While she was waiting to find a new label, Perry took a job at the independent A&R company Taxi Music to pay the bills. "I was sitting in a cube, listening to all this horrible music people had sent in and critiquing it, because I was supposed to be helping them get ahead in the music industry," she says. "Then [former Capitol president] Jason Flom called me. That day I went out for coffee and never went back."
At Capitol, Perry says she was given the freedom and autonomy she had always wanted. She started working with producer Dr. Luke and co-wrote two new tracks, "Hot N Cold" and "I Kissed a Girl." (Perry is credited as either a writer or co-writer of every track on "One of the Boys.") And once the record was done, Capitol decided to put Perry's personality and visual image front and center in its promotion efforts.
"The campaign really started in November 2007 with the release of the video for 'Ur So Gay,' " says Bob Semanovich, senior VP of A&R at Capitol. "We were going for something that was playful and fun, a way to introduce her and get people talking." The label also released a digital EP, focusing on creating online buzz rather than going straight to radio.
"I came up with the concept of the dolls in the video and wanted to make sure it was seen as a tongue-in-cheek dis track," Perry says. The over-the-top campy video shows an emo Ken doll surfing MySpace and a Barbie version of Perry engaging in trickery to seduce him. "It started getting passed around and really took off when Blender reported on it and Madonna said she liked it. I started doing some press and played a New Year's Eve show, and I think people started to wonder about me."
Even as the buzz was building, "Boys" was enduring last-minute tweaks. " 'I Kissed a Girl' almost didn't make it on," she says. "There was some concern at the top, but I just let them sit with the song and they came around. They liked it so much it became the first single."
Perry embarked on the next step of promotion in the most traditional of ways. "I did a two-month tour of radio stations," she says. "I had dinner with so many music directors. But the in-person meetings were valuable, because they helped plant a seed."
Cobb says Perry's personality was key to helping her connect with programmers. "She's so bright and outgoing," he says. "She can tap into youth culture and speak to a younger generation, which is what lots of programmers are really looking for."
As "I Kissed a Girl" began to climb the charts, the track's subject matter didn't escape the ire of critics on both the right and the left. "We were aware of the politics, and there was some concern about releasing 'Ur So Gay' and then 'I Kissed a Girl,' " Cobb says. "We had two groups that never agreed on anything both mad at us." And while Perry has yet to win over the religious right, she has attracted a strong gay following, even appearing on the cover of Out magazine.
With her song on the pop charts, Perry and her camp made the decision to embark on a very un-pop tour: the Vans Warped Tour. "We wanted to establish her as a credible performer and make sure she wasn't seen as just a one-hit wonder," Semanovich says.
"Doing the Warped tour when she had a pop hit raised some eyebrows, but it added a lot of cred," Cobb says. "She got out there and connected with a different audience and romped with the boys."