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"California Gurls"
Single by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg
from the album Teenage Dream
Released May 7, 2010 (2010-05-07)
Format
Recorded Conway Recording Studios, (Hollywood, California)
Genre
Length 3:56
Label Capitol
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
Katy Perry singles chronology
"If We Ever Meet Again"
(2010)
"California Gurls"
(2010)
"Teenage Dream"
(2010)
Snoop Dogg chronology
"That Tree"
(2010)
"California Gurls"
(2010)
"It's in the Mornin'"
(2010)
Music video
"California Gurls ft. Snoop Dogg" on YouTube

"California Gurls" is a song by American singer-songwriter Katy Perry, featuring vocals and an additional rap verse from American rapper Snoop Dogg. Following and illegal leak, it was released as the lead single from Perry's third studio album, Teenage Dream (2010), by Capitol Records on May 7, 2010. It was written by Perry along with the song's producers Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, and Max Martin, and features additional songwriting from Bonnie McKee and Snoop Dogg. Feeling the album was incomplete, Perry decided to go into the studio with Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, and Max Martin to write two more songs, which would end up being "California Gurls" and "Teenage Dream". After seeing her friends dancing to "Empire State of Mind" (2009), by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, Perry felt inspired to write an answer song about California from a woman's perspective. In order to achieve her desired sound, she browsed West Coast artists on Wikipedia before deciding on Snoop Dogg, calling him the "Doggfather" of rap.

Musically, "California Gurls" is a mid-tempo disco, house, and funk song which draws heavy influence from New Wave and electronic music, although critics also noted influences of hip hop and Europop within its composition. Described as "neon-pop ode to the popsicle-maiming bikini vixens of the Golden State", it has been labeled a "summer anthem" by the majority of critics. The song garnered positive reviews from music critics, who complimented its production and chorus. "California Gurls" was a worldwide success, peaking at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for six consecutive weeks, as well as a variety of markets worldwide.

A music video for the song was released on June 15, 2010, and features Perry and her dancers as pieces of a board game, set in the fictional "Candyfornia". Perry has said that the inspiration behind the video was artist Will Cotton, who was also the artistic director of the video. It has been noted that the video is influenced by several other works, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and the board game Candyland. On December 2, 2010, the song received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. According to Billboard, "California Gurls" is the most successful summer song of all time, and was the most successful summer song of 2010, along with the fourth most successful song of 2010 in the United States. The song has sold over 5.542 million in the U.S., making it Perry's third highest-selling song behind "Firework" and "E.T.". With sales of over 9 million worldwide, "California Gurls" is one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Background[edit]

Perry found Snoop Dogg as a rapper with whom to collaborate on "California Gurls" through a search on Wikipedia.

According to Perry's A&R at the time, Chris Anokute, both "California Gurls" and "Teenage Dream" were the last two songs to be recorded for the album. In an interview with HitQuarters, Anokute elaborated further on the creation of the song. While travelling back from an Oscar after-party, Perry texted him saying: "Chris, I don't think my record is done - there is one more song I want to write, I feel it in my gut! I want to write a song about California girls."[1] At the time, "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, which was an ode to New York City, had become a worldwide success. However, she felt that California should have it's own anthem, so Perry set out to write a song about California from the perspective of a woman.[1] Perry used Wikipedia to research which rapper she wanted to collaborate with for "California Gurls", browsing West Coast artists before selecting Snoop Dogg.[2] Initially the song was titled "California Girls", but the spelling was changed to "California Gurls" after the passing of Big Star member Alex Chilton as a nod to their song, "September Gurls".[3]

"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."

