A Reverse Crossover Hit: Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”

Written by David Turner (@dalatudalatu)

A few months ago visiting a friend at school, and we went out to a bar where Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” was played over and over and over again. I’ve already written about the song before, but each time I hear it fills it with a fresh context. Since coming back home for spring break I’ve heard “Dark Horse” multiple times on the radio, the first time on a late night mix, where I assumed it would just be the Juicy J verse, but nope the entire song played. Then on an afternoon countdown segment where it appearing right after Rich Homie Quan’s “Walk Through” and K. Camp’s “Cut Her Off,” which made my mind melt just a bit.

Despite the Clear Channelification of terrestrial radio, there is still a unique character that can shine through certain stations. Charlotte’s Power 98 (WPEG) has a strong lean towards R&B, which I’ve heard more Marcus Houston than probably any one person would like to have heard, but it also means that in 2014 there is a number of Ratchet&B singles on the station’s playlist. But, where does Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” fit into that station? It doesn’t.

The song with Juicy J and produced by Max Martin, Dr. Luke and Cirkut was an attempt at “Trap (electronic genre),” which somehow claims roots in “Trap (rap genre).” But that variation of Rap at best right now is floundering as California is stealing the shine away from Atlanta; so while people were quick to yell “Versace Versace Verse,” DJ Mustard and Ty$ are the ones with the Billboard  Pop hits to back up their urban radio spins. Yet “Dark Horse” has found a way onto at least this rap station’s playlist. This could be the post-“Royals” effect starting to show, as that young New Zealand singer got a hit that read as “rap” even though sonically it sounded like nothing else on rap radio, see also how “Team” has receive no rap/R&B station airplay. “Royals” wasn’t the only hit, as “23” by Mike Will Made and Miley Cyrus was another white girl rap track that rap stations fully embraced.

A song produced by one of the biggest white American pop stars, produced by some of the biggest pop producers in the world and featuring a rapper who’s had at least three career revivals is suddenly “rap.” And Kanye didn’t put out any singles for Yeezus on the radio for what reason.

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