Katy Perry’s early stuff is a particularly popular guilty pleasure as that kind of Pop goes, but even the people who swear by her Teenage Dream singles are rather divided on her very first hit. This was the song that established her career in the first place, and I’ll give it this much…like most of Perry’s early singles, it has a good, strong, singable melody. But its flaws have recently been thrown into even sharper relief by the release of Demi Lovato’s “Cool For the Summer”, a song that has almost exactly the same premise (a former wholesome teen Pop star releasing a song about light lesbian experimentation) but uses it to infinitely greater effect. For one thing, “Cool For the Summer” is genuinely erotic, whereas “I Kissed a Girl” tries so desperately to be titillating that it winds up not being sexy at all (not helped by emphasizing details like the other girl’s flavored chapstick). For another, this song seems very anxious to make sure everybody listening knows that the singer is not actually a lesbian, essentially putting a big red neon sign around it with prominent lines like “Hope my boyfriend don’t mind it”. This makes the song feel less like a legitimate stand against homophobia and more like it’s trying to exploit the sexual fascination many straight men seem to feel about the very concept of lesbianism while still insulating itself from actually portraying the singer as gay. To be fair, that information is also in “Cool For the Summer” if you listen closely, but they don’t give the impression that they’re desperate to make sure every listener notices it. The vocals also don’t help…you’ll notice that on Katy Perry’s first album, her singing is much worse than it would be on her later releases, presumably because her producers were still figuring out how the doctor her out-of-tune vocals into something listenable. All that really carries the song is the tune, and frankly, catchy as it is, it’s not as as irresistible as, say, the tune to “Hot n Cold”, so it can only do so much to counterbalance all these problems.
Verdict: Katy Perry’s certainly done worse, but I don’t think I can really call this a ‘good’ song.