—Perry talking about collaborating with Snoop Dogg.[2]

Speaking of the first time he heard a demo version of the song, Anokute said: "When I went to the studio and heard a rough version of ‘California Gurls’ I was like, "Katy, you’ve done it again!" Katy has incredible instinct."[1] After deciding she wanted to collaborate with Snoop, Anokute contacted his management team with the idea that "California Gurls" would bring Snoop back to Top 40 radio, and they requested that he send them the song. However, they were unable to as Perry had just recorded her vocals, so he told them to come to the studio instead. The same day, Snoop went into the studio with Perry, Dr. Luke, and Max Martin to record his part of the song.[1] According to Perry, the group recorded the song while high from smoking marijuana: "It was really cool. He came by the studio, played the song and rolled a 'J.' Everybody was contact [passively] high. But he was super-cool and he's been around forever. It's really amazing if you meet someone that's been around for 20 to 25 years and they're still cool, because sometimes they aren't.”[4]

After the song was leaked online, Capitol Records decided to release "California Gurls" early, posting the song on Perry's official website and moving the radio deal up from May 25, 2010 to May 7, 2010.[5]

Composition and production[edit]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"California Gurls" was written by Perry, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Benjamin Levin, Bonnie McKee, and Snoop Dogg, and Production was handled by Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, and Martin. Aniela Gottwald assisted both Emily Wright and Sam Holland in engineering the song at Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood, California. Serban Ghenea mixed the song at MixStar Studios in Virginia Beach, Virginia, while Tim Roberts assisted John Hanes, who served as the mixing engineer. All drums, keyboards, and programming was handled by Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Benny Blanco.[6] Speaking of the song, Blanco said: "‘California Gurls’ came about very crazy. I had took a road trip from New York to L.A., and I really was just stopping by the studio to say what’s up to Luke, ‘cause I was super tired. I get over there, and he’s like ‘yo, man, lets make a beat.’ We’re just sitting, talking, listening to music in one of the lounges. Literally, a lounge, in the studio, that happened to have a little set up, a little bass guitar, and these keyboards that cost $25 that we got from a garage sale. We were fucking around and we made two tracks, and that was ‘California Gurls’ and ‘Teenage Dream.’ In literally twenty minutes."[7]

"California Gurls" was written as an answer song to "Empire State of Mind" by hip hop recording artist Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys.

Musically, "California Gurls" is a disco,[8] house,[9] and funk song,[10] with an electropop beat and influences of hip hop,[11][12] New Wave,[13] electronic,[14] and Europop.[15] Entertainment Weekly writer Leah Greenblatt called the song a "neon-pop ode to the popsicle-maiming bikini vixens of the Golden State."[16] The song is written in the key of F major and moves at a moderate tempo of 138 beats per minute in common time. Perry's vocal range in the song spans from the lower note of C♭4 to the higher note of B♭5.[17] Nick Levine of Digital Spy felt "California Gurls" brought to mind "Calvin Harris grinding against Ke$ha in a '90s super-club."[11] Described as a "big, bright, decidedly beach-friendly pop tune" by James Montgomery of MTV News, it's production combines "sunshiney" synthesizers, starry, electronic whooshes and loose, funky guitar flourishes.[18] Writing for Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield felt that "California Gurls" set the tone for the rest of the album, and noted her vocals were processed staccato blips into "oh-oh-way-oh" chants.[19]

Lyrically, Perry wrote "California Gurls" as an answer song to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.[1] She decided to record the song after seeing her friends dancing to "Empire State of Mind", and felt that she needed to make a response from a women's perspective of California. The song discusses activities such as drinking gin and juice, laying underneath palm trees, and having sex on the beach.[11] During the song, Perry sings with a mixture of bravado and restraint in lyrics such as "You could travel the world/But nothing comes close, to the golden coast."[20] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard said the song's "bouncy production rests upon a shimmering set of synths, and Snoop Dogg slinks in to give a deliciously laid-back salute to the West Coast." However, Lipshutz noted that Perry remained "the star of the show".[20]

Critical reception[edit]

Perry performing "California Gurls" at the California Dreams Tour (2011).

