Dark Horse (Katy Perry song)

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"Dark Horse"
Single by Katy Perry featuring Juicy J
from the album Prism
ReleasedDecember 17, 2013
FormatDigital download
Recorded2013; Playback Recording Studios (Santa Barbara, California); MXM Studios (Stockholm, Sweden); Luke's in the Boo (Malibu, California); Secret Garden Studios (Montecito, California)
Genre
Length3:35
LabelCapitol
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
Katy Perry singles chronology
"Unconditionally"
(2013)
"Dark Horse"
(2013)
Juicy J singles chronology
"Keep Calm"
(2013)
"Dark Horse"
(2013)
 
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"Dark Horse"
Single by Katy Perry featuring Juicy J
from the album Prism
ReleasedDecember 17, 2013
FormatDigital download
Recorded2013; Playback Recording Studios (Santa Barbara, California); MXM Studios (Stockholm, Sweden); Luke's in the Boo (Malibu, California); Secret Garden Studios (Montecito, California)
Genre
Length3:35
LabelCapitol
Writer(s)
Producer(s)
Katy Perry singles chronology
"Unconditionally"
(2013)
"Dark Horse"
(2013)
Juicy J singles chronology
"Keep Calm"
(2013)
"Dark Horse"
(2013)

"Dark Horse" is a song recorded by American recording artist Katy Perry featuring rapper Juicy J. It was released on September 17, 2013 by Capitol Records as the first promotional single from Perry's fourth studio album, Prism (2013), following the lead single "Roar". Three months later, it was released as the third official single on December 17. Both artists co-wrote the song with its producers, Max Martin, Cirkut, and Dr. Luke, alongside Sarah Hudson. The song was originally conceived by Perry and Hudson during a writing session in Perry's hometown of Santa Barbara, California, to which she then requested that producer Dr. Luke contact Juicy J (an artist on Dr. Luke's Kemosabe Records) to invite him to perform on the song as well.

"Dark Horse" combines the genres of trap and grime, creating what has been described as a "Southern rap-techno mashup", while drawing elements from musical styles such as pop. It contains "darker" and "sexier" themes not seen in her previous work, and features a minimal production, with Perry's vocals being sung in a "seductive" and "mature" tone, while Juicy J is featured on the song's intro and rapped-bridge. According to the singer, she wanted the song to have a "witchy, spell-y kind of black magic-y idea", so she wrote it from the perspective of a witch warning a man not to fall in love with her, and if he does, she will be his last. Prior to its release, Perry and Pepsi hosted a competition where by fans could vote on whether they would prefer "Dark Horse" or "Walking on Air" to be released as the first promotional single from Prism by tweeting.

Upon release, "Dark Horse" received positive reviews from contemporary music critics, who praised its experimentation with urban music, but were divided on Juicy J's contribution to the song. "Dark Horse" has been a commercial success, charting at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and Canadian Hot 100, and number two on the New Zealand Singles Chart. The song is Perry's tenth song to top the Billboard Digital Songs chart.[1][2] Perry first performed the song live at the 2013 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 20, 2013. The song's first performance on television was at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2014.[3] The next day, a remix featuring Pitbull leaked online.[4] "Dark Horse" became Perry's ninth Billboard Hot 100 number one single on January 29, 2014. A music video is scheduled for release on February 20, 2014.

Background and release[edit]

Inspired by the 1996 film The Craft,[5] Perry and American singer-songwriter Sarah Hudson wrote a first version of "Dark Horse", in Perry's hometown of Santa Barbara, California.[6] Perry described the song as a "juxtaposition", as it mixed her, a pop music artist, with an "urban kind of hip-hop-flavored background soundtrack"; and its lyrics as "witchy and dark", which were written from the perspective of "a witch warning [a] man to not fall in love with [her]", and if so, she would be his last. Shortly after, Perry asked producer Dr. Luke to contact American rapper Juicy J, as she wanted him to record guest vocals for the track. The rapper revealed that Perry had a "very professional" work ethic and took a great part in the song's development. He further revealed: "My verse I did on that song, she was singing it. She's really a genius, she was by the mixing board and telling the guy what to take in and take out. She's really hands-on with her music, she knows music."[7]

In a press release on August 20, 2013, Pepsi announced a partnership with Perry to promote her fourth studio album Prism: the company announced a social "tweet-to-unlock" voting program, where fans could unlock song titles and their respective lyrics, by tweeting the hashtag #KATYNOW. The chosen tracks for the campaign were "Walking on Air" and "Dark Horse". Once tweets voting for each song reached a certain number, their respective samples were unlocked and fans could start to vote for which one they wanted to have an early release on digital retailers.[8] The winner was "Dark Horse", which was released on September 17, 2013 on the iTunes Store.[9] However, due to unexpected commercial success, it was sent to contemporary hit and rhythmic radio stations on December 17, 2013 as Prism's third official single.[10][11]

Production and composition[edit]

