The Majestic Tale of  “Dark Horse”

By Tyler Clark

2013 was a very crowded year in terms of pop music, especially among female powerhouses like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Katy Perry. Even former children’s networks stars like Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and Ariana Grande enjoyed mainstream success. With new music constantly being released, the albums barely had time to shine on the charts. Almost every single of the aforementioned artists’ albums debuted at the top of the charts for only a week. This came as a shock, especially for Katy Perry who was a queen of the Billboard 200 in the past with her album remaining in the top 10 for weeks after their release (Teenage Dream has still been charting for 171 weeks now). Though Prism hasn’t lived up to the legacy of 2010’s Teenage Dream, the album is not a downgrade.

     Prism is a fabulous album with a weak marketing plan. It started out with a golden semi truck with the words “Katy Perry – Prism – 10/22/13” on the side. The truck reportedly toured around the US until it was hit by a drunk driver: strike 1. On August 10, 2013 (one day after the semi accident), “Roar” was released to mainstream radio. “Roar” is a very weak lead single that was too similar to the Teenage Dream sound which Katy Perry was initially avoiding. Also, “Roar” sounded too similar to Sara Bareilles’s “Brave,” which was released four months before and was getting the radio attention it deserved: strike 2. Strike 3 happened when “Unconditionally” was released as a single when another Prism single was gathering attention.

      Released as a promotional single on iTunes, “Dark Horse” was the strongest song on Prism. On October 5, 2013, the song debuted at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was an impressive hype given that the album and music video had yet to be released. “Dark Horse” has remained on the chart since its debut and became number 1 on January 29, 2014. This has made “Dark Horse” Perry’s 9th number one single, which in turn tied her with the Bee Gees, Elton John, Paul McCartney, and Usher as the 10th artist with the most singles in Billboard’s 55-year history. “Dark Horse” also earns Juicy J, who is featured on the track, his first number one single.

“Dark Horse” is Katy’s strongest single to date. It’s experimental and dark, it emulates the sound that she initially envisioned for Prism. It’s so successful because it does not have a stereotypical pop music sound. If “Dark Horse” was the first single,Prism may have had a longer reign on top of the Billboard 200 (possibly followed by “Legendary Lovers”).

“Dark Horse” will go down in history as a classic. While Prism had two very weak lead singles, “Dark Horse” helps to showcase the diversity of the album and ultimately will save the album’s popularity.