Katy Perry's Prism Takes Her Out of Comfort Zone

10/22/2013 at 10:00 AM EDT

Katy Perry's Prism Takes Her Out of Comfort Zone
Katy Perry's Prism

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It wasn't a good sign for me when "Roar," the No. 1 single that heralded Katy Perry's third studio album, felt kind of tame compared to Sara Bareilles's "Brave," a similar self-empowerment anthem that came out a few months before.

But the good news is that "Roar" (which, admittedly, has since grown on me) isn't even one of the best songs on the vibrant, multicolored Prism – and there are certainly plenty more hits where that came from.

This is a pop blockbuster that easily beats 2010's hit-laden behemoth Teenage Dream. It finds Perry once again working with A-list producers like Dr. Luke, Max Martin, Stargate and Benny Blanco, and they deliver the hooks and beats for the diva, whether it's blissful dance tracks ("Birthday") or forceful power ballads ("Unconditionally").

Perry, though, also strays out of her comfort zone, from the retro pop-house of "Walking on Air," with a surprisingly soulful vocal from the singer, to the hip-hop swagger of "This Is How We Do," a party jam that tops Miley's "We Can't Stop."

Through it all, Perry has never sounded better, confidently belting it out or revealing more nuanced shades of her voice on cuts like "Double Rainbow," an atmospheric, Sia-co-written reverie.

Such tunes sound like they could be about current love John Mayer, while others seem as if they might be about ex-husband Russell Brand.

Either way, Perry wins.

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