Witness is Katy Perry's fifth studio album that was released on June 9, 2017 by Capitol Records.
- Witness 4:11
- Hey Hey Hey 3:35
- Roulette 3:19
- Swish Swish (featuring Nicki Minaj) 4:03
- Déjà Vu 3:18
- Power 3:47
- Mind Maze 4:08
- Miss You More 3:54
- Chained To The Rhythm (featuring Skip Marley) 3:58
- Tsunami 3:23
- Bon Appétit (featuring Migos) 3:48
- Bigger Than Me 4:01
- Save As Draft 3:49
- Pendulum 4:00
- Into Me You See 4:24
Following the release of her fourth album, "Prism" in 2013 and the end of the Prismatic World Tour in October 2015, Katy Perry told The New York Times in February 2016 that she was in the "research and development phase" of a new album.
She decided to take a hiatus after the tour concluded to "give my mental health a break" before starting to write new songs the following June.
Perry felt "refreshed" after the hiatus, and had over 40 tracks "in progress" before the year ended.
In August, she stated that she aspired to make material "that connects and relates and inspires" and told Ryan Seacrest that she was "not rushing" her fifth album, adding "I'm just having a lot of fun, but experimenting and trying different producers, and different collaborators, and different styles."
The album marked a departure from long time producer and co-writer Dr. Luke. In February 2017, Perry stated that the album was "definitely a new era for me" and "an era of purposeful pop" she was proud of.
Later that month, Perry told Capital FM that "I've got something swirling, but I think I want to put out some songs first before I give them the full meal."
The following May, she revealed to Entertainment Weekly that the album would include 15 of the 40 songs she wrote for it, and described the record as "fun and dance-y and dark and light."
Musically, "Witness" is an electropop album with a diversity of sounds and musical aspects.
As analyzed by Annie Zaleski from The A.V. Club, the hooks are in short supply, replaced by grooves and atmosphere that pick and choose elements from 1990s house music, mainstream EDM, electro-tinged hip-hop, and 1980s new wave.
The title track "Witness" is an electronic song backed by a 1990s house piano.
"Hey Hey Hey" asserts that women can be complex people with a multitude of personality traits, as noted by Annie Zaleski from The A.V. Club, the song depicts a narrow version of femininity and success and it perpetuates irksome stereotypes about strong women.
"Roulette" is an EDM song described as "explosive" by Christopher R. Weingarten from Rolling Stone.
"Swish Swish" runs throughout a house-influenced beat and contains a sample from "Star 69" by Fatboy Slim (which itself samples "I Get Deep" by Roland Clark).
"Déjà Vu" is "an electro-R&B ballad about wanting to free oneself from a dead-end relationship."
"Power" explores a theme of self empowerment, Jillian Males from Pitchfork noted that the song "approximates feminism by politicizing a personal struggle for control."
"Witness" debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 with 180,000 album-equivalent units (which included 162,000 pure album sales), becoming Perry's third number-one album to top the chart.
According to Billboard, it was the eighth-highest performing album of the 2017 summer season in the United States, earning 431,000 album-equivalent units by September 2017.
As of January 2018, "Witness" has sold more than 840,000 copies worldwide.
At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, "Witness" received an average score of 52, based on 19 reviews, which indicates "mixed or average reviews".
Wren Graves from Consequence of Sound gave the album a rating of C. He listed "Swish Swish", "Power", and "Déjà Vu" as essential tracks, but felt that most of the other songs were more of a "filler," and that a lack of cohesiveness with Perry's output made Witness inferior to her previous material.
Kevin O'Donnell of Entertainment Weekly gave it a B rating stating, "Perry is reflective, anxious, and fired up on Witness," highlighting "Déjà Vu" and "Swish Swish" as the best tracks.
USA Today's Maeve McDermott commended the album for being "sonically coherent" and noted it as a personal record, rather than the politically charged marketing campaign it had received.
Hannah J. Davies of The Guardian gave the album a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, writing that Perry "still has a flair for tunes that quickly seep into the collective consciousness" and praised "Swish Swish" as "a house-fuelled banger with undeniable groove," though felt that "Perry's heartfelt ballads feel tacked on in the face of all this weirdness."
Leonie Cooper from NME gave it the same rating and noted that the album did not display any subtlety in the music, complimenting it for "[delivering] important messages about female autonomy to a young audience, it's surely better to shout than whisper."
Idolator's Mike Wass also gave Witness a score of 4 out of 5. He did not feel it had "introspection or maturity," though praised "Miss You More" as "the kind of brutally honest anthem that Katy isn't given enough credit for," and dubbed it "the album's emotional core." Wass concluded that "Witness might be overly ambitious and is definitely a couple of songs too long, but dance-pop experiments don't come much more enjoyable than this."
Giving Witness 3 out of 5 stars, Christopher R. Weingarten wrote in Rolling Stone that it was comparable to the music of Halsey and Camila Cabello, and that the songs blended "into the rest of the radio." He also did not like how Perry's voice was "devoured in effects and reverb."
Sal Cinquemani gave the same score, praising the empowerment themes within "Hey Hey Hey" and "Power", though ultimately felt that the record "lacks both the big hooks that propelled Perry's past hits up the charts and the conceptual and sonic focus to give her pop real purpose."
AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album 2 out of 5 stars, saying it felt "relentless and a shade desperate" and called the record "a conceptual muddle." He added that Witness "erodes whatever adult contemporary progress Perry made with Prism."
The Daily Telegraph journalist Neil McCormick gave "Witness" the same rating, and panned the usage of the term "purposeful pop" for the songs.
He found the album to be musically repetitive, explaining that within the multitude of people working on the record, Perry's "individual talent" was lost making "Witness [sound like] someone trying to cover too many bases."
Writing for The Independent, Andy Gill also rated the record 2 out of 5 stars. He criticized the production of the tracks, especially the ones by Max Martin, describing them as "identical to everyone else's."
Mikael Wood from the Los Angeles Times shared a similar view in his analysis of the album. He was critical of the musical direction on the album, the supposed "purposeful pop" being lost in the tracks and Perry's singing. He listed "Chained to the Rhythm" and "Swish Swish" as highlights.
According to Jordan Sargent from Spin, the record "feels like it's making a bid for a level of artistic seriousness—a recognition of aesthetic vision—that Perry has never really been afforded." He felt that it indicated her "artillery of undeniable pop songs" had been "all but depleted."
Variety writer Chris Willman did not feel album was "the kind of obvious smash to which all of America would plainly say: Baby, you're a firework," but asserted it "counts at least as a sparkler — the kind you hold in your hand for 45 seconds in the summer, if not the enduring."