"California Gurls" received many positive reviews from critics. The song was given five stars from Nick Levine of Digital Spy who commended Perry's "charismatic" vocals on the song as well as its "unstoppable pop chorus".[11] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly and Katie Hasty of HitFix called it "the summer jam" of 2010.[16][21] Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone said that the song sets the tone for Teenage Dream.[19] Chris Richards of The Washington Post praised the song, calling it "fresh" and "fierce". He commended the expertise of the song's arrangement and its "buoyant" chorus. Richards went on to say that "California Gurls" is "an ever-lasting gobstopper of a tune" and that "summertime megahits rarely feel this good".[22] Brian Wilson from American band The Beach Boys commended Perry's vocal on the song and described its melody as "infectious".[23]

Glenn Gamboa of Newsday reviewed the song saying, "'California Gurls' is a fizzy-pop concoction of empty calories, but it sure does stick with you." He went on to note that the craftmanship of the song was of a high standard.[24] Steve Leftridge of PopMatters called "California Gurls" the radio jam of the summer of 2010 and "the gargantuan singalong fantasy that delivered on the promise built by the disco thump of hits like 'I Kissed a Girl' and 'Hot N Cold'." Leftridge also praised the song's musical composition, lyrical content and its chorus which he said "you know by heart halfway through your first listen."[13] The track was deemed as a highlight on Teenage Dream by Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic.[25] Jason Lipshutz of Billboard said that while "California Gurls" "sticks to more conventional subject matter, the results are no less winning."[20] Edna Gundersen of USA Today said that the track is "an effervescent toast to summer fun."[26]

Chart performance[edit]

Perry in a soundcheck at the MuchMusic Video Awards in 2010

"California Gurls" sold 294,000 digital downloads in its first week and debuted at number one on the US Billboard Digital Songs chart. It debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Perry's highest debut on the chart at the time. On the issue dated June 19, 2010, the song reached number one, becoming Perry's second number-one song and Snoop Dogg's third.[27] "California Gurls" became the first single by an artist signed to Capitol Records in nearly 43 years to ascend to the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in its fourth week since Bobbie Gentry's single "Ode to Billie Joe" reached the top after four weeks on the chart.[28] It is Perry's third number one on the Pop Songs chart. "California Gurls" became the first song to top the 300,000 mark in digital sales more than once in 2010 with 318,000 and 359,000 copies sold in the first and second week of June, respectively.[29] Within seven weeks of its release, "California Gurls" sold over two million downloads, which is the second fastest pace to do so in digital history behind Flo Rida's "Right Round".[30] It debuted at number 31 on the Billboard Radio Songs chart and in the July 10, 2010, issue it reached number one on the magazine's Hot Dance Airplay chart, giving Perry her second number-one single on that chart. As of February 2014, the song has sold 5,604,000 digital copies in the US.[31]

Elsewhere, "California Gurls" reached number one in Canada and debuted in the top 20 in Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia), New Zealand and Norway. On May 24, 2010, "California Gurls" debuted on the Australian Singles Chart at number three, and later reached the number-one spot.[32] On the RIANZ Top 10 Radio Airplay Charts, the song came in at number one in New Zealand and also received Gold certification from RIANZ.[33] "California Gurls" entered the UK Singles Chart on June 27, 2010, at number one, becoming her second chart topper in the country. The single sold 123,607 copies in the UK in its first week (the second highest number in 2010 after the Helping Haiti charity single "Everybody Hurts"). After two weeks, the song sold 216,000 copies in the UK.[34] On October 29, 2010, the British Phonographic Industry classified the single as a "platinum record" (meaning it has sold over 600,000 units).[35][36] As of March 2012, the single had sold 741,001 copies in the United Kingdom becoming her second best-selling single there behind "Firework".[37]

Music video[edit]

The video was directed by Mathew Cullen and was inspired by the work of Will Cotton, who was also the Artistic Director of the video.[38][39] Filming of the video began on May 14, 2010. It premiered on June 15, 2010.[40][41] Perry explained the use of a candy theme rather than a beach theme for the video, saying, "It's definitely something to watch when you have the munchies. ... It's all edible. 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!"[42]

