Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm” Lyrics Meaning
In the song “Chained to the Rhythm” by Katy Perry (featuring Skip Marley), Katy takes more of a political stance. Being socially-conscious is not Perry’s norm. But she has established herself as an outspoken critic of US President Donald Trump, and she wrote this track in the aftermath of him winning the Presidency. So in that regard, even though it reads a lot like a dance song, her goal was not “to write a club banger”. Thus this song does encourage the listener to “dance” or more specifically to “dance to the distortion” and “stumble around like a wasted zombie”, signifying that yes, there is a party going on, albeit in a troubling environment.
The overall theme of this track seems to allude to the idea of people choosing to ignore troubling circumstances going on in the world around them. Or more specifically, the titular “chains” represent a form of bondage and the “rhythm” societal norms. So the idea that the artists are fundamentally putting forward is that no matter what happens, people are not going to deviate from their normal routines. Thus the “chains” are not symbolic of bodily captivity but rather the audience lacking the wherewithal to free themselves, not from anything physical but rather from pervasive actions/ideologies. And in this particular case, they are personified by “the rhythm”, i.e. dancing.
Skip Marley steps in
Meanwhile Skip Marley’s verse is a lot more-specific. He criticizes the societal elite for being ‘greedy’. He further implies that the masses are fed up with such actions and as a result are “about to riot”.
But while Marley in particular may be encouraging the audience to rise up and fight against the system, overall this song is not based on a call for such action. Rather it more or less depicts them as captives (which is made more evident by the hamster wheel imagery used on the videos and during one of its performance) who are more interested in dancing than they are in pressing-political issues.
Facts about “Chained to the Rhythm”
- The promotion of this track included an aggressive marketing campaign. The promotion was conducted in collaboration with Spotify.
- Also Katy herself went about displaying disco balls (with chains, keeping within the theme of the song) in major cities throughout the world which allowed interested parties to preview the track.
- The music video, which features Katy Perry inside a fictitious amusement park, was filmed at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. The video ended up receiving multiple MTV Video Music Awards.
- Capitol Records released “Chained to the Rhythm” as a digital download on 10 February 2017, with Apple Beats 1 premiering it on 9 February.
- And the aforementioned marketing efforts paid off big time. Because within its first day of release, the song set Spotify’s record for most downloads in a day for a track by a female, with over three-million streams.
- Rapper Lil Yachty released a remix of this track on 22 March 2017.
- “Chained to the Rhythm” is featured on Katy Perry’s 2017 album. That album is titled Witness.
- Although the consensus is that this song makes a political statement, from Skip’s perspective it isn’t. According to him, it is actually about “unification and love”.
Katy Perry and Skip Marley performed this track at three prominent venues in 2017. The first was on 12 February 2017, at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
Secondly was on 22 February, at the 2017 Brit Awards in London.
Then they did it again on 5 March at the 2017 iHeartRadio Music Awards in Inglewood.
How “Chained to the Rhythm” performed on the charts
“Chained to the Rhythm” performed impressively on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Charts, respectively peaking at number 4 and number 5.
It also charted in a vast number of other countries. For example, it peaked at the top of the charts in Hungary, Latvia and Poland. Overall this song was a vast global success.
Who wrote “Chained to the Rhythm”?
The five co-writers of this song are the two headline artists along with the following:
- Max Martin
- Ali Payami
Co-writers Martin and Payami also produced the song.
Was this Katy Perry’s first collaboration with Skip Marley?
Yes, it was. Perry reached out to Marley concerning this collaboration after being impressed by his 2017 track “Lions”. FYI, Skip Marley is the grandson of the legendary Jamaican reggae artist Bob Marley.