Every Katy Perry song, ranked
Between 2001’s Katy Hudson and 2008’s One of the Boys, Katy Perry transformed herself into, well, Katy Perry: a bubbly pop star who traded in the Christian songs that defined her debut album for relatively edgy, sexed-up anthems. Now, nine years after releasing hit “I Kissed a Girl,” she is undeniably one of the biggest names in music. In 2015, Forbes declared her that year’s highest-paid female celebrity, putting her above other industry titans like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Beyoncé.
Her list of accomplishments includes three No. 1 albums, nine No. 1 singles, and 13 Grammy nominations for a discography that includes unabashedly silly bangers — hello, “E.T.” — plus soaring ballads and near-perfect pop songs; her oeuvre spans four albums, the most recent being this year’s Witness. This year alone, she launched the record’s accompanying world tour, hosted the MTV Video Music Awards, signed up to be a judge on American Idol’s upcoming comeback season, and teamed up with stars ranging from Nicki Minaj (“Swish Swish”) to Calvin Harris and Pharrell Williams (“Feels”).
To celebrate the singer’s 33rd birthday, EW took a look at all the solo songs Perry’s recorded under that name (sorry, Katy Hudson) and ranked them from worst to best. As Katy would say: Bon appétit, baby.
64. “Ur So Gay” (2008)
She kissed a girl and liked it. But she has a much looser and less adorable grasp on the difference between guys who actually love guys and the ones who just love H&M scarves, drive electric cars, and don’t eat meat. —Leah Greenblatt
63. “Mannequin” (2008)
Perry’s foray into easy-listening pop-punk would be fine — nothing special, but fine — if it weren’t for the uncomfortably breathy vocals she employs, each line sounding like she’s using her forced final gasps to sing about a man-turned-mannequin (points for fun wordplay, though!). —Ariana Bacle
62. “Into Me You See” (2017)
The gimmick is Perry sings the title enough and it sounds like “intimacy.” It’s like playing Mad Gab but without any of the fun. —Eric King
61. “Mind Maze” (2017)
Alternate title: “Katy Perry Discovers Auto-Tune.” —A.B.
60. “Dressin’ Up” (2012)
It’s not quite Madonna’s similarly themed “Dress You Up”… and that’s about the best one can say about Perry’s deflated take on the clothing-as-coupling lyrical device, which pulses with a cheap, four-on-the-floor chorus straight out of 2008, which sounded like an antiquity even back in 2012. —Joey Nolfi
59. “Power” (2017)
“Hell hath no fury like a woman reborn,” Perry growls on this slinking throwback, an admirable effort in her Purposeful Pop canon but one that ultimately falls flat — though its “Careless Whisper”-style sax line does add a bit of sultry, ‘80s flair that elevates an otherwise bland anthem. —A.B.
58. “Who Am I Living For?” (2010)
Ominous and synth-heavy, this Teenage Dream cut sees Perry addressing her religious upbringing without ever coming to a neat conclusion. It’d be perfect for the soundtrack of a dystopian teen movie but doesn’t quite fit in on Teenage Dream. —A.B.
57. “Choose Your Battles” (2013)
A bonus track from Prism, “Choose Your Battles” is about the compromises and feeling of resignation that come at the end of a relationship you wish wasn’t ending. Although it has a good hook and a military-style drumbeat in the chorus, it’s ultimately one of the weaker entries in Perry’s oeuvre of empowering tracks. —Dana Schwartz
56. “Spiritual” (2013)
Similes soar on “Spiritual,” which comes as the first bonus track on the deluxe edition of Prism. Co-written by boyfriend-at-the time John Mayer, it makes sense that the relationship makes her feel as if she is floating given her comments on his sexual prowess. Still, the song never really elevates past the vibe of a ’90s high school movie where the protagonist passes a crush in the hallway and time slows down as they make eye contact and walk past each other. —Joshua Glicksman
55. “Bigger Than Me” (2017)
“Bigger Than Me” follows “Bon Appétit” on Witness, and the effort makes it feel like Perry didn’t want to put two of the biggest hits on the album next to one another. The message here is totally vague, though it’s rumored to be about the 2016 election. Whatever it is, she’s both a grain of sand and an oxygen-fueled robot in a track that features an ending sounding like Daft Punk let their cousins play with some equipment. —J.G.
