Katy Perry Mad Libs

I listen to the radio because it’s the only thing that consistently works in my 19-year-old car. Starting the car means turning the key, then turning up the volume; unlike the windshield, the mirrors, the engine, the tires, the fuel pump or the battery, the radio does not break down (brakes, that’s another one). Flipping through the stations, resting on one for a song or two, and singing off-key by the flickering lights of my faulty dash is the only way I know how to drive. Right now, there are about a dozen stations I roll through every day; sometimes I stop for Led Zeppelin, sometimes for Doomtree, and sometimes I skip them both to belt out the stupidly catchy Ke$ha part of Pitbull’s “Timber.”

Because here’s the thing, I like all music, including top 40 pop songs. I’ve seen Aerosmith, Barbra Streisand, New Kids on the Block, Childish Gambino, and Tool in concert all within my adult life.  31 Songs by Nick Hornby and The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop are two of my all-time favorite books. So I try not to judge anyone’s taste in music; don’t listen to what you think makes you cool. Listen to whatever brings you joy.

But I have some seriously complicated feelings about Katy Perry.

I cannot decide if I like Katy Perry’s music, or if I like hating it. Occasionally I am impressed by her voice, while other times she reminds me of an Eastern Spadefoot toad. Sometimes I think she’s a genius getting the last laugh through slick satire, and other times I want to rage against everything she represents for pop music, feminism, and the future of the species.

Like I said, complicated.

“Roar,” I think, is the perfect Katy Perry song. Observe.

It has everything: the patented Belting/Heavy Breathing/Random Sound Effect style of Katy Perry vocals, occasionally within the same word (“Ro-a-a-a-a-a–uhuhr!”). It is Uncannily Current, in the sense that it sounds exactly like what else is out there at the time (Sara Bareilles’ “Brave”).  And most importantly, the lyrics that are Nonsense Clichés Strung Together In a Forced-Rhyming Fashion (“Now I’m floating like a butterfly / Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes / I went from zero, to my own hero”).

In college, I had an English professor who could not stand a single cliché in anything her students wrote. She was an older Sister with an attitude and  health problems, and she would slam her cane on the floor for emphasis as she wheezed out “Clichéd! Clichéd! Clichéd!” She was a little scary and mean, and it took me years to realize how much I actually liked her and appreciated her guidance, by which point she had passed away. This is what I think about every time I hear Katy Perry sing I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything: a nun who yelled a lot and then she died. I am not the first person to notice and be bothered by Katy Perry’s clichés – here’s a list of all 226 found on her most recent album – but I am willing to bet I’m the first person to tell that particular nun story.

And now there’s this new song, “Dark Horse,” which I initially thought I hallucinated due to my clearly unhealthy obsession with Figuring Out Katy Perry.

A) It has the singing style that haunts my dreams. B) It sounds Uncannily Current in that it sent me down an internet rabbit hole, starting with Miley Cyrus/Mike WiLL Made It collaborations and ending with too much information about what is or is not “ratchet” culture (don’t look it up).  C) The title itself is a cliché. And D) I can’t stop hate-listening to it. Katy Perry may be a complex genius hiding behind bright colors and loud noises because that’s what sells, or she might be so simple that singing “I know a place where the grass is really greener” while dressed as candy is equivalent to her baring her soul. I don’t know.

But I do know she’s a multimillionaire while I drive a ’95 Lumina. So. Dear Katy Perry, I am willing to give up all my English-major principles and follow your formula to success. I’ve done the research and I’ve got some ideas. Here’s a little something I came up with while cleaning my bathroom:

I’m taking out the trash
You’re my receptacle
I can’t see the light
You’re my spectacles
Your reflection! It’s perfection!
Think it’s a Jedi mind trick
You ask do I love you?
Boy, Is the Pope Catholic?
(random vocalization breakdown, Tuvan throat singing, maybe you go “Catholic! Lic! Lic!” for a while, etc)

Yeah. There’s more where that came from, Katy Perry. I bought a book of Mad Libs and filled in all the spaces with clichés, euphemisms and glitter. Let’s collab.

Best Things of the Week: Let Your Troubles Roll By Edition

1. “What about everything?”

So, I saw one of my favorite bands, Carbon Leaf, for the second time in my life on Wednesday.

I didn’t take any pictures because the last time I brought my camera out in public someone asked me if I got it at Savers, but here’s a picture of me and lead singer Barry from April 2010:

Rachel and Barry

I was so excited I couldn't speak to or near him. THAT awkward.

This time around I was so much cooler: Not only did I speak in front of Barry, I managed to say, rather loudly, “that’s, uh…that’s the lead singer!” while pointing at him on the street.  The other witness to the event suggested maybe I was embarrassing myself, but I don’t think so. I’m pretty sure Barry knows he’s the lead singer.

