Katy Perry’s ‘American Idol’ Acceptance Suggests A Country Music Career Shift

You may have heard that, earlier this week, Katy Perry signed on to be a judge in the upcoming reboot of American Idol. The move is huge for Perry’s public image in a lot of ways, but it also suggests Katy is preparing to go through some big changes: an embrace of her more innocent Christian roots and quite possibly a transition to country music instead of straight-up pop.

That Perry judging on American Idol points to a major toning-down of her raunchy public persona might seem a bit far-fetched, especially given the racy new-age feel of her newly released single “Bon Appetit,” but Vanity Fair makes a fantastic argument. They point out that musical artist American Idol judges have traditionally fallen into one of two categories. One is artists at the end of their careers who want to prolong their celebrity spotlight a little longer; the article gives the examples of Jennifer Lopez and Mariah Carey.

The other is artists who are going through a career reinvention.

One example of this is Lady Gaga. She was a straight pop artist before she judged on American Idol, and the show marked the point where she transitioned from a pop star to a country musician. Rolling Stone wrote last month that Gaga is now strutting around in outfits adorned with American flags and releasing collaborations with country music’s best, perhaps in preparation for her upcoming role in A Star is Born, a movie entwined with country music.

Another example of an American Idol judge who promptly reinvented her career is Miley Cyrus. After judging, her music became a lot more innocent. The Vanity Fair piece Miley “is all wedding rings and virginal white” in her new single, “Malibu.” The video contains a lot of redemptive imagery and the song also has a definite country twang.

Katy Perry is now joining the ranks of American Idol musical artist judges, so which of the two camps will she fall into? Well, it seems highly doubtful she is getting ready to wrap up her career. Katy Perry is more popular than ever, and she just released details about her upcoming album Witness.

That leaves the possibility that Perry wants to go through a musical reinvention, which seems very likely. Katy has been in the PR doghouse the past few months thanks to a few unsuccessful singles like “Chained to the Rythym” and “Bon Appetit” combined with a few unfortunately publicized racial remarks (one at Uproxx and one at The Inquisitr). She responded by getting a radical new hairdo, another Inquisitr report noted, but maybe she also feels it is time for change on a larger scale.

A departure into the country genre and the more down home, innocent image being portrayed by Miley Cyrus would actually make a lot of sense given Perry’s personal history; she grew up in a devoutly Christian household and began her career as a Christian gospel singer going by her given name, Katy Hudson. Since then, and much to the displeasure of her family, Perry has gone very mainstream and gotten more risque in her music and videos than she ever thought she would growing up. It would make perfect sense if she were to transition to country, a musical genre The Guardian points out is often associated (at least superficially) with Christianity and more conservative American values. Plus, Perry performed a duet with country music legend Dolly Parton in April of 2016.

Dolly Parton and Katy Perry at the 51st Academy of Country Music Awards. [Image by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]

Even the title of Perry’s upcoming album, Witness, suggests a return to her Christian roots; the word is often associated with biblical imagery.

The move to American Idol is attractive to Perry for more immediate reasons, too. Firstly, reports ABC, she will be making $10-15 million. That’s quite a sum for one TV season. Second, it will be great for Katy Perry’s public image to be on such a highly-rated TV show every week. Third, being on a show that is coming back after so long in itself suggests a return to the pop culture scene, both in terms of a career reinvention and in more general headline-grabbing terms.

What two celebrities would you like to see sit beside Katy Perry to judge American Idol? Make your voice heard in the comments below.

[Featured image by Rich Fury/Getty Images]

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