Katy Perry and Fantasia Heading for Top of Billboard 200
Katy Perry and Fantasia Heading for Top of Billboard 200

For her part, Perry says she wanted "Teenage Dream" to have more tempo than "One of the Boys" in order to make her live show more dynamic. "I really love going to shows where I'm sandwiched between people, and you don't know if the sweat on you is yours or the person's next to you," she says. "I love that feeling, and when I was on tour I would see that I was missing that a bit."

Anokute reteamed Perry with serial hitmakers Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald and Max Martin, who made sure "Teenage Dream" bounced as much as rocked. "Katy definitely knows what she wants and doesn't want," says Gottwald, whose five credited songs include "Gurls," "Teenage Dream" and the celestial hip-hop track "E.T.," which he'd originally intended for Three 6 Mafia. "She has an amazing voice, great taste and she makes great videos. It's nice to work with an artist who can deliver your music so well."

"We really went for a feel-good '80s vibe" on "Teenage Dream," says Benny Blanco, who worked with Gottwald and Martin on the title track as well as "Gurls." "Katy is such a star on this album. She's molding her own lane like Play-Doh, and people are going to have to follow."

"I love what I get out of them," Perry says of Gottwald and his cohorts. "It's just pure, unabashed pop, and they definitely have the Midas touch when it comes to radio."

Perry also found new collaborators in Stargate and Christopher "Tricky" Stewart. Stewart produced "What Am I Living For," "Hummingbird Heartbeat" and "Circle the Drain," a Pat Benatar-inspired number about Perry's ex-boyfriend, Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy. (She's now engaged to British comedian Russell Brand.) "It's kind of like my 'You Oughta Know' Alanis Morissette moment," says Perry, who sounds unusually candid on "Drain," singing, "You fall asleep during foreplay/'Cause the pills you take, I know your forte/I'm not sticking around to watch you go down."

Stargate helmed two more songs with the potential to match "California Gurls" in anthem status: the epic, orchestral "Fireworks" and the ridiculous, phallus-fetishizing "Peacock," which should soon claim a place next to Toni Basil's "Mickey" and Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" with its girl-power cheerleader chants. "It's just a silly play on words," Perry says with a laugh. "Peacock: It's an obvious innuendo, and I love an obvious innuendo."

Even among all these superstar producers and songwriters, Perry says she stood her ground creatively from start to finish. "I'm in the studio fighting with them to change the melody, or I'm fighting for the best lyric at all times," she says. "I think we rewrote 'Teenage Dream' five times for 10 days straight. On the last day, I was so happy to finally get somewhere that we all agreed on."

"She felt the pressure on this second record as any artist would, but she didn't panic," says Bradford Cobb, Perry's manager. "She just reminded herself, 'I know who I am, and this is the kind of record I'm going to make.' "

PUSHING BUTTONS

If radio embraces "Peacock" despite its risque content, it will be in part because Perry already proved with "I Kissed a Girl" that she can sell sexual taboos with the best of them.

"Nobody [at the label] believed in the record," Anokute recalls of "I Kissed a Girl." "They said, 'Who's going to play this in the Bible Belt?' Our head of top 40 radio, Dennis Reese, was the one that made everybody believe. At that point, we just had to put it out because Katy was on her way to getting dropped again."

It would have been the fourth time for Perry, who was previously signed and let go by Columbia, Island Def Jam and Red Hill Records, a now-defunct gospel label through which Perry released a Christian album under her real name, Katy Hudson.

"I used to just feel numb," Perry recalls of her early struggles. "It was like taking a kid to Disneyland and then making them wait outside. The people just wouldn't let me through the gates -- what could I do?"

Anokute was introduced to Perry by publicist Angelica Cob-Baehler, and the two persuaded Capitol's then-chairman/CEO Jason Flom to sign her "for cheap . . . it was a really bad deal because she'd been dropped, so it's not like we were going to give her a huge advance," he recalls.

Most of "One of the Boys" was finished by then, but because Perry was still missing a radio hit, Anokute says Flom sought out Gottwald, who had worked with her before. "Because we paid [Gottwald] significantly and Katy did a deal with him, he was basically incentivized to work with her again, and the rest is history."

"I knew that song would open up doors, but I also knew that it wasn't going to make me a critics' favorite," Perry says of her breakout single. The blessing and curse sticks with her two years later. Even as Perry continues to rack up hits-all of which she has co-written, and many of which she has conceived, "California Gurls" included-it's safe to say that Perry isn't thought to be as self-directed as Lady Gaga, who endows her every move with the air of performance art.

"Katy's smart enough to realize that she's perceived, perhaps, without the weight of someone like Gaga," says producer/songwriter Greg Wells, who met Perry when she was 19 and helped work on much of "One of the Boys," including "Ur So Gay," "Waking Up in Vegas" and "Thinking of You." "She's happy to have things swing a little more to the entertainer side."

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