54. “Pendulum” (2017)
Gospel choirs can work to powerful effect on pop songs, but here, the flurry of soulful voices sounds like a last-minute add-on rather than a necessary collaboration. —A.B.
53. “Circle the Drain”
Perry’s mad as hell at a lover whose addictions are spiraling out of control, complaining that she wants to be “your lover, not your f—ing mother.” Unfortunately, though, the Teenage Dream track is less angsty alternative and more Thursday night karaoke. —Nick Maslow
52. “Every Day Is a Holiday” (2015)
If anyone can make a song to compete with Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You,” it’s Katy Perry. Hopefully she’ll try again after releasing this lackluster holiday song for an H&M campaign in 2015. —N.M.
51. “I’m Still Breathing” (2008)
Katy Perry leaves the gas on, falls asleep with burning candles, and runs red lights in an apparent attempt to gain attention from a lover. Hint: That’s probably not the best way to win back a love interest. May I suggest spending that time taking a fire safety course with Smokey the Bear instead? —J.G.
50. “Rise” (2016)
The empowerment anthem delivered an inspiring video montage for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio; outside of that, it lacks the pop-heavy, radio-suited quality that allowed “Roar” to thrive. —J.G.
49. “A Cup of Coffee” (2008)
Though it’s set to an upbeat pop backing track, “A Cup of Coffee” is unrelentingly dark. It’s not surprising that the song, about fantasizing about an overdose to get over an ex-lover, was an unreleased bonus track on Perry’s debut, One of the Boys. —D.S.
48. “Pearl” (2010)
This slow-burner about a tough woman being brought down by a loser guy feels fit for a rip-off of a Disney movie — dramatic and full of encouraging lyrics like “You’re the one that rules your world,” but too generic to make a mark. —A.B.
47. “Love Me” (2013)
Perry’s desired message here is a strong one, though it’s not enough to make the track as a whole work. It’s really difficult to focus on the rest of the song after she pronounces “seasonally” as a three-syllable word. Even though there’s always hope for her to learn the correct pronunciation as the song continues, spoiler alert: no such luck. —J.G.
46. “Witness” (2017)
Perry’s most socially conscious album to date, Witness packages powerful statements in infectious melodies. She should have left off this title track, which features cliché lyrics about humans “looking for connection.” —N.M.
45. “Tsunami” (2017)
If there’s one thing in this world we’re certain of, it’s that Katy Perry loves a metaphor — and it doesn’t have to be a good one. But even a throbbing low end and rubber-band synths can’t keep her clunky lyrics from sinking on this one. —Madison Vain
44. “It Takes Two” (2013)
Surprisingly not a cover of the classic Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock jam, Perry’s “It Takes Two” sounds like a cross between a Kelly Clarkson B-side and the closing credits song for an ’80s movie starring Andrew McCarthy — but not as good as either. —Christopher Rosen
43. “Miss You More” (2017)
On this Witness ballad, Perry sings of missing the idea of someone more than the actual person. Co-written with electro-pop hipster duo Purity Ring, the idea of this song is probably better than the real thing, too. —Nolan Feeney
42. “Dance With the Devil” (2017)
Filled with drops and A$AP Rocky-type voice effects, the Witness bonus track gives an outsider a look into the inner monologue of the battle between Katy Perry and Katheryn Hudson. The song hits with its powerful message, but lacks the catchy lyrics to have listeners putting the song on loop. —J.G.
41. “One of the Boys” (2008)
It’s a nice attempt at something Letters to Cleo would have produced in the ’90s, with a good-enough chorus and a not-great message. Perry is basically saying she was a tomboy and then she turned 17 and started reading Lolita and shaving her legs and all of the sudden her crush started to want her. So, yeah, teen girls, if you err on the side of hyper-femininity, boys will like you! —E.K.
40. “This Moment” (2013)
Wouldn’t it be better if this were just “St. Elmo’s Fire”? Katy Perry’s stab at creating an ’80s soundtrack song just misses the mark. —C.R.
39. “Legendary Lovers” (2013)
KP goes full yogi mystic in her slinky ode to auras and mantras and a man (probably Brand) who apparently really knows how to locate her root chakra. —L.G.