"Dark Horse" was recorded and engineered at Luke's in the Boo in Malibu, Conway Recording Studios in Hollywood, Playback Recording Studios in Santa Barbara, California, and Secret Garden Studios in Montecito, as well as MXM Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. It was engineered by Peter Carlsson, Mike "Crazy Mike" Foster, Clint Gibbs, Sam Holland, and Michael Ilbert. They were assisted by Eric Eylands, Rachael Findlen, Justin Fox, Elliot Lanam, and Cory Bice. It was mixed by Serban Ghenea, while John Hanes served as the engineer for mix. All instrumentation and programming was done by Dr. Luke, Max Martin, and Cirkut.[12]

"Dark Horse" has been described as a "Southern rap-techno mashup",[13] combining trap,[14][15] grime, and hip hop,[16][17] and has a length of three minutes and thirty-five seconds.[18] Musically, the verses are built around icy rhythms and chopped and screwed vocal samples, while the chorus' feature Perry singing into a gradual crescendo.[19] The song contains a grimy, "incredibly simplistic" production.[14] According to Kathy Iandoli of MSN Entertainment, "Dark Horse" contains a mixture of elements from "trippy pop" and EDM.[20] According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com, "Dark Horse" is written in the key of B minor. It follows a chord progression of G – D – Bm – Bm/A, and the vocals range from the low note of B3 to the high note of D5. "Dark Horse" moves at a tempo of 66 beats per minute.[21]

A writer for the Winnipeg Free Press described the song as "brooding, borderline sleazy trap-pop excursion that comes across like a stripped-down version of "E.T." mixed with "Grindin'" by The Clipse." Going on to call it unexpected, unconventional, and unstoppable.[22] Upon release, the song's intro received comparisons to that of the late Indonesian lady rocker, Nike Ardilla, specifically her song "Tinggallah Ku Sendiri" (Leave Me Alone).[23]

Critical reception[edit]

General response to American rapper Juicy J's guest vocals was negative.

Marc Hogan from Spin dismissed the song's lyricism, which he dubbed a "cliché salad", but believed that the song had potential to become a "hit", due to its "soaring hooks" and "sleekly sculpted production".[24] Reviewing the song for Billboard, Jason Lipshutz commended it, writing that by exploring trap-influenced music, she had "score[d]" and "slay[ed]".[25] Digital Spy's Robert Copsey questioned the decision to not have a proper chorus in "Dark Horse" and the inclusion of Juicy J, though he praised the "sleazy" beat and "sultry" vocals from Perry. He concluded the review by giving it a rating of four stars out of five.[26] Contributor Dylan Mial of Blogcritics mused that the "juxtaposition" of Perry's vocals and Juicy J's rap brought "the ingredients for a perfect musical storm" and favored Perry for the "uniqueness" of the single.[27]

Keith Murphy from Vibe called the track "infectiously sexy",[28] while John Walker from MTV Buzzworthy was similarly positive about the song, though he wrote that Juicy's verse was "phoned-in".[29] Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine likened the song to avant-garde band Art of Noise's song "Moments In Love" and called it a "continuation" of "E.T.", and further labelled it as a "standout" from Prism.[30] While she did not give her opinion of the song as a whole, Helen Brown from the publication The Daily Telegraph criticized Juicy J for his "daft" rap.[31] For AbsolutePunk, Craig Manning classified "Dark Horse" as Prism's worst song, while also panning the rapper's contribution.[32] Marah Eakin from The A.V. Club was not entirely critical of the song, though he noted that it was not among "Perry's best".[33]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic felt that "Dark Horse" was one of the album's "track picks".[34] Consequence of Sound's Chris Bosman had a mixed response—while he praised the song for feeling "vital" and "forward-moving", he criticized the guest vocals and nonetheless deemed the trap influence "trap for soccer moms".[35] Writing for ABC News, Mesfin Fekadu commented that "her team fare[d] better" in the song and observed that the "Southern hip-hop and electronic flavors" present on it were factors that made it "work".[36] Pop music website Idolator's Sam Lansky opined that the "weird trap-lite" of the song "never quite coalesces".[37] Natalie Palmer from Entertainmentwise also criticized Juicy J's rap and said that the song was not "mind blowing".[38]

Commercial performance[edit]

