This beach-friendly pop tune is the first single from Katy Perry's third studio album, Teenage Dream
. Perry co-wrote the song with Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald and Max Martin, the same team who produced her first hit "I Kissed a Girl
." The other credited writers are American pop-rock singer-songwriter Bonnie McKee, who had some success with her debut album in 2004, and the rapper Snoop Dogg, who wrote his verse.
Perry says it's a fun song that is perfect for the summertime. "My serotonin level changes, my personality changes," said the singer. "'California Girls' talks about all those iconic things that you've seen on postcards and on TV. And I wanted to do a homage to the Beach Boys."
Musically, this song bears a strong resemblance to Kesha's "TiK ToK
," which is an earlier Dr. Luke production.
According to Perry, this ode to fun in the sun is a answer song to Jay-Z's tribute to New York, "Empire State of Mind
." Perry said in a statement that she was inspired to write the song as she watched her friends go crazy at a party listening to the rap icon's salute to his home city: "Everybody was holding their drinks in the air and dancing, and I thought, 'We're not in New York, we're in Los Angeles! What about California? What about all the homies, the gin and juice, the swaying palm trees, the sun-kissed skin 24-7.' I decided that we needed to make a response. I want people to want to book a ticket to California the first time they hear it!"
Perry told Rolling Stone: "It's been a minute since we had a California song and especially from a girl's perspective. We took the references of Prince, which is always a great reference, and some of the '90s, almost house music references."
The song features an assist from Snoop Dogg, who joins in on the guitar-laced hook. "We thought it would sound so cool and give the song another dimension," she explained. "Snoop is as West Coast as it gets."
The unconventional spelling of the song title is a reference to Big Star's "September Gurls
." Perry explained to Entertainment Weekly
that this is because her manager is a longtime fan of the power pop pioneers, who were fronted by the late Alex Chilton.
Said Perry: "My manager, Bradford, he's from Mississippi, and he's a huge Big Star fan. 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."
This is one of five US #1 hits Perry wrote this Bonnie McKee. Both are very visual songwriters who are very particular when it comes to finding the right words to suit the song. While Perry was a California gurl her whole life, McKee was born in California but moved to Bellevue, Washington (near Seattle) when she was 8. "I remember grey after grey after grey, and just feeling like the moment that I'm old enough to get the hell outta here I'm going back to California," McKee said in a Songfacts interview
. "So, I spent my whole childhood either being in California or fantasizing about going back. That was a big part of my narrative, and my dream world was living in LA. So, that definitely had a lot to do with that, and also growing up watching Beverly Hills, 90210
. I feel like every cool TV show in the 1990s takes place in California - the MTV Beach House and all that stuff - so I was heavily influenced by California culture."
"The first line that we wrote was, 'It feels like summertime' and something about melting popsicles," she added. "We went home and slept on it, and the next day she came back and said, 'OK, I've got it: 'California Gurls.'' I was like, 'Brilliant, I know exactly what to do with this.' Then we just went back and forth."
The album title is similar to Baltimore, Maryland-based duo Beach House's 2010 album, Teen Dream
(more info on their record in the "Take Care
" Songfacts). Vocalist Victoria LeGrand tweeted to her fans, "Can't believe this... and not in a good way, guess we have to write a song called 'i kiss a girl' (sic)."
The duo also posted on the Wikipedia page dedicated to Teenage Dream
, "Mrs. Perry's album title may or may not be ripping off the brilliant indie duo Beach House and their critically acclaimed record 'Teen Dream'. It will be a challenge for her to achieve the same aural masterpiece."Their comments have since been deleted.
The song reached #1 on the Billboard
Hot 100 in its fourth week on the chart, making it the fastest-rising single released by an artist signed to Capitol Records in 43 years. It tied a mark set in 1967 by Capitol artist Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe
," which also made it to #1 in four weeks.
The song's music video was directed by Mathew Cullen, the founder of Los Angeles-based production company Motion Theory. It is a candy-coated sweet affair featuring a whole lot of confectioneries but not so much of California. Perry explained to MTV news the plan was to re-imagine the Golden State as "Candyfornia" with her as the queen trying to save her California Gurls from Snoop Dogg's evil Sugar Daddy. "We named it 'Candyfornia' instead of 'California,' so it's a different world," she said. "It's not just like, 'Oh, let's go to the beach and throw a party and then shoot a music video!' It's more like, 'Let's put us California Gurls in a whole different world!'"
She added: "I like the idea of this being like a board game. It's kind of like Candy Land. That was probably one of my favorite games to play growing up. I like to bring back those pure childhood moments and give them a little bit of a naughty twist, of course!"
