And you’re gonna hear me riiiiiiiiiiise…
I like the continuity from the last Olympic theme which sees “Survival”
followed by a song with the first line “I won’t just survive.” Indeed, “Rise” works 100% for the bits which sound over-committed enough that they could have been given to Muse again (“you will see me thrive!” “Victory is in my veins!” “I will not negotiate!”) and about 20% for everything else.
Alfred Soto: Did we ever doubt “victory is in [her] veins”? Blasting enemies from the top of sequined towers like an agent of Mordor, Katy Perry can’t open her mouth without reminding listeners of her effort and strength. This Olympic theme is the snuggest set of clothes she’s worn since Teenage Dream. No one will remember it in August — that’s the best part.
Katie Gill: I usually like generic sports anthems but this one’s a boring sports anthem. Katy’s wheelhouse has never been big ballady numbers (remember “Unconditionally?” We try not to.), and that’s remarkably apparent here. Besides, if you’re going for slow ballads with a pseudo-phoenix theme (rising, surviving, lyrics about fire, etc.), then I’m sorry to tell you but the best one’s already been done.
Will Adams: All the super serious, cumbersome drama of a Eurovision song that finishes in nineteenth but probably didn’t deserve to make it to the grand final in the first place.
Claire Biddles: This is so middling Eurovision — close your eyes and you can see Katy atop a revolving podium, fibre optic dress trailing 12 feet below her, “You are unable to cast a vote for this song in your country” flashing below her on screen as you order your fourth bottle of fizzy wine from the bar. Aside from when she unleashes her trademark bellow of the song title, Perry feels like a rent-a-star on this, which, as a Katy-hater, means I like it a little more than her usual soundbite wailfests, but not enough to actually want to listen to it again.
Katherine St Asaph: Behold (the simplification of) the era: America watches Eurovision, HBO’s several years into a swords opera, fashion is smitten with floor-length elf robes, everything is dystopia, Celine Dion is back, and Katy Perry is also back and fits right in. A scatter of trap percussion dates this alongside “Kiss It Better,” but otherwise this is full symphonic power ballad, and if I’m on record anywhere saying Perry’s voice best fits Matrix-y pop-punk, mea culpa. Her kitten-at-a-scratching-post cadence suits the waify heroines that culture casts and fans imagine in these stories, and if she doesn’t (or can’t) go for the final high note this so clearly needs, neither did Conchita Wurst. The lyrics are nothing — if she’s beyond the archetype, why does she then list every single one? Are we battling or transforming or sportsing or Jesuslazarusphoenixing? — but the drama is shameless and palpable and all this needs.
Moses Kim: With the passing of each four-year epoch, the Olympics feel less like the grand universal spectacle I once believed them to be and more a bloated relic of a more optimistic time in national history. Give “Rise” some credit for capturing our contemporary mood in its plodding, monotonous weight, where the simmering racial and economic tensions of the last few decades have been rendered explosive thanks to a pompous wig with a man attached to it; where each morning feels punctuated with news of distant gunshots; where hope is demanded even as it feels impossible. There is much in the United States to rise from right now, yet Perry sings of rising against nothing more specific than the funeral-dirge trap of the instrumental (meanwhile, everybody in Rio is scrambling to hold the illusion up). “Oh ye of so little faith,” accuses the pre-chorus, but I smell the sewage under the shrine, and if that’s what “Rise” demands, it makes an atheist of me.
Edward Okulicz: I don’t care for the Olympics beyond the faster, higher, stronger events that make sense within it. I am unmoved by the hero-worship of 99% of athletes. I find Katy Perry to be about the least inspiring pop star in the world. I can’t stand the lyrics of this, not just bad and trite, but perverting the melody’s scansion. It’s really hard to listen to this and conclude that it was written especially for the purpose, because the words feel so unnatural and plonked. I will give Perry credit and/or blame for believing every syllable of this piffle, though.
Scott Mildenhall: How could something so ponderous possibly rise? And how could it possibly be considered as a theme for TV coverage of the Olympics? At best this is a half-baked Bond theme demo, possessing an uncertain portentousness that could be attractive if it actually went anywhere, but doesn’t. Perhaps it might play better with American viewers, but from here it feels uninspiring in every sense of the word.
Danilo Bortoli: Putting sportsmanship and competitive nature inside a song can be tough. It can lead to patronizing anthems and chants of blind and vague chants of self-congratulation (comporting a few exceptions of course). Yet, “Rise” makes sense: nobody tries harder than Katy Perry, the popstar who acknowledges she is far from being the “epitome of effortless cool“. That means everything about this song is forced: the lyrics are vague to the point of soullessness, acquiring the same emotional impact you would get from a postcard. That is, by addressing everyone, she reaches nobody. When it comes to the Olympics, timing and faith are crucial, as they have always been, but that is not the point. The question now is: Why so inauthentic?
Will Rivitz: “I won’t just conform,” says the most malleable pop singer around, over a track so cloying it’s almost physically painful. I didn’t think it was possible to push through Katy’s impenetrable mediocrity — apparently, I was wrong.
Cassy Gress: There once was a stream of famous Olympic songs all about achieving the dream and having that perfect, glorious moment. This one follows more in the 2012 tradition; it’s about glaring and stomping and steam coming out nostrils á la bull in Bugs Bunny cartoon, FUCK YOU YOU CAN’T STOP ME, and thus it sits in a weird place where it’s too victory-themed for a normal pop song but too oddly angry for an Olympic anthem. The Olympics have been a financial and infrastructural nightmare for years now, but I still, perhaps stupidly, get all excited every year for athletes from all over the world coming together and fighting and winning and glorying — this is too boring for that.
Brad Shoup: It is a perfect depiction of the elite athlete: the one for whom excellence is not enough, who must silence the one doubter in a sold-out arena, who takes on the unneeded burden of reaching the theoretical notes struck by performative worship. It’s not the ultimate joy, but there is no joy, I guess, that feels quite like the one which shames your haters. That joy, here, is in the hovering: the way Perry’s echo etches her proclamations. The timpani is infernally forged; the snares strain like tendons. It’s tailored to the 40-yard touchdown pass in an NFL Films joint and the endless tease of an NBA-recapped alley-oop, to the atomic narrativizing that sportswriters reach for to make the impressive merely eternal. For this reason, Perry’s anthems have always been her worst songs, and her trifles the best: in the latter, the thrill comes from the doing, not the deed. I’m sure this will be a smash for the Olympic athletes. But take it from a great athlete who won’t be there: it’s less about the rise than the surprise.