Heavily pregnant Katy Perry is about to pop any time, but she has another "baby" on the way in the form of her sixth studio album, which will drop on Aug 28.
While a Katy Perry album is typically chock full of bright and shiny pop tunes, she revealed that her latest, Smile, was borne of a particularly dark time in her life.
"It's called Smile because I walked through hell to get my smile back when I lost it in 2017 and 2018, so I started writing songs when I was coming out of a really dark time when I was super depressed," confessed the 35-year-old, who was speaking to regional media over a Zoom call from her California home.
Clad in a bubblegum-pink off-shoulder dress and turban, her effervescent presence belies the darkness she delved into when making the record.
In an interview on The Howard Stern Show in July, she revealed that her depression stemmed from the disappointing release of her 2017 album Witness, which she said "didn't necessarily meet my expectations".
Part of coming into her own meant "jumping off the rat race of being the best pop star ever".
"I let go of this intense competition part of it because it became unhealthy and it's what made me spiral in 2017... In letting go of that, I opened myself up to dimensions as a human and as a woman," she said.
"I'm not on this constant treadmill of trying to... be the best pop star ever... Now I just want to be the best human ever, the best mum, partner, sister, daughter, I want to do all that!"
The songs on Smile were written in the last two years, as she emerged from the haze of depression.
"I started telling myself... to keep on dancing through those teary eyes, I am resilient, gotta get back that smile... These were little titles and mantras and they became songs", she said.
The result is a record that centres around "thoughtfulness, hope, resilience and joy".
" It's a raw record even though it's upbeat, and whatever I can do to shed a little light in this dark moment, I'll do it," she added.
"Music has always been there for me in my darkest times, especially when I was younger. When I was so overwhelmed with emotions and didn't know how to organise them, if I turned on the right song, I felt understood, I felt seen."
Her fans can rest assured that the album is still "pure pop" and sonically more in the style of Prism (2013) and Teenage Dream (2010). All the songs are upbeat except for the album closer, the mid-tempo
Smile is also particularly timely, but pandemic or not, Perry feels "hope is always in style".
"My hope is that I can just put the record out and speak candidly about my own experience so that someone can identify with it... I can only lead by example."
Another big reason why she has found her smile again is expecting her first child with fiance, English actor Orlando Bloom of Lord Of The Rings and Pirates Of The Caribbean fame.
During the Howard Stern interview, Perry said Bloom was instrumental in getting her through her dark period and that he is perfect for her.
She also has his nine-year-old son Flynn – from his previous marriage to model Miranda Kerr – to thank for picking out the first single from Smile, released in May last year.
"He loves music and TikTok and knows what's going on in the world, so I played him three songs last year and asked him which one to put out first. He chose Never Really Over," she said, adding that he was among the first people to listen to songs off the record.
Due to give birth this month, she admitted she was not planning on putting out an album around the same time. "But 2020 is about throwing plans up in the air," she quipped.
But motherhood has also gifted her a new perspective that has strengthened her resolve both personally and professionally.
"The needs of a newborn and preparing to bring a life that is so vulnerable and delicate (into the world)are way beyond what I imagined," she said.
A United Nations Children's Fund Goodwill Ambassador since 2013, her focus has been on children and adolescents who are most vulnerable. Having a child, Perry added,"blows my mind and gives me this fire in my belly, which I think will translate into being active in... supporting and standing up for children, mothers and women".
"I've always had this sense of wanting justice to prevail, and as I turn into mama bear, it's going to get even bolder," she said.
"I'm excited to take that newfound fire and apply it in all aspects of my life - even in songwriting, and in being unafraid to tell the stories... whether they're pretty or not."
She wants it to be OK to talk about real life, even if she is a pop star.
"There's some humanity and stigma taken off when people talk about the hard times... Life isn't a perfect Instagram post, it's all of the things." – The Straits Times/Asia News Network