Katy Perry did not know that her new song “California Gurls” would end up paying homage to ’70s pop band Big Star. But something tragic happened after she wrote the song. In March, Alex Chilton, the group’s lead singer, suffered a fatal heart attack.
Perry’s manager, a huge fan of Big Star, asked the “Hot N Cold” singer to change the spelling of her song (previously named “California Girls”) to mirror the Big Star title “September Gurls.”
Perry explained the special request to Entertainment Weekly. “My manager, Bradford, he’s from Mississippi, and he’s a huge Big Star fan,” she said. “And with the death of one of their members, I had just written that song, and he’s like, ‘Katy, just for me, will you please title it ‘California Gurls,’ with a ‘u’? People won’t even know!’ I don’t know the whole catalog of Big Star, but I did it because Bradford is one of my best friends, and I thought it was cool, and you know, the kids like those variations.”Aside from using the same spelling for “Gurls,” Perry’s “California Gurls” is nothing like Big Star’s 1974 hit.
Perry’s “California Gurls” has an element of hip-hop, featuring a rap from Snoop Dogg, and is an upbeat, summertime dance track with funk undertones. Her lyrics boast of the amenities of the golden coast, including beautiful girls donning Daisy Dukes and bikini tops.
Big Star’s “September Gurls” is essentially the opposite. The ’70s twangy-guitar power-pop ballad is actually depressing. Chilton’s soft lead vocals bemoan heartbreak: “I loved you well never mind, I’ve been crying all the time.”
Actually, considering Perry has been known to break hearts on songs “Ur So Gay” and “Hot N Cold,” it might be fair to consider her a “September Gurl.”
Perry’s sophomore album, Teenage Dream, is due out on August 24 on Capitol Records.