Roar

Album: Prism (2013)
Charted: 1 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Artistfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • The lead single from Katy Perry's Prism album was written by the singer in collaboration with her friend Bonnie McKee and produced by Max Martin and Dr. Luke. The same team also helped craft most of Perry's biggest hits on Teenage Dream, the exception being "Firework."
  • The song is a bouncy statement by Perry of moving forward into the next stage of her life after the tumultuous end of her marriage to Russell Brand. Talking to BBC Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills, she revealed: "It's a bit of a self-empowering type of song. I wrote it because I was sick of keeping all these feelings inside and not speaking up for myself, which caused a lot of resentment. Obviously I've been through a lot of therapy since my last record and that's what this is about."
  • The song has hit #1 in 15 countries and entered the Top 10 in 38 charts worldwide; it is easy to see why when looking at the fine songwriting craft on display. Of course, as with any smash hit, the song employs a great deal of repetition to ingrain itself in the listener's head, making it hooky and memorable; however, the repetition suitably expresses the songs primary theme, which is one of empowerment.

    The titular "roar" appears 16 times in the song, cleverly emphasized at the end of chorus lines (and even beginning one) to squeeze out every last bit of its sing-a-long credentials. This makes the title almost a mantra for those who are listening for the empowerment themes (a subject Perry has tackled before, notably on her smash hit "Firework"). There is also the added payoff of the sing-along "o-o-o-o-ar", a songwriting technique that, through its transcending of language, universalizes the song.

    The song also piques our curiosity as it may be interpreted as a commentary on her much publicized divorce with comedian Russell Brand. As her first release since their split, many of her fans were curious to hear how she responded musically to this development in her personal life.

    Though the song's generic similarities to previous hits like "Firework" show a conservative attempt to maintain her current fan base, the pop culture references to Muhammad Ali, Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman," and the Rocky movie franchise show Perry's attempt to connect with a more mature audience.
  • Perry's two previous lead singles had been "I Kissed a Girl" and "California Gurls." "Roar" marked the first time she had led an album cycle with a straightforward message rather than a novelty song.
  • Four words that Sylvester Stallone came up with in the early '80s permeated pop culture through the decades, landing (in very derivative fashion) in this song. When Perry sings about having the "eye of the tiger," it's a mantra of courage and determination that Stallone's character, Rocky Balboa, used in the 1982 movie Rocky III to defeat Mr. T's character Clubber Lang. Stallone saw the youth appeal in the phrase, and asked the band Survivor to write a song around the title. The first two Rocky movies were aimed at adults, but this third one, with a fresh, contemporary theme song, gained a whole new audience primed by MTV.

    Perry's use of the phrase goes with the big-cat theme of her song, and falls under fair use; the "Eye Of The Tiger" songwriters did not get writer's credits on "Roar." This isn't the first time Perry has appropriated a distinctive hook line from a hit song - in 2010 she released "California Gurls."

    When we asked Jim Peterik, one of the writers of "Eye of the Tiger," about this appropriation, he said: "I was very conflicted with that. I called my publisher and we were checking out the options: 'Do we have a lawsuit here?' I thought her song was very good, but that's kind of beside the point. And bottom line is, it would have been a tough case to win. So instead, I embraced it, and I started looking at it as a positive thing."
  • So what did Perry's boyfriend, John Mayer, think of the song? Mayer told Billboard magazine that he knew it would be a success. "In a way you get swallowed up by it, it's so big," said the singer-songwriter, adding: "Because it's such an incredibly big song that it doesn't need you to tell anybody, while you're eating lunch, [that] millions of people are going to be dancing on tables to that."
  • For the song's co-writer Bonnie McKee, "Roar" was a catharsis. In a Songfacts interview with McKee, she explained: "I spent a lot of time in my life, believe it or not, taking orders. Even though I seem like I'm very strong-minded and hard-headed, I am a people pleaser, and I feel like that has gotten in my way in my life - I feel like I'm living for other people and fulfilling other people's destinies and wishes and just taking commands. So 'Roar' was a very important song for me, especially at that exact moment in my career, to really come out and say what I needed to say. It was born out of an abusive professional situation, and it paid off.

    So, it's nice when you have a feeling and you put it out there. It felt like literally roaring. I felt like I had something important that I needed to say, and it was a big f--k you to somebody. Then it went on to be a #1 hit forever and ever, so there's something really gratifying about that. It feels like it comes full circle emotionally when a song like that works."
  • The song sold 557,024 downloads during its first week of release, giving Perry the biggest Digital Song sales week of her career to date, surpassing "Firework" with 509,000 in the last week of 2010.
  • The song was criticized by some for sounding similar to Sara Bareilles' hit tune "Brave." Bonnie McKee told Melony Torres on 102 JAMZ that any similarities were purely coincidental: "A friend told me and I had never actually heard the song," she said. "People also forget that we didn't write it yesterday. You know, the song was written months ago, before 'Brave' ever came out. There are only so many notes in an octave to work with, it's gonna happen… things are going to sound similar. But it was definitely just a coincidence."
  • When Perry started writing the lyric with Bonnie McKee, they thought about songs with the greatest empowerment messages, and came up with two examples: "Eye Of The Tiger" and "I Am Woman" by Helen Reddy. The phrase "eye of the tiger" ended up in the song directly, while "I Am Woman," with the hook line "I am woman, hear me roar," inspired the title.

