A DECADE OF POP: CALIFORNIA GURLS
Exactly 10 years ago, ‘California Gurls’ - the song that was going to become the summer anthem for generations to come - was released as the lead single for Katy Perry’s second studio album ‘Teenage Dream’.
The track - produced by Dr Luke, Benny Blanco and Max Martin - incorporated mid-tempo disco-pop and funk-pop influences, matching them with Snoop Dogg’s verses in a cheerful ode to the state of California and its ‘gurls’. In the US, the record peaked at the number-one spot for six consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, but it soon became a worldwide success, reaching the first spot in 10 more countries.
However, the song grew even more popular with the music video that accompanied it, which many consider a moment in pop culture. The clip was unexpectedly filmed in a studio filled with candies and sweets, rather than the ‘Golden beach’ mentioned in the song: in fact, the singer told MTV that she wanted to create a whole different (and edible) world where California Gurls could be the stars. Thus ‘Candyfornia’ was born.
In the music video, Katy is a game piece venturing through the colourful paths of the board game to save several women held captive by ‘Sugar Daddy’ (Snoop Dogg). Like the curious Alice in Wonderland, Katy is intrigued by all the candy-like nature surrounding her - such as ice creams, cloudy cotton candy and lollipops - as she has to overcome the many obstacles thrown at her, but particularly the mean gummy bears. There were many references to California, such as Sunset Boulevard, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Sign and the West Coast beach.
The flashy costumes and extravagant wigs became part of the 2010s pop music culture and a source of inspiration, with fans even recreating their favourite looks: throughout the clip, Katy is seen with various outfits starting from the one made out of candies with a light purple wig. This one was the preferred costume for both kids and young adults to wear for a themed party or even Halloween. It became a trend on the Internet and is still now referenced in beauty and design tutorials. The other two big looks were the glitter shorts with a ‘cupcake-made top’ - which raised some critics because of their inappropriate placement - and the red Wonder Woman-like costume. These retro aesthetics were also used for the album cover, promotional posters and live performances. Those looks surely were sexy and cute at the same time, but they reflected the ‘Fine, fresh, fierce’ attitude of Californian women. For instance, many TV shows and movies offer cameos of the popular looks seen in the music video, such as Glee (season 2).
After a decade, the song remains a classic in pop music and it may have some competition incoming, as Katy Perry is set to release the lead single for her fifth untitled studio album, ‘Daisies’, this week.
Words By Gennaro Costanzo
Graphics by Georgia Walters