Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” Lyrics Meaning

Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” is a love song with a couple of twists. First off Katy depicts herself more or less as a witch. And secondly, her lyrics are not so much focused on her being in love. In fact she makes it pretty clear that it is the guy rather who has approached her. But more than anything, she is warning dude against slighting her and to an extent even falling in love with her in general.

To explain this in more detail, Katy seems interested in the guy also. In fact she is so intrigued that she assures him that her “love will make (him) levitate”. However, what she is basically trying to tell him is that that he should not waste her time unless he is serious. Or as she puts it – once they commence, there is “no going back”.

Juicy J steps in

The above sentiment is driven home by Juicy J in his rap verse.  The subject of his rhyme is basically Katy Perry, and he comes off as someone who is interested in her romantically. And the ideas he is putting forth are similar to the one described earlier. 

He states that Katy is “sweet as pie” and “her love is so strong”. But at the same time he acknowledges that “if you break her heart she turn cold as a freezer”. Yet still his intent when entering the relationship with her was to “hit it and quit it”, as in have bedroom fun with her and then desert her. However, she proved to be “so dope”, as in such an extraordinary partner, that J “got addicted” and now is apparently in it for the long haul.

Lyrics of "Dark Horse"

Meaning of “Dark Horse”

As for the title of this song, the colloquial term ‘dark horse’ has different meanings and understandings. And the one Katy Perry seems to be applying in this song is tantamount to a person being unpredictable yet powerful.  And she uses the term once again in admonishing the dude who is trying to kick it to her to make sure he’s sure before getting involved, lest he gets overwhelmed by her love or perhaps more to the point tries to play her and suffers the consequences thereof.

Conclusion

So all things considered there are two major themes to “Dark Horse”. One is that the singer Katy is an exceptional lover, not so much in the physical sense but more along the lines of her being fully and powerfully committed to a romance. But the second is that if she is mistreated in such a relationship, as in dumped, then whoever broke her heart should be prepared to endure her wrath. 

So ultimately this track speaks to a concern a lot of women have on the dating scenes these days. And what is this concern? Their concern is being approached by a guy who is just looking for a quick thrill while they rather prefer a long-term, even lifelong, union.

Who wrote “Dark Horse”?

“Dark Horse” was produced by Cirkut, Dr. Luke and Max Martin. The three producers also co-wrote the song alongside Sarah Hudson, Juicy J and Katy Perry.

Katy derived inspiration to write this song from a 1996 horror film entitled “The Craft”, which centers on a group of teenage girls who engage in witchcraft.

Katy Perry and Juicy J’s Collaboration

“Dark Horse” served as the first collaboration between Katy and Juicy J. FYI, Dr. Luke arranged for Memphis-based rapper Juicy J, more popularly known as a member of the rap collective Three 6 Mafia, to be featured on this track at the request of Katy Perry.

Release Date of “Dark Horse”

Capitol Records released “Dark Horse” on 18 October 2013. It was the third single from Katy’s 2013 album Prism.

A very successful single

“Dark Horse” was one of the most-successful songs of 2013, not only topping the US Billboard Hot 100 but also the music charts in Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Romania. It also broke the top 10 in a bunch of other countries, including peaking at number 4 on the UK Singles Chart.

Moreover “Dark Horse” was nominated for a plethora of awards, including a Grammy and actually won the 2014 American Music Award for Single of the Year.

And in addition to being a hit song, “Dark Horse” also had a hit music video. It was directed by Matthew Cullen and garnered a few nominations of its own. It won the Best Female Video at the MTV Video Music Awards and Best Video at the MTV Europe Music Awards, both in 2014.

“Dark Horse” makes Vevo history

Moreover on 9 June 2015, the music video to “Dark Horse” made Vevo history by becoming the first by a female artist to garner one-billion views on this video-hosing platform. It also holds the distinction of being one of the most-viewed videos in the first 20 years of YouTube’s history.

Controversial Music Video

Despite its massive success, this song wasn’t loved by all. For instance, the video caught the ire of some Muslims due to it featuring a scene where a man wearing a pendant which reportedly read “Allah”, written in Arabic, is “disintegrated”. Thus a petition was started via the website Change.org, gaining almost 70,000 signatures, demanding that the video to “Dark Horse” be removed from YouTube.  Instead the pendant itself was removed from the video on 26 February 2014, which appears to have satiated the protesters. The video itself was originally released on 20 February 2014.

And by the way, the video uses a theme inspired by Ancient Egypt. This was an idea which Katy is said to have come up with.

2014’s Grammy’s Performance

The first time Katy Perry performed the song before a major-television audience, at the Grammy Awards on 26 January 2014, proved to be both controversial and successful at the same time. On the controversial side, some considered imagery used on the stage set to be proof of a rumor that Katy was part of an esoteric secret society. However, shortly after the performance, on 29 January, is when “Dark Horse” actually topped the Billboard Hot 100.               

 “Dark Horse” Lawsuit

On 29 July 2019, a court in Los Angeles ruled in favor of a rapper by the name of Flame (legal name Marcus Gray) that “Dark Horse” infringed the copyright of a song he dropped in 2008 entitled “Joyful Noise”. As a result Katy Perry and other creators of the song, including Capitol Records and Dr. Luke, were ordered to pay a total of $2.8 million to Gray, with Katy personally having to fork up $550,000.

When you carefully listen to Flame’s “Joyful Noise” below, you just might notice the similarities between it and “Dark Horse”.

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