Written by: Katy Perry, Max Martin, Benny Blanco, Bonnie McKee and Dr L***
Produced by: Benny Blanco, Max Martin and Dr L***
Album: Teenage Dream
UK release: August 2010
UK chart peak: 2
Released just a few months into the decade and unbeaten ever since, Teenage Dream by Katy Perry is the best pop song, the best love song, the best SONG song of these last ten years.
This Max Martin masterpiece captures so perfectly that fizzy rush of new love; of joyful, naive, sugary-sweet excitement. Katy Perry does pop music like this so well; she always has. When she’s on form, she knows better than anyone how to perfectly formulate a topline that’s at once hooky and infectious and romantic and unforgettable (Slate did a fascinating deep-dive into the technical genius of this particular song back in 2014 – worth read a here).
The vocals on the verses of Teenage Dream are high and featherlight, and as she climbs down the octave in the pre-chorus it feels lush and gooey, like it’s swelling unstoppably towards one hell of a goddamn chorus. And the payoff!! The effervescent refrain is fists in the air, wind in your hair, hollering along at the top of your voice: YOU! MAKE! ME! FEELLIKEI’MLIVIN’A TEE! NAGE! DREAM! And the middle-8? Where everything feels like it goes stratospheric like a big ol’ rocket, the vocals at full pelt (“Imma get your HEAAART RACING!!!”)? Exceptional. 11/10. A++++. Robbed of each and every Grammy.
This is the kind of simplicity that makes pop cynics (and Katy Perry cynics, of which there were plenty in the early 10s) sneer and scoff, but have they come up with something that hits a sweet spot so spectacularly? Have they and their real music artistry captured the universal feeling of falling in love as irresistibly as this? Absolutely the hell not! The biggest criticism of Katy’s radio-ready pop has always been that it’s “textbook bubblegum”, but… I mean… that’s what makes it so great?! She’s proof that when you do “textbook bubblegum” right, there’s a reason why it’s gobbled up by millions and millions of people and becomes an iconic part of their lives (it was even name-checked in Maren Morris’s Song For Everything this year).
Now, nine-and-a-half years later, Teenage Dream is still a euphoric masterpiece. A career-best moment for all involved, it’s something the 2020s will have to work astronomically hard to even match – but I’m looking forward to seeing it try.