Katy Perry’s Most Popular Song Is Not What You Think

Katy Perry is one of the most commercially successful pop artists of the 2010s. This is especially impressive considering that she doesn’t have a clear formula –  she’s released everything from glam rock hits to dance- pop anthems. With so many hits under her belt, you might be surprised at which songs are her biggest. Here are Katy Perry’s most popular songs on the Billboard Hot 100.

Katy Perry | Simone Cecchetti/Corbis via Getty Images

5. ‘E.T.’

Katy Perry’s “E.T.” is far from being an avant-garde song. However, its cold electronic beat combined with its offbeat subject matter makes it one of the weirdest pop hits of the decade. The song’s central metaphor –  which sees Perry comparing her estranged lover to an extraterrestrial – has a touch more depth than your average pop song.

It’s also much more influential than most Katy Perry songs. “E.T.” managed to combine hip-hop production with dark, brooding lyrics; the song was a major influence on the emo rap boom of the last two years. It’s also a great example of auto-tune being used creatively, as it’s used in this song to make Perry’s voice sound robotic and futuristic.

4. ‘Teenage Dream’

Katy Perry in Italy | Marco Piraccini\Archivio Marco Piraccini\Mondadori via Getty Images

Some songs are great because they break new ground. Other songs are great because they are simply the best of their kind. “Teenage Dream” doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a simple love song, but it works beautifully.

Between its memorable pop rock beat and Katy Perry’s plaintive, high pitched vocals, the song communicates the idea of youthful romance better than any other pop hit in recent memory. If any Katy Perry song is still being played on the radio in fifty years, it’ll probably be this one. 

3. ‘Roar’

Although Katy Perry songs come in a million different flavors, the singer is probably most well-known for her self-empowerment anthems. “Roar” is one of her biggest and her brightest.  The song’s lyrics include some clever references to classic songs like Queen’s “We Are the Champions” and Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill.” “Roar” also gives new meaning to the term “arena rock.”  The song sounds as massive as a sports arena; it would take a heart of stone to listen to this song without feeling inspired. 

2. ‘Firework’

“Firework” is the other song which helped self-empowerment anthems to become Katy Perry’s wheelhouse. The song manages to combine elements of classical music with modern-day dance-pop, creating music that is both timely and timeless. Some of the song’s metaphors are a little strange (why did Katy Perry compare a person to a plastic bag?), but the track is sung with such sincerity by the singer that it overpowers any lyrical shortcomings.

Katy Perry attends the Jean-Charles de Castelbajac Ready to Wear Autumn/Winter 2011/2012 show | Tony Barson / Contributor

“Firework” might not be the best Katy Perry song, but it is the song that best captures Katy Perry as an artist. The 2010s were overloaded with self-empowerment anthems; the fact that this one managed to stick out from the crowd speaks to its lasting power.

1. ‘Dark Horse’

On its surface, “Dark Horse” is a retread of “E.T.” Both songs feature fantastical themes and elements of rap music.  This song might have come across as repetitive, but Katy Perry infused it with one of the best beat drops of the past several years. Listen to it once and it will stay in your head for the rest of the day.