Katy Perry, the “Kween of Kamp,” knows a thing or two about entertaining. On Wednesday, the singer kicked off the fifth leg of Play, her over-the-top, colorful, and fiercely entertaining residency at Las Vegas’ Resorts World.
Her residency is jam-packed with nostalgia as she performs songs like “California Gurls” and “I Kissed a Girl,” but she does so in a way that’s fresh and playful as she breathes life into a relatable story of self-love as a doll in the whimsical world of Perry’s Playland.
“You don’t have to take mushrooms to feel like you’re on mushrooms when you watch this show. Believe me,” Perry tells Rolling Stone. “It’s got all the nostalgia factor, but it is wrapped up in this Alice in Wonderland mushroom trip animated story of finding true love and self-love.”
With the smaller Resorts World theater, Perry interacts with the audience constantly, making her Katycats a part of the show. When Rolling Stone attended in August, Perry brought up RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 10 winner Aquaria — who was in the crowd — to join her on stage and teach her how to do a drag queen “dip.”
Aquaria’s appearance felt like the perfect special guest for a pop queen who’s championed queer folks, especially drag queens, throughout her career. “It’s fierce for me and fun for other people who want to see a queen slay the house down,” Aquaria told Rolling Stone after the show. “Katy has consistently loved to celebrate pop music and shows that pop music will never die.”
Perry says her life right now is filled with balance. She’s got a successful shoe brand, several Play shows left, a judging gig on American Idol, and the “joyful” job of motherhood to keep her busy. “It’s not like I’m heading into retirement,” Perry says with a giggle. “Trust, sweetheart, she’s got a couple of aces still left up her sleeve.”
In a morning phone call from Los Angeles after dropping off her daughter Daisy at preschool, Perry spoke to Rolling Stone about wanting to join Drag Race as a guest judge, how she knew Dua Lipa was going to be the biggest pop star, whether she’s writing new music, and her favorite new artist, Cyn.
Katy. How’s it going?
I’m doing well. Did you come to the show? I heard you came to the show.
Oh my God, yeah. I was there the day you brought Aquaria on stage. How did that happen?
That was wild. I always invite someone on stage randomly, and I knew that they were in the audience, and I was like… I don’t know what I’m going to get when I invite someone on the stage, but I do hope that they bring it and at least they’ve got lots of personality, so I just decided to call them on stage.
It felt like such an important moment for PLAY because you’ve been such a champion for queer people, especially drag queens, with some of your past performances. Why haven’t you been a judge on Drag Race yet?
Oh, I want to. I think it’s just been timing, and it’s been one of those things where we tried to do it a couple of times, but the timing hasn’t worked out. I’m definitely going to do it in the future, I hope. Quite honestly, if it weren’t for drag queens, I probably wouldn’t have a career because I probably learned everything from them.
Queen of camp.
I like to spell “camp” with a “K” for sure.
Speaking of ‘kamp’, your PLAY Residency is probably my favorite show this year. You have this way of interacting with the crowd that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody do. How has the residency changed your approach to performances?
What do you mean by interacting with them? What do you think it is before I answer?
It was really cool to see you literally talk to a little girl in the audience. It was so natural and normal, and you seemed to really shine in those moments when you were interacting with people in the crowd.
Thanks! I really love to just treat everybody like family and be in this heightened experience together, but also break that fourth wall and invite everyone in. I have a lot of banter that I do on stage, and every night it’s different. I don’t say the same thing every night. When I bring people on stage, it’s very spontaneous, so anything can happen, which always makes for a good time where you have to wing it and improv.
I love it because it’s an intimate theater. When I’m doing big tours, I’m playing arenas that have tens of thousands of people, which is fantastic, and there’s incredible energy. But in this theater, it’s 5,000 people in Vegas. Everything’s pretty close, and everyone feels like they have the best seat in the house because they can literally smell me. I love that about this experience.
You seem to have every detail of the show figured out — especially when it comes to your multiple outfit changes.
I know the principal priority of being a female pop star! One of those priorities is to serve multiple looks. When you go see a show like this, you want to see those changes. I was mindful that for the Super Bowl, people want to see the different outfits. It’s a magic trick when you can change so quickly as well. I’m changing in a minute and a half behind the stage. It’s just fun.
Every little detail has been thought about because I got the opportunity to develop this show during the pandemic, and there was a lot of time to do that. I really believe in a lot of preparation with everything I do. I believe preparation makes precision. You only get one opportunity to kick off your Las Vegas residency in life.
