I am a big Katy Perry fan. To me she’s like a sister. I mean, she doesn’t know she’s like my sister, I’ve never met her, but in my heart she’s family. Which means that, as her biggest fan, I’m also her biggest critic. I believe Teenage Dream is one of the top 5 pop albums of my lifetime, so I was quite disappointed when her self-proclaimed “darker” third album Prism didn’t quite measure up, especially when its strongest song, “Unconditionally,” didn’t even make number one.
One of the most worrisome things for me about Katy going “dark” was the fear that her videos wouldn’t match the pure camp pop sensibility of both her previous albums, and while “Roar” was campy enough, it didn’t really have that Katy Perry fantasy about it. Enter “Dark Horse.” Definitely the proverbial dark horse for a number one chart hit, an unexpected single in itself, “Dark Horse” has delivered on all the Katy Perry promise and then some. It’s basically “California Gurls” meets “E.T.” meets the Nile.
So here’s why “Dark Horse” is the best pop video this year. And if by the end of this you’re still not convinced, then may you be smote by the scorned hand of Katy-patra (you’ll see).
See also: Katy Perry’s “Roar”: Why This Song Sucks
First, watch the video if you haven’t seen it yet. Or even if you have.
The video opens on what I can only imagine is meant to be The Nile–“Memphis, Egypt” to be exact– with Katy floating both dramatically and cartoonishly on a gilded barge. It’s as delightfully tacky as you would expect it to be. Basically, it’s perfect. Also, note that Katy Perry’s fans are “Katy Cats” and that Katy herself is a crazy cat lady (who famously named her pet cat Kitty Purry), so it makes perfect sense for her to be in Ancient Egypt where they WORSHIPPED CATS. There is very little that makes more sense than this.
We learn almost instantly that our suspicions were correct: this is not Katy Perry we’re looking at but rather her ancient Egyptian doppelganger, Katy-patra, who is not above bright blue talons, a wig with hieroglyphics stenciled on it, and melodramatic Spinx-like voguing. Two things that are essential in any good Katy video are 1) a chameleonic propensity to the art of disguise, and 2) the utmost sincerity in silly dance moves. So that box is ticked.
The premise of the video is simple: Katy-patra, endowed with some serious supernatural powers, is accepting gifts from suitors. I don’t think I need to tell you that none of them are good enough for the Queen. To quote Kanye, “I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold digger…” but she does have some serious crazy in her eye as she’s presented with a huge ass diamond .
Katy very quickly decides the diamond is bullshit and that she doesn’t want to put up with this idiot’s crap anymore, so she vanquishes him by turning him into sand. You can’t polish a turd so what’s the point in even trying?
BUT WAIT! She didn’t turn him entirely to sand, because out of his remains she procures a BEJEWELED GRILL WHICH SHE PUTS IN HER MOUTH. She literally just sifts a grill out of some dude’s ashes and starts sucking on it without even rinsing it off first. It is the most inexplicable, magnificently ridiculous moment in the entire video, and the kind of visual non-sequitur that makes me love Katy so much (don’t blame me — I grew up in the 90s where every video was just a bunch of visual non-sequiturs lumped together because everyone was just sort of like “this looks dope, brah, who cares if this avalanche of bunny rabbits has nothing to do with the band playing in the garage?”).
Speaking of things that don’t make sense, Katy is a statue for a bit, and puts all Lady Gaga’s attempted performance art and Miley Cyrus’ strategically censored nudity to absolute shame.
My second favorite part in the video is where this big fatty comes along and thinks he has a chance with Katy. He does come bearing food — which is Katy’s other favorite thing, next to cats and rubbing it into everyone’s face that she’s having sex with John Mayer on the reg — but he screws the pooch by giving her a cheeto that’s too hot for her to handle and then not having any water to soothe her burning mouth. Rookie mistake, dude.
“Dark Horse” is a great video because of the acting. Here, Katy does her best Goku., but Katy’s not the only one doing acting — her cat minion/dancers/extras don’t miss a beat with their reactions. I’m really into this guy in the top left’s “Oh deary me, this will never do!” head tilt.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet that makes this video great is the reemergence of Katy with bangs. We love Katy with bangs.
So Juicy J is in this video, and it’s OK that he’s a step down from Katy’s previous rap verse collaborations with Kanye West and Snoop Dogg. He emerges from a gold encrusted sarcophagus. He also raps the lyric “She’ll eat your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer.”
One thing Katy fans know and love about Katy is that she can’t dance, the poor babe. In one of two cuts to her dancing, you will become hypnotically endeared to her awkward white girl moves.
But then, she can do the splits. I’ve been trying to split in yoga class for the past few weeks now but I need two blocks under my ass because I’m so inflexible. Trust me, this is much harder than Katy makes it look. Also, I’d like to point out that John Mayer (JOHN MAYER. The dude with the weird necklace who writes songs about dating Taylor Swift. Yes, THAT John Mayer) is currently laughing all the way to that crotch, so if you weren’t a nihilist before now might be a good time to start.
Katy wins at standing up from a seat. Lookatdattooch!
And lastly, in the final crescendo, Katy scales to the top of a golden pyramid as the sky broils pink, and unleashes the bat signal as a mythical harpy, but not really a harpy, because harpies are gross and Katy is not. Maybe she’s a phoenix. Or maybe she’s just magic and she can do whatever the fuck she wants. Whatever — all that matters today is that none of this makes any sense, but it’s stupid fun anyway, which is what makes a truly great pop music video.