38. “Fingerprints” (2008)
Ashlee Simpson meets Paramore on this moody album closer, an ode to being “different” — “I want to break the mold, I want to break the stereotype” — straight out of the early 2000s, but Perry doesn’t break any molds herself here. —A.B.
37. “Peacock” (2010)
In the pantheon of stupid lyrics and inane hooks, this ode to “magical, colorful” penis is easily the most problematic, tic, tic in Katy’s over-the-top oeuvre. —Marc Snetiker
36. “I Think I’m Ready” (2008)
It may take you a few seconds here to realize that you’re not listening to the xx’s “VCR.” With that being said, it’s a refreshingly effortless song that is emblematic of the love she seeks in its lyrics. The feel of the song is one that we don’t often see from Perry, yet shines in its simplicity. —J.G.
35. “Ghost” (2013)
“You send a text, it’s like the wind changed your mind,” Perry sings at the start of “Ghost,” a ridiculous lyric that makes you feel like a plastic bag. The song about lost love turns into a banger by its Big Finish, but being buried in the middle of the interminably long Prism does it no favors when it comes to Perry’s general oeuvre. Like a ghost, it’s easy to forget “Ghost” exists. —C.R.
34. “Déjà Vu” (2017)
Perry touted her new era as one of “purposeful pop,” and she made good on that promise shortly after. The electro-R&B fusion “Déjà Vu,” which dropped earlier this year in advance of the full Witness release, sees the pop star looking in with an unfamiliar but welcome heft as she considers the fatigue of a dead-end relationship. —M.V.
33. “E.T.” feat. Kanye West (2011)
*Somebody* scored on intergalactic Tinder; Perry’s lover from another dimension is a supernatural extraterrestrial with a cosmic kiss, a foreign touch, and a laser stunner. According to Kanye, he also has a probe, which sounds… invasive. —L.G.
32. “Thinking of You” (2008)
Alanis Morissette used to be one of Perry’s biggest influences— early collaborator Glen Ballard co-wrote and produced Jagged Little Pill — and that is clearer than ever here. The problem is, angst-ridden emoting doesn’t come naturally to Perry, making this entire song feel forced. —A.B.
31. “Hummingbird Heartbeat” (2010)
There are plenty of animals that could be seen as “sexy”: Cheetahs! Wolves! Snakes, sometimes! A hummingbird is not one of them, yet that’s the creature Perry chooses to represent her yearnings on this Teenage Dream cut. The trick is to forget that the lyrics use honey as a stand-in for another sticky substance and enjoy it for the cutesy pop song it is. —A.B.
30. “Self Inflicted” (2008)
Katy Perry, is that you? We hardly recognize the pop star’s voice in this forgettable track. —N.M.
29. “Lost” (2008)
A surprisingly bleak portrait of party-girl heartache (“I’m out on my own again/Face down in the porcelain”) from 2008’s One of the Boys — and early proof of how powerful a quieter, more vulnerable Katy could be. —L.G.
28. “Roulette” (2017)
One of the best songs on Perry’s Witness, “Roulette” packs a throbbing beat and rollercoaster of a chorus that transport you to a 1980s L.A. dance club. “Big city lights got me flirting with fire,” sings a confident Perry, capturing the excitement felt by anyone who has ever put it all on the line for love. —N.M.
27. “Walking on Air” (2013)
“Walking on Air” is perhaps the best pairing of Perry’s featherweight vocals with spot-on throwback production, here channeling the unwaveringly upbeat stylings of ‘90s dance music in the vein of CeCe Peniston and La Bouche. —J.N.
26. “Dark Horse” feat. Juicy J (2013)
Okay, so Juicy J’s rhyme of “karma” and “Jeffrey Dahmer” is a groaner, even in Perry’s pantheon of groaners. But Perry hasn’t released a jam this infectious since — the 2013 Prism highlight is her most recent Hot 100 No. 1 single — and the trap-pop gem, helmed by Dr. Luke and Max Martin, may mark the last time she truly had her finger on pop’s pulse. —Eric Renner Brown
25. “Unconditionally” (2013)
Syllabic phrasing aside, this anthem doesn’t quite soar, but certainly gets some major height thanks to a nifty message of openness and a catchy (if simple) titular refrain. —M.S.