I was definitely going to make sure that I was going to do everything within my control to make sure that it was a fantastic over-the-top success and brought heart and humor and joy and was a celebration of all the songs that I’ve been able to put out in the past, which is usually different when I go on tour.
In your interview with Drew Barrymore, you talked about how you’re thinking of making music again soon. Have you thought about what that music might sound like?
No. I put out Smile during the pandemic a couple of years ago, and I’ve done a couple of other things. I really enjoyed putting out “When I’m Gone” with Alesso. But I was putting all of my energy into Vegas. I miss my fans around the world, and I really want to go to them and see them and just travel the world again. Some of them can’t come and see me in Vegas, so I’m going to head out and see them! I’m just excited for the future because there’s so much more to come.
Would you be touring Smile, or would it be a little bit PLAY on the road?
No, I think next time I go on out on a world tour, it’ll definitely be with new music, but it’s too soon to say anything, really.
We’re talking about a time when your old songs are having a resurgence on TikTok. Are there any past collaborators that you think might be cool to work with again?
I love that the music lives on. And it’s just the power of pure pop. I’m always open to working with my past collaborators. We’ll see what comes up.
What I like to do now: I like to meditate before I write a song so that I can be open and clear and whatever needs to come through me and through that pen comes through me. Sometimes I like to go on a real emotional, psychological journey when I write a record. I’m working through some of my emotions and maybe some of the issues that I need to work through. Sometimes I’ll plug back into doing therapy so that I’m processing stuff and through my music, so there’s a real emotional, internal investigation that’s going on when I’m starting to write new music.
Have you been writing recently?
I’m never not.
Are there any specific experiences over the past two years that you think have been worth writing about?
Obviously, I had my first child. I think that’s probably the top three profound things that happen in a person’s life. For me, it’s definitely been the most profound. To be able to go through that and just that feeling of love that I’ve always been searching for.
How has being a mom changed your approach to your career and artistry?
I think that it’s just given me so much love and joy, so I’m sure that will pour out of me the next time I go to make a record.
Look, I worked so hard my whole life. Everything started to go into high gear when I was 23. So 23 to 35, I toured the world. I’m so grateful that I got the opportunity to lay the foundation of my life and career and work so hard. Most people aren’t working as hard as I worked when I was in my twenties. They’re usually doing that in their thirties. And so it flipped for me.
Now, I’m finding a really wonderful balance, which I’m grateful for. There’s a season for everything. And in this season, I get to put on a fantastic show in Las Vegas that I think the fans really love to find joy in. I get to be a judge on American Idol, but most importantly, I get to drop my daughter off at preschool like I just did this morning and pack her lunch and pick her up from preschool. I get to have a little bit of balance in my life for this season, but that’s not always going to be the case.
Are there any artists that you’re currently listening to? You’ve been a champion of a lot of stars over your career.
I love supporting women and new artists because I’ve walked in their shoes. I know how it feels, and I know the challenge and how hard you got to work. If you see on all of my past tours, I cherry-picked some of my favorite artists to come on the road with me. Whether that’s Ellie Goulding or Charli XCX or Marina and the Diamonds, or Bebe Rexha and Becky G came when I was on Witness. I’m always trying to support those young new artists on their journeys, and it’s amazing to see them succeed.
Actually, so much so that I started a record label. There’s a girl, her name is Cyn, that I’ve been mentoring for a few years, that has this amazing song called “House With a View.” [Rolling Stone premiered the video for it!] Cyn is putting together her debut record, and it’s the best record I have heard from anyone since Dua Lipa’s first record. I remember even championing Dua because I was like, “Oh, this girl is going to be the next big girl pop star. She’s the it girl, and she’s coming.”
I remember going in to watch her play at the Hollywood Palladium. It’s so funny, I left work early. It was the first season of me doing American Idol. I was like,”I really need to get out of here by seven because I’m going to see this new artist Dua Lipa play at the Palladium. And my co-judge Luke Bryan was like, “Who’s that?” I was like, “Don’t worry, you’ll know her name.”
I love new female artists. I know the really intense challenges and the pressure and all that stuff. I just feel for them so much.
The girl, I think, is the new “it” girl coming up, her name is Cyn, and I happen to be a part of her journey.
About Dua Lipa, there’s this video of a baby Dua Lipa joining you on stage during the California Dreams Tour.
Yes, I know the baby Dua Lipa. I had chosen her then!