In the music video, Perry is a game piece in Candyfornia, a game based in poker and board games. The settings are inspired in part by Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the board game Candy Land, with much of the set decorated with cupcakes, ice creams, cotton candy, and lollipops. Snoop Dogg appears in the video as a king named "Sugar Daddy" that is holding several young women (Queens of Candyfornia) captive throughout the game, using candy related devices to hold them. Perry moves around, experimenting with objects. She moves through the land, making discoveries and freeing the women. In the chorus, she appears lying down on a cotton candy cloud, naked. Snoop Dogg tries to block her advances in many ways. When all the women are free, Perry leads them in a dance on the beach. Seeing the women freed, "Sugar Daddy" becomes enraged, marching on the women's position with an army of gummy bears. Perry, dressed in a red Wonder Woman like costume, quickly defeats the army with whip cream guns attached to her breasts, after which the stunned king throws down his staff and surrenders. The video ends with "Sugar Daddy" buried up to his neck in the sand by the women, nonetheless admiring their beauty and (in a nod to the Beach Boys song) wishing that women everywhere could be California girls. Various California landmarks appear in the video, such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Sign and some West Coast beaches which were all made out of confectionery.[43]

Live performances[edit]

Perry performing the song on her California Dreams Tour in Bournemouth, England

Perry performed the song on May 20, 2010, at the CW networks' annual "upfronts" presentation in New York.[44][45] Perry performed the song at the 2010 MTV Movie Awards on June 6, 2010, alongside Snoop Dogg.[46] Perry was the musical guest on the NBC variety series Saturday Night Live on September 25, 2010, (hosted by Amy Poehler) and performed the song live during the first music session of the program. Perry performed the song on The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live! – Countdown to Music's Biggest Night on December 1, 2010. "California Gurls" was included as the encore for her California Dreams Tour. Perry performed California Gurls without Snoop Dogg on the BBC One chat show The Graham Norton Show on June 28, 2010.[47]

Legacy and impact[edit]

The German cover band The Baseballs covered the song. It is included on their album Strings 'n' Stripes.[48] The Hub has released a promo for the animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Entitled "Equestria Girls", it is set to the song's melody, with a new set of lyrics written specifically for the show and sung by Shannon Chan-Kent from the perspective of the character Pinkie Pie.[49] A video clip of Cebu Pacific flight attendants performing a pre-flight safety demonstration as a dance routine to this song ended up as a viral YouTube video clip, attracting comment.[50] The single received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.[51] On May 25, 2012, Billboard ranked the song number one on a special The 30 Summer Songs of All Time listing.[52]

The Beach Boys controversy[edit]

In August 2010, Rondor Music Publishing, who holds the rights to The Beach Boys music, sent a warning to Perry, Snoop Dogg, Gottwald, Martin, Blanco, McKee and Capitol Records arguing that Beach Boys founding members Brian Wilson and Mike Love should receive co-writing credits because "California Gurls" uses the line “I wish they all could be California girls”, which they consider an "iconic" line in their song "California Girls". Rondor issued a statement saying: “Using the words or melody in a new song taken from an original work is not appropriate under any circumstances, particularly from one as well known and iconic as 'California Girls'. Rondor Music, who publishes the works of Brian Wilson and Mike Love, is committed to protecting the rights of its artists and songwriters, and with the support of the writers, that is exactly what we are doing."[53] However, both Wilson and Love expressed support for Perry and Snoop Dogg. While Wilson praised Perry's "clear and energetic" vocals, Love called her "clever", saying: “We have a lot in common now: We both have done songs called ‘California Girls’ and we’ve both kissed girls and liked it.”[54] Although Love noted similarities between the two songs, he said they were just in a "different vernacular", or a different way of appreciating the same thing. He further went on to say: "The Beach Boys have always accentuated the positive, and hers is a positive message about California Girls, so what’s not to like?"[54] Wilson said that he liked the song, praising it's "infectious" melody, saying that he was "flattered" by Snoop's use of the lyric, and "wished them both well with the cut."[54]

References[edit]

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