Katy Perry had broken through big-time with her 2008 Capitol album One of the Boys. The set spawned the playfully feisty seven-week Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “I Kissed a Girl,” which, with seven weeks on top, tied the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” for the longest-reigning debut No. 1 ever released on the label, a mark that still stands.
Powered by two other top 10s, “Hot N Cold” and “Waking Up in Vegas,” Boys peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 1.7 million copies in the U.S. to date, according to Nielsen Music.
When she released her follow-up set in 2010, Perry, then 25, not only avoided the sophomore slump, but she made Hot 100 history. Teenage Dream debuted atop the Billboard 200 dated Sept. 11, 2010. By then, lead single “California Gurls,” featuring Snoop Dogg, had ruled the Hot 100 for six weeks. The title cut would begin a two-week command the following week.
Those two singles were just the beginning. “Firework” would lead the Hot 100 for four weeks, followed by “E.T.,” featuring Kanye West (five), and, in August 2011, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” (two). With the coronation of “Friday,” Perry broke a barrier: Dream became the first album by a woman to generate five Hot 100 No. 1s. It was the second set overall to earn the honor, after Michael Jackson’s Bad (1987-88). “Ever since I was 9 years old, singing into my hairbrush, I’ve dreamed very big dreams,” Perry told Billboard upon learning of the achievement. “But, today is bigger than my dreams.”
Looking back, Capitol executive VP Greg Thompson isn’t surprised by the heights that Dream hit. “From the first moment I heard the demos, I knew we had an album packed with hit singles,” he says. (Three of the set’s No. 1s were co-written by pop mastermind Max Martin; he’s penned 21 leaders to date.) “With One of the Boys, she laid the foundation that allowed Teenage Dream to make her a global superstar.”
Perry would follow Dream, which was reissued in March 2012 as Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection and recently passed 3 million in U.S. sales to date, with PRISM, which opened at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in November 2013; PRISM produced two more Hot 100 No. 1s (“Roar” and “Dark Horse,” featuring Juicy J) and has sold 1.6 million. After playing to a record audience for a halftime show at the Super Bowl Feb. 1, 2015, Perry will perform at Rock in Rio Sept. 27, with more South American dates lined up through October. She’ll return to the studio to begin a new album next year.
As for the legacy of Dream, “I think Katy gave a soundtrack to a generation and provided music that clearly defined the spirit of the American public in those years,” Thompson says. “For that reason, I think the music will always hold a special place in pop culture.”
A version of this article first appeared in the Sept. 19 issue of Billboard magazine.