24. “Save As Draft” (2017)
The song — about wanting to reconnect with an old boyfriend who might be named John Mayer, starting to text them, and then not out of fear of getting hurt again — feels relevant and poignant. The actual text though includes awkward phrasing like, “You don’t have to subtweet me.” You should have kept this one in the drafts folder, honey. —E.K.
23. “By the Grace of God” (2013)
It’s easy to forget that Perry was raised by two pastor parents and got her start in the business with Christian music, but she merges her past and her present to gorgeous effect on “By the Grace of God,” a sweeping, thoughtful ballad about a time when Perry thought she couldn’t go on — and how she moved forward. —A.B.
22. “Hey Hey Hey” (2017)
Perry is at her confident, ridiculous peak here, dubbing herself “Marilyn Monroe in a monster truck,” pointing out women can be feminine and tough. It’s playful enough to be a radio hit — who knew “You think that I am fragile like a Fabergé” would be so fun to sing along to? — but also packs a punch, partly thanks to co-writer Sia. —A.B.
21. “International Smile” (2013)
If Perry’s Prism era had you missing Teenage Dream‘s ridiculously infectious melodies and subtle rock vibes, this ode to the inspiring globetrotter gave you a “one-way ticket” to pop bliss. —N.M.
20. “This is How We Do” (2013)
Straight stuntin’, sippin’ on rosé, rolling out the clique for tacos from La Super Rica in her Maserati: This is how she do, on any given Sunday (slash-Tuesday-Thursday-that other Sunday). But hey: It’s No. Big. Deal. —L.G.
19. “Bon Appétit” feat. Migos (2017)
Tie your bib tight: Perry transforms into a “buffet” you can “eat with your hands.” Taking the double entendres to another level, she hopes you “got some room for the world’s best cherry pie”! A fun trap-pop effort that became a staple of summer 2017, Witness‘ Migos-assisted second single is a delicious appetizer. —N.M.
18. “Double Rainbow” (2013)
You’d be forgiven for thinking that “Double Rainbow” referred to some kind of sex act from the hollows of Urban Dictionary given the way Perry tends to hit listeners over the head with her metaphorical big balloons. Instead, this dreamy synth-pop ode to finding the love of your life — co-written by Sia and Adele whisperer Greg Kurstin — is as pure and stunning as its title implies. —N.F.
17. “Chained to the Rhythm” feat. Skip Marley (2017)
Grab a co-write from Sia, enlist a member of the legendary Marley family, dance-dance-dance to the distortion, repeat until this midtempo blast of sonic sunshine and sly social commentary gets its hooks in. —L.G.
16. “Act My Age” (2017)
It’s a shame this song was banished to the land of Target-exclusive bonus tracks: Its baby-oil-slick disco groove makes it one of Witness’ more effortless bops. Yet this celebration of marching to your own drum is also the perfect response to anyone doubting Perry’s pop star prowess following Witness’ less-than-stellar reviews. “They’ll say that I might lose my Midas touch/They’ll also say I may become irrelevant,” Perry sings before adding, “But who the f— are ‘they’ anyway?” It’s such a satisfying kiss-off, you’ll want to flip the bird in solidarity. —N.F.
15. “The One That Got Away” (2010)
Wistful and heartfelt, “The One That Got Away” sees Perry drop witty wordplay and innuendos in favor of pure vulnerability as she fantasizes about what could have been and laments a sweet, reckless romance gone by. —A.B.
14. “Part of Me” (2012)
Despite rumors, “Part of Me” is not about Perry’s divorce from Russell Brand: She wrote the song — which made its debut on 2012’s Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection — in 2010, long before their 2012 split. But imagining a connection between the two makes the fist-pumping goodbye to a love gone wrong even more powerful, a glowing light at the end of a breakup. Although “Roar” and “Firework” get all the glory in the pantheon of Perry empowerment anthems, “Part of Me” belongs right there with them. —A.B.
13. “I Kissed a Girl” (2008)
Less legit LGBTQ anthem than bi-curious toe dip, Perry’s early smash still became a pop-culture sensation, and had enough winky cherry-Chapstick charm to earn her her first trip to the top of the Hot 100 — for seven straight (so to speak) weeks, no less. —L.G.