On the Billboard Hot 100, the song debuted at number seventeen on the week ending October 5, 2013. It also debuted at number four on the Hot Digital Songs chart with 194,000 downloads.[19] In response to the unexpected success of "Dark Horse", Capitol Records executive VP Greg Thompson stated: "Katy's well aware of [the success of] 'Dark Horse'" and "It might be the next single. We're watching it – and certainly appreciating the airplay – while still wanting 'Unconditionally' to have a full run".[10] In December, following the success of the song as a promotional single, it was chosen as the third official single from Prism.[39] On the week ending January 11, 2014, "Dark Horse" sold 285,000 copies (up 158%) ranking at number 7 on Hot Digital Songs chart. The following week the song rose to number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 4 on the Digital Songs chart selling 229,000 copies. The song became the thirteenth Top 10 song for the singer, and Juicy J's first top 10 on chart.[1] That same week, the song debuted at number thirty-four on Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs. The song also rose to number fifteen on Billboard Pop Songs, earning greatest gainer honours.[10][40] The following week the song topped the Hot Digital Songs, selling 243,000 copies, and rose to number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.[2][41] On the week-ending February 1, 2014 "Dark Horse" topped the Hot Digital Song for a second week, selling 263,000 copies and rose to number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.[42][43] As of January 23, the song has sold a total of 2 million copies in the US alone.[44] The following week, February 8, the song still remains atop the Hot Digital Song adding other 294,000 units to the amount of copies sold during the previous weeks.[45] On January 29, 2014, "Dark Horse" reached the number one position in the United States, giving Perry her ninth US number one and tying her with four other artists as the artist with the tenth highest amount of number ones in history, and also becoming Juicy J's first number one US hit. Perry also set a new record, becoming the only artist to have a number one single in each year of the current decade.[46]

Aside from topping the Hot 100, "Dark Horse" has also topped Pop Songs, giving Katy her 11th number-one. This feat tied her with Rihanna for most number ones on Pop Songs chart. "Dark Horse" has also topped the Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs thus becoming her 13th number one and breaking her own record for most consecutive number ones. Her earlier record which was established upon her second single "Unconditionally" topping the chart was 12 consecutive number ones.[47]

On the week-ending September 23, 2013, "Dark Horse" debuted at number ten on the New Zealand Singles Chart becoming Perry's twelfth top ten.[48] Five weeks later, the song peaked at number two, and charted in the top 10 for a total of 16 weeks.[49]

In the UK, on 22 September 2013, "Dark Horse" debuted at number 21 on the UK Singles Chart.[50] It re-entered the chart at number 19 on 2 February 2014. Two weeks later, it reached a new peak of number 10.

In Canada, the song has reached the top-spot position, becoming the singer's tenth number-one single in the country and Juicy J's first.[51]

Music video[edit]

In an interview with Billboard at the 2014 Grammy Awards, Juicy J stated the video has not been filmed yet; he added that it will be "a major motion picture." He further teased the release by saying, "I can't really tell you because it's definitely going to be a surprise, but I'll tell you this much right here: you've seen her other videos, this one's gonna be just as big. Everything she does is like grade A."[52]

With the announcement that "Dark Horse" had attained the top position on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart, it was also stated that, regarding an official music video, "Perry is currently in the process of filming it."[46] On February 5, 2014, Perry tweeted the video would be released "soon".[53] On February 13th, she released a preview of the music video onto her Vevo account on YouTube: the preview confirmed the Egyptian setting of the video. Furthermore, the protagonist will be a Perry's alter-ego named "Katy Pätra" (inspired by Egyptian Queen Cleopatra). The video will be released February 20th.[54]

Live performances[edit]

"Dark Horse" was first performed at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 20, 2013.[55] It was later performed at the iTunes Festival in London.[56] Katy also performed Dark horse with Juicy J at the We can survive event at the Hollywood Bowl on October 23.[57] Perry also performed "Dark Horse" on The Voice of Germany on December 13, 2013.[58] Perry and Juicy J performed the song at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2014. The "dark and mysterious" performance featured a "haunted forest" design with animatronic horses, broomstick pole dances, and a controlled fire.[3]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Dark Horse" – 3:35

Charts and certifications[edit]

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2013–14)Peak
position
Australian ARIA Digital Track Chart[59]5
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[60]31
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[61]11
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[62]35
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[63]1
Czech Republic (IFPI)[64]76
Denmark (Tracklisten)[65]20
France (SNEP)[66]25
Germany (Media Control AG)[67]12
Ireland (IRMA)[68]9
Lebanon (The Official Lebanese Top 20)[69]14
Luxembourg Digital Songs (Billboard)[70]1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[71]2
Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[72]2
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[73]2
Norway (VG-lista)[74]3
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[75]14
Slovakia (IFPI)[76]75
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[77]29
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[78]2
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[79]39
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[80]10
US Billboard Hot 100[81]1
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[82]15
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[83]1
US Hot Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[84]1
US Rhythmic (Billboard)[85]4
US Latin Pop Songs (Billboard)[86]33
Venezuela Pop Rock (Record Report)[87]2

Certifications[edit]

RegionCertificationSales/shipments
New Zealand (RMNZ)[88]Platinum15,000*

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2013)Position
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[89]29

Release history[edit]

CountryDateFormatLabel
Worldwide[19]September 17, 2013Digital download
(made available for purchase upon pre-ordering Prism on iTunes)
Capitol
United States[10][11]December 17, 2013Contemporary hit radio
Rhythmic radio
Italy[90]February 14, 2014Contemporary hit radioUniversal
Germany[91]February 28, 2014CD singleCapitol

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]