In this song Perry dips her toes into the experimental sea when she kisses a girl after a night of clubbing (drinks are involved). She admits to liking it, but it isn't anything meaningful, and besides, she has a boyfriend - just another crazy club night. The Californian has drawn criticism from some quarters for targeting a young audience with a song about bisexual experimentation.
It was Perry's first single, but she had to convince her record company to release it, as they didn't even want it on the album at first. Perry explained in 2010, "I was really excited to put that out because it was such a fun song that could be both silly and mean something to someone. It was a subject matter that was on the tip of everyone's tongue at that moment, so it was kind of like a snapshot of things that were happening in 2008."
This was not the first song where Perry had referred to matters of sexual orientation in her lyrics. In the Los Angeles singer-songwriter's previous release "Ur So Gay" she disses an effeminate guy who isn't interested in her:You need SPF-45 just to stay alive
Ur so gay and you don't even like boys
Interestingly, Perry's debut album, which was released in 2001 under the name of Katy Hudson, was a Christian music album released by a Christian record label. Both her parents are pastors and she grew up listening to gospel music - secular music was banned at home. Some commentators expressed surprise at this turnaround from a Christian singer-songwriter to a hard-drinking party girl who sings about gayness. See one church's reaction in Song Images
On Thursday June 26, 2008, Billboard announced that this song had officially become the 1,000th #1 US single of the Rock era, which began in 1955 when "Rock Around The Clock
" by Bill Haley and the Comets reached #1 on what was then called the Best Sellers chart.
Perry is signed to Capitol Records, which is also the home of Coldplay, who had the previous #1 with "Viva La Vida
." This was the first time Capitol had two consecutive #1 hits since 1976 when "Silly Love Songs
" followed "Boogie Fever" into the top slot.
In an interview with the Ventura County Star, Perry claimed this song is all about exploration and female bonding. She said: "There's just a magical beauty that women hold that can definitely slay men of all kinds. If Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman or Gisele Bündchen walked into the room, everybody would watch."
This song shares a name with a Jill Sobule song that was a hit in 1995. Perry told MTV News: "If my song directs traffic to Jill, that's awesome. She's deserving."
This was the first US #1 for co-songwriter Cathy Dennis. In 1991 she'd recorded three American Top 10 hits including "Touch Me (All Night Long)", which peaked at #2. Dennis also co-penned three other Top 10 entries, the previously most successful having been "Can't Get You Out Of My Head
," which reached #7.
In July 2008 this became the first song since Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy
" to simultaneously appear on the Mainstream Top 40, Rhythmic, Adult Top 40 and Alternative charts.
Perry came up with the chorus for this song a year and a half before she recorded it. It went unfinished until a session with Dr. Luke where she decided to complete it.
Perry told the Observer Music Monthly that this song is about drunken curiosity, not as some have interpreted it, a call to change sexual orientation. She explained: "I'm talking about the way girls are really touchy-feely and sisterly. Especially when we're growing up. We're holding hands, we're having sleepovers, we're doing choreographed dance moves in our pajamas, we're painting each other's nails and practicing kissing on our arms - or maybe practicing kissing on one another. It wasn't something that we were doing for the sake of anybody else because we were scared of boys. I know I was scared of boys! My first kiss was with a boy, and he almost swallowed me alive. I wish I had kissed that girl I had the girl-crush on when I was growing up. I would have been much more prepared for my dating life, I think."
This topped the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks in a row, equaling the record for a song released on Capitol Records in the rock era - The Beatles' "I Want To Hold Your Hand
" (also on Capitol) reigned for seven weeks in 1964.
This was also the longest-running #1 by a female artist having her debut hit since Ciara's "Goodies" topped the Hot 100 for seven weeks in September-October 2004.
Kinga Burza, who directed the song's video, told MTV News that originally the promo was set in a hotel room but due to budget concerns and tight time constraints the location was switched. Instead it was filmed in a 1970s castle in the Hollywood Hills that has often been used as the setting "for pornos and horror films."
Burza explained in the same interview why rather than taking a literal approach to the song's lyrics, she used the video to show off Perry's charisma. She said: "I just really wanted to have Katy performing, whilst being surrounded by loads of really sexy girls. Of course, I didn't want to feature them too much, as the video was all about Katy, and for me, it was more about insinuating and being suggestive with sexy body shapes and silhouettes. It was not [about being] obvious or distasteful. The song's lyrics are enough. We don't want female teens all over the world pashing each other because they look up to Katy Perry!"
Katy Perry's boyfriend at the time, Gym Class Heroes frontman Travie McCoy, told MTV News about the time he first heard this song. He recalled: "When she was recording her record she'd send me songs, and when we were making our record I'd send her songs. So she sent me a demo of 'I Kissed a Girl,' and we were on tour, and I was playing it during our changeover, just watching the kids react. So she came out to one of our shows, and the song came out and she flipped out, like, 'What are you doing playing that?' and I took her to the side of the stage so she could watch the crowd react. And now, well, she's huge."
This won the award for Best Pop Song at the 35th People's Choice Awards, held on January 7, 2009. A few days later it won the Virgin Media Music award for Best Track.
Perry revealed to Q magazine March 2009 that the lyrics are about a real life girl. She explained: "The song was inspired by a friendship I had with a girl when I was 15, but I didn't kiss her. I was totally obsessed with her. She was beautiful-porcelain skin, perfect lips - and I still talk to her, but I've never told her the song is about her."
A pre-famous Kesha appears in the song's music video. The "TiK ToK
" singer explained to We Are Pop Slags
: "We were actually friends from before she was successful. We just knew each other from being out and about and we worked with some of the same people in Los Angeles."
Also in the video: Katy's cat, Kitty Purry.
Perry told Billboard magazine that the song almost didn't make it on the album. She said: "There was some concern at the top, but I just let them sit with the song and they came around. They liked it so much, it became the (first official) single."
Reflecting on this song in 2013, Perry told Entertainment Weekly: "I think it worked because it was a zeitgeist idea. Everyone was talking about bisexuality and experimenting. Than all of a sudden you have a soundtrack."
Perry performed this song with Lenny Kravitz at halftime of the 2015 Super Bowl (the one where the Patriots beat the Seahawks on a late interception). After Perry introduced Kravitz, he began singing the song, which takes on a different meaning when sung from a male perspective. Perry joined in, Kravitz played a guitar solo (although his instrument was unplugged), and then Katy moved on to the next section of her performance.
Anyone sticking around at halftime to see Kravitz was disappointed to see him relegated to a sideman role, without getting to play even one of his own songs (the "surprise guest" Missy Elliott played bits of three of her songs). Having him sing "I Kissed A Girl" seemed like a way to disguise the true meaning of the song for any viewers who might have been offended.
The song was partially inspired by Scarlett Johansson. When the actress was informed of this during an interview with Allure, she responded: "That's flattering, but my lips are kind of taken." (Johansson had just married actor Ryan Reynolds at the time).
She added, "I had no idea. I should get a cut!"
In 2017, Perry was honored by the Human Rights Campaign
with the National Equality Award for supporting the LGBTQ community. In her acceptance speech, she said, "I'm just a singer-songwriter, honestly. I speak my truths and I paint my fantasies into these little bite-sized pop songs. For instance, 'I kissed a girl and I liked it.' Truth be told, I did more than that. How was I going to reconcile that with a gospel singing girl raised in youth groups that were pro-conversion camps? What I did know was I was curious, and even then I knew sexuality wasn't as black and white as this dress. And honestly, I haven't always gotten it right, but in 2008 when that song came out I knew that I started a conversation and a lot of the world seemed curious enough to sing along, too."