12. “If You Can Afford Me” (2008)
Katy knows she’s a catch, and she’s not tip-toeing around it on this wonderfully confident One of the Boys entry, a track that better represents Perry’s early, pop-punk-leaning sensibilities — let’s not forget she went on the road with Vans Warped Tour that year — than any of the album’s singles. Plus, the Cure-style solo at minute 2 is totally the crème de la crop. —A.B.
11. “Wide Awake” (2012)
Even pop’s whipped cream princess hits a rough patch sometimes; a deeply unpretty split from then-husband Russell Brand inspired this open-eyed tumble from Teenage Dream’s giddy cotton-candy high. —L.G.
10. “Swish Swish” feat. Nicki Minaj (2017)
Let the gay yo-yos fly! Witness’ saving grace is a vogue-worthy tribute to ‘90s house music, complete with hissing hi-hats, endearingly goofy lyrics (“Don’t need opinions from a shellfish or a sheep”), and a two-part Nicki Minaj guest verse that’s as gag-worthy as a surprise wig reveal on Drag Race. Is this song about her feud with Taylor Swift? You know what is what. But when a song’s this much fun, who even cares? —N.F.
9. “Not Like the Movies” (2010)
Beyond the fireworks, whipped cream bras, and close consensual encounters with the third kind lies Teenage Dream’s most understated — and underrated — song. Perry writes a lot about finding a fairy-tale-esque, once-in-a-lifetime kind of love, but never as beautifully as she did here. In seeking something “cinematic and dramatic with the perfect ending,” she delivers a song that fulfills her every criterion. They say you know when you know, and you will too by the end of this song: “Not Like the Movies” is Katy Perry’s best ballad. —N.F.
8. “California Gurls” (2010)
The Santa Barbara native called “California” an answer to JAY-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” but her sticky-sweet popsicle melter paid tribute to more than just the sun-kissed ladies of the Golden State; the song’s spelling was reportedly tweaked last-minute to honor late Big Star frontman Alex Chilton and his college-rock classic “September Gurls.” —L.G.
7. “Last Friday Night (TGIF)” (2010)
An entire SparkNotes catalog of ‘80s teen-movie shenanigans (hickeys, hangovers, partygoers passed out in the yard) distilled into four giddy, sax-y minutes of morning-after recall. —L.G.
6. “Birthday” (2013)
This one’s a throwback in more than one way: The infectious Prism cut has a disco vibe that makes you dance, while the concept of being someone’s gift on their special day — plus that breathy “happy birthday” line in the refrain — calls to mind Marilyn Monroe’s iconic performance at President John F. Kennedy’s famed celebration in 1962. —Nick Maslow
5. “Firework” (2010)
The most enduring anthem of the It–Gets–Better pop era is a song so massive and so explosive that when Perry performed it at the climax of her Super Bowl halftime show — flying in the air, literally shooting flames, and transforming herself into a meme in the process — for once it didn’t feel over the top; it felt worthy. (And she gets bonus points for referencing American Beauty.) —N.F.
4. “Waking Up in Vegas” (2008)
What happens in Vegas — glitter bombs, gambling, shotgun weddings, showgirls — stays on the record, the better to give Katy a fourth and final top-10 One of the Boys single. —L.G.
3. “Roar” (2013)
Perry’s call to find the self-esteem lion inside reached beyond her Katycats to a legion of listeners who clearly heeded her command: The Max Martin-Dr. Luke banger shot to the top of the Hot 100 and earned its she-Tarzan video a platinum membership in the rare billion-plus YouTube click club. —L.G.
2. “Hot N Cold” (2008)
Dragging an indecisive dude with a flawless insult-comic opening couplet — “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes/You PMS like a bitch, I would know” — and a beat almost too bouncy for Zumba class, Perry delivered one of pop’s drollest diss tracks. —L.G.
1. “Teenage Dream” (2010)
All the contact-high euphoria of falling in love for the first time (sex, connection, skintight jeans) minus the awkward bits of being an actual adolescent (zits, insecurity, curfew) in one pure, radiant blast of let’s-go-all-the-way-tonight bliss. —L.G.