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Tune In: Feb 27, 2014

Katy Perry v. Taylor Swift

Charming female pop artists are always coming and going, always redefining what “pop” is and always duking it out with each other not only to top the charts, but also to gain the admiration of fans.

In the ’60s, Aretha Franklin and Barbra Streisand went head to head. In the ’80s, Madonna took on Whitney Houston as things began sounding a little funkier and more dance-influenced. By the time the early 2000s rolled around, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were in a deadlocked battle over who would become the greater teen pop star.

Whenever I hang out with my nine and 13-year-old cousins, the two girls make a point to inform me which artists they’re into. Usually these artists are female, and usually my cousins’ tastes reflect what is trending in American popular culture. I can discern from their opinions that two female artists in particular have been dominating modern female pop music lately.

The artists: Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

These two women match up similarly in many ways. They both have released at least three albums in the past four years, they are both currently in their 20s and, most importantly, they both have sold millions of album copies during their young careers. But which of these two women has made a bigger impression? Who “wins” the battle?

Let’s look at their differences before we answer that.

For one, Katy seems to incorporate sexuality in her song topics and music video outfits more than Taylor does. Several of her albums also contain the infamous “Parental Advisory, Explicit Content” sticker.

The song “I Kissed a Girl” is a good example of her positive and proud attitude towards her sexual identity. In songs like “California Gurls,” she sings about “sex on the beach” and “freaking in a jeep,” while the music video depicts her lying nude on a candy cloud — she depicts sexual behavior in a fun and lighthearted way.

Katy Perry could certainly be considered not only a musical icon, but a behavioral icon as well. I, unlike many, personally don’t find a problem with her singing about sex or kissing other girls because, above sexuality, she promotes the idea of being yourself. You can tell from her smile and the joyful energy in her voice that she is having a good time and enjoying herself.

In comparison, Taylor Swift represents the more traditional “good girl” image in the pop industry. Right around Katy’s release of “I Kissed a Girl,” Taylor released songs like “Fifteen,” which tells the story of an innocent high school freshman dealing with best friends and heartbreak, and “The Best Day,” the story of a young girl tormented by her friends, who finds peace in spending the day with her mother.

It’s easy to be charmed by Taylor Swift’s sweet, innocent-sounding voice and the laugh she includes in many of her songs (“Hey Stephen”). She, like Katy Perry, has an energy and joy that is infectious, and certainly makes her young listeners happy. She simply does so in a more conservative way than Katy.

Evidently, the themes and lyrical content featured in Taylor Swift and Katy Perry’s songs differ between the two artists. And the instrumentals in their music are no different; the two artists’ musical sound totally reflects their independent styles and personas.

Katy Perry’s music is far more electronic and typically sounds like something one could hear at a club. Songs like “Wide Awake” and “E.T.” feature techno-like beats and certainly facilitate a party type of atmosphere. Her songs also contain a faster-paced energy than Taylor’s, and are no doubt catchy.

But that’s not to say that Taylor’s aren’t; she just has a more acoustic and folk-like sound. “Enchanted” is a slow, romantic song that exemplifies this — I couldn’t imagine a song that would sound weirder in a club. Taylor’s songs are ideal for a nice bike ride, Sunday drive or walk through a garden.

So … who is the dominant female pop artist? I would argue Katy Perry because her instrumental sound contains more variety. They both make great music though, just music with different types of energy. In some situations I prefer T-Swift, in some I prefer Katy Perry. But that’s one of the great things about music; you don’t need to have a number one — you can have it all.

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