next with plenty of mundanity it between.
If Perry is trying to pressure wash away recent bad-to-neutral press with the sheer magnitude of content she’s delivering, well, maybe this is actually a brilliant strategy. There’s nothing left to say about Katy Perry.