Few albums ever reach the giddy success achieved by Teenage Dream. With six smash singles, including five that topped the US charts, plus six million sales worldwide to date and a string of award nominations, the album was an absolute triumph for Katy Perry at a crucial point in her career.
Perry’s 2008 breakthrough, One Of The Boys, which contained her first smash single “I Kissed A Girl,” was provocative and catchy. The 12-track collection that followed it certainly created the impact she needed to launch her international career, but left people wondering if its flagship single might be hard to top.
However, Teenage Dream, released on August 24, 2010, proved that Katy had both star quality and staying power, and was more than a match for the fickle pop marketplace. Collaboration proved to be the key here, with a battalion of world-class songwriters drafted in to shape her sophomore set. True, she’d used Max Martin and Cathy Dennis to craft the hits on her breakthrough album, but this time she cast the net wider – as reflected in the diversity of songs that were glossed in a consistent, commercial sheen. The appearance of Snoop Dogg on the lead single, “California Gurls,” showcased this canny partnership approach with Snoop adding a layer of affable credibility to the sugary pop track. It made light work of the worldwide charts and topped the US Billboard listings for a fortnight.
The album’s title track was the second single and was released to radio in July 2010, a month before the release of the parent set, and followed “California Gurls” to the top of the US charts. But it was perhaps the third single, “Firework,” that truly marked Perry’s entry to pop’s premier league. A heartfelt teenage anthem that seized on empowerment themes long curated by Lady Gaga and Madonna, it became widely heralded as her best song to date. Heading straight to the top of the Billboard charts, “Firework” proved instrumental in Teenage Dream securing seven Grammy Award nominations, including the coveted Album and Record Of The Year nods.
Still, the hits kept coming. “ET” kicked off 2011 and managed five non-consecutive weeks at the top of the US singles chart with another memorable video – fast becoming another trademark for the star.
By this point, Katy was everywhere. Her kooky pop persona was accessible, but concealed a more knowing streak. Album track “Peacock,” for example, is a cheeky anthem claimed by Perry to celebrate the power of the individual, but it also supported other interpretations. After all, she had just married comedian Russell Brand… Katy’s ability to flirt with this controversy without any of Madonna’s more confrontational approach was building a huge fanbase.
Another of her tricks was to not take herself too seriously. “Last Friday Night (TGIF)” was promoted with another memorable video in which Katy looked like the girl that always gets left behind. Humorous, for certain, but maintaining the narrative about standing up for yourself, the song made chart history when it again hit the top spot in the US, giving Perry the honor of being the first female artist ever to achieve five No.1 singles in the US from a single album. Only the sixth failed to extend that extraordinary run when “The One That Got Away” made the US Top 5 – though that’s hardly a failure by anyone’s measure…
With a perfect commercial formula that sold exceptionally well, radio got behind Teenage Dream and it secured Perry’s place as a bona fide pop megastar. The album won a handful of awards – and was nominated for many more – while the California Dreams Tour carried Katy’s catalog to fans around the world and ended up being one of the highest-grossing treks of 2011.
Issued by Capitol in the US, Teenage Dream is widely regarded as a classic. Perry followed it up with Prism in 2015, earning herself another big smash, but Teenage Dream is the one we’ll still be coming back to in the decades to come. Sweet dreams were made of this, indeed…