Why Can’t Children’s Entertainer Katy Perry Sing on Sesame Street?

It was a little baffling to hear that Sesame Street, besieged by complaints, had decided to cancel a segment in which pop star Katy Perry was singing to Elmo . The fuss was supposed to be about how Perry’s dress was apparently low-cut (though in the safe sheer-panel style of a figure-skating costume), but clearly it was informed by her naughty-girl image; the outfit itself didn’t seem out of line with what Pretty Ladies from the entertainment industry have always worn when visiting with Muppets.

Still, who listens to Katy Perry? From the the first time I heard the song in question, “Hot N Cold,” on the radio, I had sort of assumed that Elmo was the target audience. Setting aside the sleazier (and gender-politically problematic) parts of the verses —as Sesame Street’s song-rewriters did—here’s the chorus:

Cause you’re hot then you’re cold.

?You’re yes then you’re no.?

You’re in then you’re out.

?You’re up then you’re down.?

You’re wrong when it’s right.

?It’s black and it’s white.?

We fight, we break up.?

We kiss, we make up.

Is that for grown-ups? Microsoft Word scores it at a Flesh-Kincaid reading grade level of 0.7: preschooler-ready.  For comparison, this passage by the Stooges is at grade level 1.8:

Now, last year I was twenty-one.

I didn’t have a lot of fun.

Now I’m gonna be twenty-two.

I say, Oh, my, and a boo-hoo.

Now I’m gonna be twenty-two.

Oh, my, and a boo-hoo.

To go much lower than 0.7 takes serious writing talent—Dr. Seuss was reportedly able to get into negative numbers , and when I tried a passage from the Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” (of which “Hot N Cold” is clearly the debased echo), it scored a 0.0.

 “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” on the other hand, checked in at a grade level of 4.4.