None of the live stuff on youtube does them justice, but here:

They are way fun live.  And they ended one song (actually, it might have been this one) with an Aerosmith riff, at which point my soul exploded.

2. Stepping on fruit for fun and profit

On Saturday, I ventured to Glacial Ridge Winery to enjoy a Grape Stomp with Lacy.  Lacy and I have a rule: we do NOT compete against one another.  However, as a team, we kind of rule.  I stomped, she strained, and we won fifty bucks!  We are winners, and the local media took notice.

Rachel and Lacy in the bucket

Admit it. This is adorkable.

I also participated in some belly dancing lessons, and Lacy and I were mistaken for high school seniors.  All in all, a winner of a day.

3. Just a little visit

There’s not a lot I can or want to say about September 11th that hasn’t been said before.  As we came to the ten year anniversary, I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids who will never live in a world where that didn’t happen.  I made a promise to myself to start volunteering with younger kids, and I’ve signed up for one opportunity so far (more on that in a few weeks, maybe).  That was the only thing I had planned, but on the day itself my mother invited me to hand out American flag dog tags to nursing home residents.

Every time I see a flag, I think about vets both young and old.  I think about my best friend’s younger brothers who went from fighting with us over TV and computer access in high school to fighting overseas in the Marines.  They get my prayers whether they want it or not.  And I also think about my two grandfathers, both of whom served in WWII, and both of whom have passed away.  So it just felt like a nice gift to visit with the many servicemen and women at the nursing home on such a day.  I mean a gift for me; they’re already pretty aware they’re excellent (especially the 80ish man who asked me out; sir, you are adorable).


Well, I did it.  I got a fish.  His name is Tammy, because he’s brightly-colored and showy like a drag queen.  Also, I have zero faith in my ability to keep a fish alive, and I have no problem recycling the name Tammy.  Like The Smoochies in college (some of whom only lasted a day or two), all of my fish shall be named Tammy.  It’s going okay so far; the stress of having to buy all his junk and maybe remember to feed him every so often has killed my desire to adopt a dog, and that’s pretty much what I needed him for at this point in my life.  There’s logic in there somewhere.

I also broke down and bought an iPod.  It’s one of the older-generation shuffles (aka the cheapest thing out there), but this is pretty huge for me.  I used it for the first time during my walk to work on Thursday (and one of the first songs to play was “Smooth Criminal.”  And I skipped it.  There’s absolutely no significance to that, but you can bet I’ll remember it forever: my last pure MJ experience (if there is such a thing) and I skipped it.  Hmm).  I’ve never felt so hip in my life.

This hipness lasted exactly two days, at which time I bought a record player at a garage sale. I also got six records, five of which are musical soundtracks.  The other is Elton John’s greatest hits.  I’m now a gay man in the seventies, or possibly my mom.  (Neither is surprising.)  I shouldn’t have to tell you that none of this was planned.  The only major purchase I’ve ever made with any amount of planning was probably Tammy; everything else — record players, iPods, seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, every form of processed sugar product I call “groceries” — just sort of find its way into my shopping cart/life.  I do think it’s significant that I got the iPod and the record player in the same week, though: I was veering too close to being technologically savvy, and I can’t have that.  Maybe I’ve seen too many robot apocalypse movies, but I generally resist technology and change.  Instead of an iPod and a GPS, my car has a radio and a map from 1992.  Instead of a Blu-Ray and digital TV, I have a VCR and a loaner TV set that gets no channels.  I’m willing to accept things up to a point — a point that the rest of the world passed around 1999, probably.  I’m like new-wave Amish, or your grandmother. (Neither is surprising.)

Flying my Freak Flag

In the past week, I have acquired the following CDs:
At Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash
Metallica by Metallica
Amanda Leigh by Mandy Moore

I like music.  And all of this really makes me miss the old cabin-in-the-woods-with-the-poodle.  There wasn’t much to do besides listen to music and dance with the dog, and that place had a great sound system.  Now all I have is the Hodgman, which I carry from room to room and use mainly as a jukebox, but laptop speakers are notoriously shitty.  Something must be done if I am to properly enjoy my Mandy, Metallica, and Man in Black.

In related news, I like alliteration almost as much as I like music.

The summer is pretty much upon us, as Memorial day has happened (I spent mine bookshopping at Goodwill, painting a table, watching Back to the Future, and buying the slutty creamsicle shirt.  My ancestors must be so proud).  I was hoping to take a whole week off to do a road-trip camping-with-the-girls expedition, but that seems to have fallen apart.  Also, I’m down to about zero vacation days (thanks, pneumonia!) at exactly the same time that my company has cut the number I am able to earn in a year in half (thanks, recession!).  So instead of a big vacation, I’ll be taking mini-breaks.  A South Dakota adventure here, another Iowa trip there, and a long weekend in California somewhere in between.  Maybe more; I have itchy feet.  Who knows, maybe I’ll finally take that long-awaited trip to Disney World.