Posted by: dougery | January 11, 2012

Thoroughly Unnecessary Song Explication File #204: Katy Perry “The One That Got Away”

Welcome back to the Thoroughly Unnecessary Song Explication Files! This time around we’re covering the ubiquitous Katy Perry. Did you know she has a cat named Kitty Purry? Adorable.

[Verse 1]

Summer after high school when we first met/
Make out in your Mustang to Radiohead/

Young love, how nice! Uh, you’re making out to radiohead? Why is this exactly? Well, I suppose nothing says “Kiss me, you fool!” like songs named after rabbit tumor diseases.

And on my 18th Birthday/
We got matching tattoos/

Four lines in and this song is making me depressed. Couldn’t you have gotten, like, matching t-shirts instead?

Used to steal your parents’ liquor/
And climb to the roof/
Talk about the future/
Like we had a clue/

Class act. Bet that Kahlua was delicious. Also, heights plus impaired motor-skills is a winning combination. Not sure where this narrative is heading. What could possibly go wrong?

Never thought that one day/
That I’d be losing you/

And there it is. But at least you didn’t do anything permanent like get matching tattoos or something.


In another life/
I would be your girl/
We keep all our promises/
Be us against the world/

Katy, let’s take this in some Sliders, DC Comics Multiverse direction. On Earth 34, you totally still have Mustang dude. Your tattoos still match. You gave up on radiohead because “they don’t use guitars anymore. The Bends 4ever!” You can now buy liquor yourself although you prefer box wine.

In another life/
I would make you stay/
So I don’t have to say/
You were the one who got away/
The one who got away/

Katy, on Earth 17, you have a psychotic break. You chain up Mustang dude in a supply closet of an abandoned power station out on rural road 8 after you catch him cheating with Gina. “You promised to never leave me, Mustang dude!,” you scream but its been like 6 months and you’re now pleading with a moldering corpse.

[Verse 2]

I was June and you were Johnny Cash/
Never one without the other We made a pact/

Because that relationship went so well. Suddenly radiohead seems breezy and romantic.

Sometimes when I miss you/
I put those records on (whoa)/

But only sometimes. Most times you just, I dunno, get over it. Pour yourself into your work. Acquire a hobby. On a more serious note, the superfluous Keanu/Joey Lawrence-esque ‘whoa’ might be my favorite lyric of this song. And the realism. I don’t know how many times I’ve put on a record and just gone ‘whoa.’ My emotions, my emotions.

Someone said you got your tattoo removed/
Saw you downtown singing the blues/
Its time to face the music/
I’m no longer your muse/

Bummer ’bout the tat, brah. Must have been expensive. “Wino forever” and all that, right? And let’s take a moment to collate the sheer number of music styles cataloged in this song. You got indie rock/weird electro dubstep depending on what era radiohead is being made out to, the rockabilly/country/gospel-ness of Mssr Cash and now blues? There better be references to polka, trance, and a shout-out to Public Enemy in the rest of this thing. Just sayin’.

Secondly, if Mustang dude is singing the blues, why are you so certain you aren’t technically still his muse? Maybe he misses you, girl? Maybe you had one of those can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em relationships where he’s miserable either way?

[Repeat Chorus]

In another life/
I would be your girl/
We keep all our promises/
Be us against the world/

Katy, on Earth 22, you and Mustang dude decide to both attend the same college. You both become members of the young republicans, get those weird chastity rings, he goes to Law school and you get your PhD in illuminated manuscripts. 30 years and 4 kids from now Mustang dude runs for president backed by the newly influential “Teapot Dome” fringe party. Yet your hubby takes quite a licking from the lamestream liberal media and yes, it sure does feel like it is you both ‘against the world.’

In another life/
I would make you stay/
So I don’t have to say/
You were the one who got away/
The one who got away/
The one (x3)
The one who got away/

Katy, on Earth 49, you ‘accidentally’ forget to take your birth control pills. Then on one of those nights up on the roof you break the news to Mustang dude. He was planning on joining the Peace Corps before applying to college but now there’s a hasty wedding and he takes a job in his uncle’s autoshop. Now you made it clear that he could ‘follow whatever life path’ he wanted to so it is totally not your fault that he comes home every night with engine grease on his face and a 6 pack of Coors to a screaming infant with impetigo and a wife waving another one of those damn pregnancy tests in the air lit up all positive, ugh.


All this money can’t buy me no time machine (no)/

Katy, on Earth 8, you attend community college and hurtin’ for cash, sign up for a series of ‘advanced temporal displacement’ experiments that pay out 5K per week…

Can’t replace you with a million rings (no)/

Unclear here if she means purchasing herself a drawer full of ice or if this means she plays the Elizabth Taylor card and just keeps hoping lightning will strike with each successive marriage.

I shoulda told you what you meant to me (whoa)/

You never told him what he meant to you! Fucks wrong with you?

Cause now I pay the price/

[Repeat Chorus, again]

In another life/
I would be your girl/
We keep all our promises/
Be us against the world/

Katy, on Earth 30, Mustang dude actually does join the Peace Corps and you both trade letters like ‘ery day. Plus, some skype. Problem is in a remote jungle your boy is bitten by a very large wolf. He complains of going through some changes and you fear the worst. He’s met some french-Indian hottie and lost interest in ‘Merica. But that’s not so! 4 months later he stows away on a merchant marine ship and during the next full moon breaks into your apartment all wolfed out and nearly kills you from bloodlust. But not quite. You spend a few weeks in the hospital and when the next full moon comes along, heal miraculously, albeit also grow shaggy body hair, talons, fangs and a useless stubby tail. You join your werewolf boyfriend and spend the rest of your days killing indiscriminately, avoiding local police forces and the occasional ‘big game’ hunter with a penchant for cryptozoology. It is truly, once again, you both ‘against the world.’

In another life/
I would make you stay/
So I don’t have to say/
You were the one who got away/
The one who got away/
The one (x3)
The one who got away/

Katy, look, I’m sorry. You can’t ‘make’ somebody stay. You have to let them live their life, man! Set that Mustang dude bird free! If he comes back, he’s yours forever. If he doesn’t, well, you can always go on SNL and make boob jokes.

[Concluding Chorus]



  1. Great blog post, Doug! (Despite the fact that Republicans would NEVER, EVER get a PhD in illuminated manuscripts! Business school Forever!!!)

    • Thanks, Pam! By the way, did you enjoy eps 3-5 of Downton Abbey as much as the first 2?

      • Yes. Totally hooked on it now.

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