The Hit Songs Deconstructed Wire

More so than any single that Katy Perry has ever released, Roar was by far the most important and carried the most weight on its shoulders.

Why? Not only did it have to live up to the massive success of Teenage Dream, but it also needed to perfectly bridge the old with the new, satiating the expectations of her core Teenage Dream fanbase while at the same time breaking the mold to allow her to exercise her new creative vision and more mature direction.

To help achieve this, Perry once again collaborated with a who’s who of today’s top hitmakers including Bonnie McKee, Cirkut, Dr. Luke and Max Martin to craft an undeniable hit that would thrust her back to the top of the charts and set the scene for things to come on her forthcoming album, Prism. It was certainly no easy task, but one that the writers pulled off in grand fashion.

To date, Roar has landed in the top 10 on 42 charts throughout the world and hit #1 on 19.

Below we’re going to take a look at 10 of the song’s MANY compositional strengths that helped launch Katy Perry back to the top of the charts.

  1. Roar possesses many compositional characteristics that are in line with the #1 hits from Teenage Dream (i.e. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!), while at the same time differing in key areas that took her artistry in a new direction without alienating her core audience. In other words, Roar was the perfect “bridge” single.
  2. Roar utilizes multiple “Roaring” elements throughout the song in a very clever manner. This includes the dark, foreboding manner in which it was conveyed via the synth bass progression within the verse and pre-chorus sections, it’s “empowered” nature via the electric guitar within the chorus, the manner in which it brought the song to a “Roaring” climax via Perry’s vocal within the bridge as well as the pronged manner in which she sings it within the chorus.
  3. The listener is provided with multiple “payoffs” within the song, including the lyrical and musical payoff in chorus part A, the fun, audience participation primed sing-along “o-o-o-ar, o-o-o-o-o-o-ar” vocal in chorus part B, and the rousing “Roaring” climax within the bridge.
  4. The last chorus of the song functions in the manner of a chorus/outro hybrid section via the introduction of new elements into the mix (i.e. the additional vocals and synth), leaving the listener on an empowered high at the end of the song.
  5. The pre-chorus does a great job of acting as a “transitional bridge” section between the darker nature of the verse and the fully empowered nature of the chorus that follows. This was achieved by fusing elements of both of these sections into the pre-chorus, specifically the dark nature of the synth bass progression from the verse coupled with the empowerment themed lyrics and peppier vocal delivery that defines the chorus.
  6. Pulling the backing music from the mix prior to the full chorus slamming in acted as a chorus “impact accentuator,” enabling it to slam in with increased power and impact.
  7. The quick-fire “hey!” vocal in the pre-chorus does a fantastic job of accentuating the empowerment vibe of the song via its Karate “ke-ya!” nature.
  8. The nature of the vocal melody is exceptionally infectious, engaging and memorable, and was accentuated via the K.I.S.S. principal, short phrases & segmenting, 4 types of repetition, diversity and color adders, and clever phrasing.
  9. Roar makes great use imagery, detail, action and emotion to deliver the storyline and empowerment message in a compelling, engaging manner.
  10. Roar possesses a combination of compositional characteristics that are both in line and different from the majority of chart-topping Pop songs from Q2-2013. The result is that the familiarity factor makes it easy for the song to connect with the listener, while its unique nature enables it to stand out amongst the rest of the Pop pack.

The compositional strengths listed above are just the tip of the iceberg for what songwriters and producers can learn from Katy Perry’s Roar to help take their skills to the next level.