    "Everything's been said," McKee said. "There's nothing wrong with borrowing from the greats."

    McKee adds that she was raised a feminist, so "I Am Woman" was a popular song in her household.
  • The song's music video sees Perry in a tropical forest, much like Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. The clip was shot over three days by Grady Hall and Mark Kudsi and filmed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. It co-stars actor and model Brian Nagel as her boyfriend, who meets an unfortunate end. Perry got to work with exotic animals while filming, but there was one clear favorite. "Suzy the elephant cause she wouldn't stop eating everything!" she tweeted.
  • Perry was criticized by officials at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for featuring exotic animals in the video. Merrilee Burke, a spokeswoman for PETA, claimed to the Daily Star that by simply having the animals on set, the singer and crew were exposing them to unnecessary stress. "Animals used for entertainment endure horrific cruelty and suffer from extreme confinement and violent training methods," she said. "They often become stressed and anxious when hauled around and forced into unfamiliar or frightening situations."
  • A lyric video was released depicting Perry texting the lyrics of the song to her friends, while also substituting some words for emoji icons. Producer Dillon Francis accused the Californian singer of copying on her clip. Writing on Twitter, Francis said that the singer's visual ripped off the ideas used in the promo for his track "Message," which also showed the lyrics being unveiled via text. However, Perry's clip also shows her doing mundane activities such as going to the bathroom and playing with her cat.
  • Perry released a 30-second video teaser called "Burning Baby Blue" for Prism showing the singer lighting her famous blue wig on fire. The visual also revealed the August 12, 2013 release date for the song.
  • This won both Favorite Song and Favorite Music Video at the 2014 People's Choice Awards.
  • This is one of several one-word-titled songs co-penned by Bonnie McKee. (Others include Taio Cruz's "Dynamite", Kesha's "C'Mon" and her own single "Sleepwalker"). She told Billboard magazine that a single word is, "clean, simple and bold - especially if you find a really splashy one."

    "I have a book of titles that I've compiled over the years, and I do find that one-word titles are special, probably because it means a simple hook and an even simpler concept," McKee continued. "I know that when I do stumble upon a one-worder that pops, I'm psyched. If one word can sum it up, then the bones of the song are sturdy."
  • When Perry was the featured performer at the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show, she opened her set with this song, appearing atop a giant, mosaic-textured lion that was walked to the stage. This was the only lion to perform at the game, as the Detroit team lost in the playoffs (the Patriots won, beating the Seahawks 28-24).
  • Asked during a Reddit AMA what she made of the "Brave"/"Roar" controversy, Bareilles replied: "I felt like people got really excited about being angry about something. It was weird. Katy is an old friend and I had no beef with her. I was disappointed to see the feeding frenzy that developed 'on my behalf', and i think it speaks to the misguided notion that music has to be competitive. It's not. There's room for everyone."
  • Katy Perry appeared at the Democratic National Convention on July 28, 2016 to extol Hillary Clinton's run for president. She entreated the crowd to "use your voice" before performing "Rise" and this song. "Let's roar for Hillary," Perry said before going into this tune.
  • Speaking in an interview with Sweden's Di Weekend, Max Martin recalled the pleasure he took in seeing this song take on a meaning far beyond what he and Katy Perry originally conceived in the studio.

    "When pop culture can influence things in any way, when a song becomes something bigger than just a song, that's the greatest thing to me," he said. "I saw the video where the whole staff of a children's hospital sang 'Roar', and it was a reminder for me. I have a tendency to belittle what I do. I think it's a consequence of trying to keep the ego in check. I go, 'What the f--- are we doing all day when others are working for equality, Syria, battling cancer.' But then something like this happens; a song finds its way outside the studio and comes to really mean something to people. It's not every time that I'm proud of a tune, but I am when it comes to a song like Roar."
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 4

  • Sioraf from Macroon, IrelandI'd like to hear her roar, while she's roaring she can't be singing.
  • Julie from Ottawa, AbI feel "LSS" to this song. I love this song.
  • Kathleen from Clinton, MdI don't think it sounds anything like Brave. I love this song.
  • Claudia from Culiacán, MexicoThe single 'Roar' was 'leaked' online on August 10, 2013 and by August 12, 2013, the single was #1 in 20 countries according to Katy Perry's Twitter account.
see more comments

Michael SchenkerSongwriter Interviews

The Scorpions and UFO guitarist is also a very prolific songwriter - he explains how he writes with his various groups, and why he was so keen to get out of Germany and into England.

Muhammad Ali: His Musical Legacy and the Songs he InspiredSong Writing

Before he was the champ, Ali released an album called I Am The Greatest!, but his musical influence is best heard in the songs he inspired.

Dave Pirner of Soul AsylumSongwriter Interviews

Dave explains how the video appropriated the meaning of "Runaway Train," and what he thought of getting parodied by Weird Al.

Rush: Album by Album - A Conversation With Martin PopoffSong Writing

A talk with Martin Popoff about his latest book on Rush and how he assessed the thousands of albums he reviewed.

Does Jimmy Page Worship The Devil? A Look at Satanism in RockSong Writing

We ring the Hell's Bells to see what songs and rockers are sincere in their Satanism, and how much of it is an act.

Phil Hurtt ("I'll Be Around")Songwriter Interviews

Phil was a songwriter, producer and voice behind many Philadelphia soul classics. When disco hit, he got an interesting project: The Village People.