Pop singer Katy Perry may have gained worldwide fame belting out “I Kissed a Girl,” but before the colored hair and skimpy costumes, she was once a Christian gospel singer with deep ties in the faith community.
Perry — previously known as Katy Hudson, her real last name — may no longer be singing Bible-inspired tunes, but one of her new songs, “By the Grace of God,” suggests the nine-time Grammy Award nominee could be returning to her roots, or at least acknowledging them.
“By the Grace of God,” off Perry’s new album “Prism,” is intensely personal and deals with love, loss and life’s many emotional struggles. Mainly, it sheds light on the singer’s divorce from actor and comedian ex-husband Russell Brand.
“That song is evident of how tough it really was at a certain point. I asked myself, ‘Do I want to endure? Should I continue living?’” Perry told Billboard magazine in an interview. “All the songs are real-life moments. I can only write autobiographically. I put all the evidence in the music. I tell my fans if they want to know the real truth about stuff, just listen to the songs.”
A sample of the lyrics: “By the grace of God (there was no other way) | I picked myself back up (I know I had to stay).”
“I put one foot in front of the other | And I looked in the mirror and decided to stay | Wasn’t gonna let love take me out that way.”
The daughter of Keith and Mary Hudson, evangelists who still travel around the nation speaking openly about their faith, Perry never actually renounced her Christianity, and told Rolling Stone magazine in 2010 that God “is very much still a part of” her life.
The magazine wrote at the time it was “surprising” to hear Perry talk about God the way she does, “because one would think her religious past is behind her, but she says she still considers herself a Christian.”
From Rolling Stone:
She shows me the tattoo of the word JESUS that she got on her wrist, just like her dad. “God is very much still a part of my life,” she says. “But the way the details are told in the Bible—that’s very fuzzy for me. And I want to throw up when I say that. But that’s the truth.”
Perry even gets afraid at disaster movies, because they remind her of the apocalypse she was taught to fear, though she doesn’t know whether that exists anymore. “I still believe that Jesus is the son of God,” says Perry. “But I also believe in extraterrestrials, and that there are people who are sent from God to be messengers, and all sorts of crazy stuff.” She sighs. “I look up into the sky and I’m just mindf**ked—all those stars and planets, the never-endingness of the universe. I just can’t believe that we’re the only polluting population. Every time I look up, I know that I’m nothing and there’s something way beyond me. I don’t think it’s as simple as heaven and hell.”
In 2011, Perry described herself as a “drifter,” saying she’s continuously asking questions and “soaking everything up.” She has also said she’s “open to possibility,” and that her strict upbringing as confined her in a bubble of sorts that she has since broken out of.
Like many 20-somethings, Perry seems to be on a journey. Her career has at times seemed counter-evangelical (her parents once worried that it would negatively impact their Christian ministry) and the topics she sings about can be on the risque side.
Is “By the Grace of God,” musically speaking, a definitive return to her Christian roots? Probably not. But it could be a small — and possibly fleeting — step in that direction.