How a Katy Perry Song Turned Into an Anthem for Sick Kids

Katy Perry may have originally meant her pop hit "Roar" to be a cathartic breakup song for the heartbroken, but it's taken on a much taller task than that: The tune has turned into an inspirational anthem for young kids battling illnesses. The latest adolescent to lip-sync the single off of Perry's album "Prism" is Morgan Platt, a 10-year-old girl who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June 2011.  

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Morgan, a pediatric cancer patient at Connecticut Children's Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, recently enlisted fellow kids at the hospital, along with nurses, doctors, and staff members (some dressed as lions, boxers, butterflies and bees), to lip-synch the song in this latest feel-good rendition of "Roar." According to the video's description on YouTube, Morgan "decided to make a music video in hopes it would go viral and raise awareness about her condition and the other types of cancers being treated at Connecticut Children's."

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Morgan isn't alone in finding motivation to overcome illness in Perry's words. Hospitalized kids at the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon, New Hampshire, filmed a similar lip-synched video in October. The five-minute video quickly went viral and has since racked up 3 million views.


Earlier this month, Jack Robbins, an 8-year-old with nonverbal autism, literally found his voice through the song. His mother, Carla Robbins, posted the 35-second clip to YouTube, writing, "He never says a word he is not told to say and he spontaneously sang this song, over and over because, well, obviously he likes it! Which is a miracle and so cool that he had a preference for music, an artist, a song AND he's singing it!"


And then there's the girl who may have started it all: Olivia Wise. The 16-year-old from Toronto, who is dying from an inoperable brain tumor, recorded "Roar" in her own voice. The poignant post even prompted a response from Perry herself.


So what is with this particular song that has driven so many children to create such heartwarming mimicry? It might be thanks in part to the beat and poppiness of the track. A study published in 2011 found that music can provoke feelings of elation and craving, similar to tangible rewards, and lead the brain to release dopamine, the happiness neurotransmitter. Kids dealing with something as serious as cancer definitely need daily doses of mood boosters in whatever form they can get them. The repetitive cheerful rhythm and peppy pulsations could certainly add to the song's euphoric effect. 

The lyrics themselves also evoke passion and could easily kindle an "I'm going to kick cancer's butt" attitude. Forget that Perry's driving force for singing them was probably her divorce, and read them as is:

"You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready 'cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now
I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar"
And since 29-year-old Perry has a relatively clean image for a modern-day pop star, she makes a pretty good role model. "Pre-adolescents and teens look for heroes and people they can identify with, such as the girl who rose above it all and found success. And the kids want to identify because everybody wants to be powerful and on top,"  Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills-based child and family psychotherapist tells Yahoo Shine.

Most important, kids finding optimism through something as simple as a Top 40 hit can be contagious. "This song has become an anthem of hope for kids who are desperately seeking something to hold on to, and in that way I think it is extremely powerful and useful," Walfish says. "This song is injecting hope into these children. Not only for children but for adults as well. We all need hope and need something to look forward to."

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