Katy Perry kissed a girl. And what’s more, she liked her. 15 years ago, ‘I kissed a girl’ burst onto the charts around the world. The same ones that its composer carries giving explanations about the meaning of the then controversial song or about the muse that inspired his lyrics. Scarlett Johansson? Miley Cyrus?… Or neither of them? The truth is that the Californian’s hit, which was scandalous in 2008, has not aged well: “If I had to write it again, I would probably edit it.”
The secular music was prohibited in his house. His parents were pastors and he grew up listening to gospel in a strictly religious environment. As she herself has acknowledged, she spent much of her adolescence “praying not to be a lesbian.” At 16, Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson debuted with an album of gospel songs. Therefore, the surprise was capital when the Christian singer and songwriter she transformed into a party girl who sang about homosexuality. ‘‘I kissed a girl’ was not liked by certain conservative sectors, nor in his label, Capitol: “They said, ‘This is never going to be played on the radio. “How are we going to sell it?” declared Perry in Billboard magazine. There was concern. And, although she almost didn’t see the light of day, it became the first single from her second album, ‘One of the Boys’ (2008). That infectious debut on a global scale is, and remains, to this day, one of the pop star’s most emblematic songs.
“I kissed a girl and I liked it / The cherry flavor of her lipstick / I kissed a girl just to try it,” Katy sang three decades ago. Apart from the controversy unleashed by the topic he addressed – in a very candid way – the interest in meeting his muse. The questions intensified: Who was that girl? Did she really exist or was it pure fantasy? At first, Katheryn satisfied curiosity by clarifying that she was nothing more than a hypothetical situation between her… and the Black Widow of the Marvel Universe.
It was a quiet night. She was sitting on the couch, flipping through magazines, next to her boyfriend at the time. The scene was this: “‘I kissed a girl’ came about when I opened a magazine and saw a photograph of Scarlett Johansson.” told in Steppin’ Out Magazine. “I was with my boyfriend, and I told him, ‘I’m not going to lie to you: If Scarlett Johansson walked into the room and wanted to kiss me, I would kiss her. I suppose you would agree, right?” When the single came out, Johansson was married to actor Ryan Reynolds. And when she found out what the young singer had said, she responded to ‘Allure’ magazine: “That’s flattering, but my lips are engaged. She had no idea about the song. I should get a share!”
A year later, in March 2009, Katy Perry revealed in ‘Q’ magazine that the lyrics she had written were about a real girl, someone who had passed through his life. “The song is inspired in a friendship I had with a girl when I was 15, but I didn’t kiss her. I was totally obsessed with her. She had beautiful porcelain skin, perfect lips – and I still talk to her, but I have never told her that the song is about her”. Although Katy didn’t explicitly reveal the name of that porcelain-skinned friend… she did. Almost a decade after ‘I kissed a girl’ was published, Miley Cyrus grabbed the headlines of all the media with her surprising statements. The girl Katy kissed was her.
In May 2017, the Hannah Montana star promoted her new song, “Malibu,” on the WKTU radio station. He also talked about his long friendship with Perry, how they had met in 2008, and recalled the time when ‘I kissed a girl’ came out: “I heard her (Katy) on the radio. They asked her, ‘Who is she?’ the girl you wrote about?’. And she said she was me! “I screamed and started freaking out and then she asked me to go with her to the MTV Video Music Awards… that’s how we met and started being friends.”
The denial came just a week later. In the popular space ‘Carpool Karaoke’, Katy Perry got into the car driven by James Corden and clarified: “It’s really about a girl I met when I moved here (to Los Angeles) when I was 17.” Scarlett and Miley were ruled out.
Whoever the girl was, ‘I kissed a girl’ became the 10th best-selling single of the 21st century. And the criticism did not only come from conservative sectors. Her lyrics, which constantly justified that kiss – I’m curious, I don’t usually do it, I hope my boyfriend doesn’t mind, it doesn’t mean I fell in love tonight, it’s not what good girls do, I was confused, it wasn’t my intention, I felt brave with a drink in my hand) – it was not liked in other areas either. On Feministing.com they wrote: “Perry’s lyrics reflect the trivialization of the sexuality of homosexual women and cultural norms that defend that female sexuality exists for the pleasure of men”.
With the perspective of the years that have passed, that “controversial” kiss from one girl to anotherToday it wouldn’t be like that. Even Katy herself acknowledged in Vanity Fair: “Our discourse has changed… Bisexuality is no longer talked about like it was then.. If I had to write it again, I would probably edit it. in the letter there are a couple of stereotypes. Your mind changes a lot over the years.” Now, in 2023, ‘I kissed a girl’ returns with two new voices, those of Chiara and Violeta. They sing it unedited, just as Perry wrote it when he was 23, in the 3rd Operación Triunfo gala.