The popsicle that meets a sad end was Perry's idea. "I was talking to the director when Snoop was doing his verse, [and] I was like, 'I really want there to be a melting-popsicle guy,' "she revealed. "I just love stuff like that. I think I belong in Japan, in some alternate universe. I think this music video is a little bit my love for all things cute, confectionary and Japanese [and] childhood."
Cullen told MTV News why he didn't want to include anything summery in his treatment for the video: "The lyrics were so literal that when I pitched it, I said, 'Look, I want to so something that's a metaphor for what the song's about,' and I guess it was something different from what the other directors were pitching her," the director said. "It was a concept that really stood out for her. Because I think, automatically, since the song has become this summer anthem, it really invokes strong visuals. And I just wanted to do something a little different."
He added: "What really stood out for me is the idea of California as this sugary sweet paradise, so Candyfornia is this place where desire can always be fulfilled, but where pleasure can turn dark. The kind of place where Gummi Bears aren't your friends," laughed Cullen. "I also tried to inject some California iconography into the landscape: the Hollywood Hills made of ice cream, Sunset Boulevard as Sundae Boulevard, the Capitol Records building as pancakes and the Walk of Fame as a gingerbread path."
Cullen explained that the chest-mounted frosting cannons Perry sports at the end of the video were the singer's idea. "[The cannons] were actually Katy's idea. She wanted to have fun with it, and so we did it," he said. "We got it in two takes. I was surprised. We shot it at the end of the first day, and it had everybody rolling on the floor. She was so great to work with. A total pro, and really into it."
Whilst this was Perry's second UK chart-topper, for Snoop Dog this was his debut UK #1 single, sixteen and a half years after making his singles debut with "What's My Name" in 1993.
Perry used Wikipedia to swot up on the rap world ahead of making a decision which rapper she wanted to collaborate with on this song. She chose Snoop Dogg after reading his entry on the Wikipedia encyclopedia website. The Kissed a Girl
singer told Canadian radio station Kiss: "I was Wikipedia-ing all the original West Coast people and I was thinking to myself, who is still relevant, who is like the best, cherry on top for this, and it was obvious that it was Snoop.
He did 'Drop It Like It's Hot
' a couple years ago, he did 'Sexual Seduction
' - he's still Mr. Gin and Juice
, I mean he doesn't age. He's the Doggfather."
An alternate version was sent to American rock radio stations with Snopp Dogg's rap contribution edited out.
Beach Boys co-founder Brian Wilson, who along with Mike Love
wrote the original "California Girls
," admitted to the Los Angeles Times
that he is a fan of Perry's updated homage. "I love her vocal. She sounds very clear and energetic," he said. "The melody is infectious, and I'm flattered that Snoop Dogg used our lyric on the tag. I wish them well with this cut."
Perry told Q magazine how she persuaded Snoop Dogg to contribute to this tune: "I put a lot of what I call 'Snoop Bait' in the song. 'Gin and Juice' was awesome and I mentioned it in a tribute. Then I just approached him through my record company, EMI. Which is the same as his and he said yes. He's proper West Coast rap royalty. When you meet him it's not an act. He really is that cool for real. That man walks around talking in rhymes even when the recording has finished."
The song was ranked #1 on Billboard
's Songs of the Summer 2010 survey. The chart summarized the most popular songs based on actual performance on the Billboard Hot 100 from the chart dated June 12, 2010, to the one dated September 18. This was Perry's second Songs of the Summer chart champion song, following, "I Kissed a Girl
," in 2008. Only one other artist has achieved two top placements as a lead act since 1985. Mariah Carey topped the summer's poll in 1990 with "Vision of Love
," and in 2005 with "We Belong Together
This won Best Video at the 2010 MTV European Music Awards.
Perry told The Sun how she and her band members became intoxicated by fumes from the weed that Snoop was smoking when they were in the studio together. "It was really cool. He came by the studio, played the song and rolled a 'J'," she recalled. "Everybody was contact high. But he was super-cool and he's been around forever."
Perry performed this song when she was the featured entertainment at the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show. She was joined for this section by several backup dancers in colorful swimwear, as well as dancing palm trees, beach balls, sharks and surfboards.
This toast to summer fun was originally scheduled to hit be sent to radio on May 25, 2010. However, after clips from Teenage Dream were leaked online, her label moved up the radio impact date to May 7, 2010 and also began to stream it on her website.
The "daisy dukes" line was Perry's idea. The original line was "cut-off shorts, bikinis on top," which didn't pop.