When Katy Perry previewed Prism‘s “Dark Horse,” she kept mum that the bouncing, brooding track features a verse by Memphis hip-hop icon Juicy J. So when the two performed “Dark Horse” for the first time at iHeartRadio Music Festival, they were under pressure to show why the collaboration works.
While some pop purists balked at Perry’s choices of album guests (Juicy’s the only one in Prism), “Dark Horse” proves that pop and hip-hop can still meld in an unexpected but interesting way. Perry’s voice slinks through dares that sound dangerous during the verses, but almost romantic at the swirling hook: “‘Cause once you’re mine, once you’re mine, there’s no going back.”
Perry sings that she wants to be an Aphrodite, while Juicy’s verse adds to the song’s darker tendencies by comparing her love to that of a convicted sex offender.
“Dark Horse” emphasizes how Juicy J’s long flirted with hedonism, and Perry’s sung verses proves that she’s game, too. The song works, so it’s a slight shame that the iHeartRadio performance could have been more convincing. At the music festival, the “Roar” star sounded alluring as she leaned and rocked to the song’s spare snaps and Juicy J’s forceful verses. Perry looked game the entire time, while Juicy could have been a little more animated when he wasn’t rapping. (Perry seemed to notice, too: “Come on, Juicy!”) It was a good first live run, but there’s room for improvement to drive home why Katy Perry and Juicy J are a good fit.
Watch Katy Perry and Juicy J perform the live debut of “Dark Horse” up top.