"Funny how just 10 years ago 'I Kissed a Girl' was so naughty!" says Elvis Duran, out host of New York radio station Z100. "But, in true Katy fashion, it was a groundbreaking song. Not only was it fun, the lyrics made her new fans curious to know more about her. It was bold. It was confident. It was in your face. Reaction was mixed, but it was refreshing to hear the conversations that followed."
A wave of heteronormative-defying female pop artists followed, their same-sex desires front and center on mainstream radio: sometimes widening the crack in the door (Christina Aguilera's "Not Myself Tonight" and Demi Lovato's "Cool for the Summer," both winky), and more recently, swinging the closet door wide open. But before openly bisexual performer Halsey sang a love song, "Strangers," with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui last year – and out singer-songwriter Troye Sivan mined uninhibited gay desire on "My My My!," and Hayley Kiyoko dropped her new album where she writes and sings about her real-life lesbian experiences – queer kissing in pop music circa 2008 was novelty.
"The reality is that she was in many ways pointing out the fluidity of sexual orientation in a very sugary, pop way," says Renna. "But you know what, we (didn't) talk about that at all, and the upside is always when they spark conversation. For young girls to hear something that is affirming and fun and upbeat about who they might be is a positive in my book."
During an interview in 2012, she didn't think it "appropriate" to reveal her past gay or straight experiences when asked. Reflecting on "I Kissed a Girl," Perry explained that bisexuality was "on the tip of everybody’s tongue pop culturally, even on television shows like Gossip Girl. "...It was becoming more of an accepted idea to be bi-curious and to be bisexual. The song just took it over the edge for the public in some ways, but I think that anybody who saw a confusing message in those songs ('Ur So Gay' and 'I Kissed a Girl') was either looking for a fight or taking it completely out of context."
In February, Perry noted "a couple of stereotypes in it" – if the song was released today, she told Glamour, "I would probably make an edit" – but ascribed the song's queer clichés to being written during a less-progressive time for the LGBTQ community.
"So much of it is brilliant," McKee says. "It's really just a few little colorful phrases that could've been angled just a little differently. I think there was a way to write that song where it didn't have quite as much shame infused into it, but it got everybody talking about bisexuality, and I think that is very important."
Renna agrees it blazed a significant trail for queer inclusion: "Even with problemized language here and there, it really did break ground, because at that time we were just starting to see a generation of young people coming out who were less about being put in a box."