Katy Perry

MTV Unplugged

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Katy Perry may not be the first name to leap to mind as the best artist to relaunch MTV's flagship concert series Unplugged, but say this for her -- she follows a career blueprint straight out of 1996, when it was possible to sell millions of records fueled on videos, headlines, crossover hits, and MTV specials. So, in that regard, it makes perfect sense that MTV Unplugged chose Katy, since it benefits them both: she approaches the show with the respect it once garnered, while she uses the show as a way to rebrand herself as a serious pop auteur. In both regards, this MTV Unplugged is successful enough to seem entirely like a throwback to the '90s, where it might have generated radio singles and endless repeats, so that means the party that receives the greatest boost from this endeavor is Perry. Stripped from the new wave-ish dance arrangements of One of the Boys, Katy Perry is a charismatic performer with sturdy songs (and good taste, too, picking Fountains of Wayne's "Hackensack" to cover), who works hard to win over her audience. Her flaws are also amplified in MTV Unplugged: her cribbing from Alanis Morissette's caterwauls are too apparent, the shtick of "Ur So Gay" grates more in a stripped-down setting, her voice can't handle the jazzy rearrangement of "I Kissed a Girl," and bringing out her inner Carmen Miranda on "Waking Up in Vegas" suggests that she's always acting à la Jon Lovitz's Master Thespian. Even with this whirlwind of affectation, Katy Perry winds up seeming more likeable here than she did on her debut: she's committed to her career plan, and it's kind of nice to see somebody working so hard in an age of coasting.

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