By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
We might not wanna admit it. But at one time or another — alone in our car, naked at our laptop, drunk in the shower — we've all sung along to a Ke$ha song. And we liked it. "I'm talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk/Boys tryin' to touch my junk, junk/Gonna smack him if he getting too drunk, drunk... Tik tok on the clock/But the party don't stop, no." Sounds embarrassingly, unbelievably, uncomfortably familiar, right?
Well, over the past couple of years, this 24-year-old Cali chick and self-professed sleazeball (born Kesha Rose Sebert, no dollar sign) has unleashed two batches of the most aggressively dumb popular music — 2010's Animal and its extended-play companion Cannibal — ever heard by Western civilization. Her signature tracks are nothing more than cheap, disposable talk-rap nuggets of infuriatingly catchy party pop. Yet they and their creator have totally infiltrated American culture, bum-rushed the radio, hijacked significant TV time, turned tweens across the country into tube-top-wearing Ke$ha-lites, and caused people such as ourselves to unconsciously memorize lyrics like "Sorry, Daddy, but I'm not that easy/I'm not gonna sit here while you circle-jerk it and work it."
Needless to say, critical praise for Ke$ha is largely nonexistent. But her commercial credentials are pretty kickass. In less than 20 months, she has sent five singles screeching into the upper reaches of the Billboard Hot 100, including two typically obnoxious chunks of Auto-Tuned bubblegum ("Tik Tok" and "We R Who We R") that actually seized the number one slot, as well as three others ("Blah Blah Blah," "Take It Off," and "Your Love Is My Drug") that stalled just a few spots short of the tippity-top. Almost simultaneously, both of Ke$ha's albums clawed their way up the Billboard 200 like feral cats on amphetamines, with Animal ripping its way to number one while Cannibal crashed short at number 15.
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Now it'd be easy to dismiss Ke$ha's success as another sign of the impending 2012 apocalypse (or at least the never-ending campaign to stupefy the average American culture consumer). But we shouldn't allow ourselves to fall victim to knee-jerk paranoia and critical snobbery when there's actual analysis to be done. So let's clear our minds, buckle down, and simply ask the following questions: Why can't we stop parroting "Tik Tok" when it's piped through the PA at Burger King? And why the fuck are pop music junkies so deeply in love with this chick?
Of course, the answer isn't really a matter of music. It's all about attitude. And those sleazy, skeezy, and easy lyrics are the only part of any Ke$ha song that adequately capture her gloriously trashy persona. The rest is filler. But those words — like her way-too-much-information celebrity shtick, glittering-garbage-girl fashion sense, and clusterfucked performance philosophy — are a stiff (albeit sorta stupid) middle finger to nearly all of the pre-existing pop princess stereotypes.
Ke$ha is — to use a reality TV term — a hot mess. And she relishes the role. She has never pretended to be cute and clean like "...Oops, I Did It Again!"-era Britney Spears. She has never traded on the mystique of a good-Christian-girl-gone-bad like Katy Perry. And she has never tried to pass herself off as some sort of pseudo-intellectual postmodernist à la Lady Gaga. Essentially, Ke$ha is an obnoxious frat dude trapped in the body of a pretty blond party girl. And she's not ashamed. She likes to booze it up, do some drugs, sleep with strangers, fistfight, talk shit, pass out, and then write a song about it.
Another thing Ke$ha apparently enjoys is pissing in dishware. Now, she doesn't make a habit of it. But when absolutely necessary, this girl's gonna do what she's gotta do. Case in point: An urgent urination situation before a concert at Melbourne, Australia's Festival Hall in March. The show was mere minutes away. The Aussie mob was screaming her name. And as she told a reporter for the Fox FM radio network: "I had to pee really bad, so I peed in a salad bowl and hid it... Somewhere at the venue, there is a salad bowl full of my pee."
Hmm, that's odd. But is it any coincidence that this incident sounds like a lyrical snippet snatched straight from one of the shock popper's unhinged odes to bad behavior? Probably not. These kinds of TMI moments are not uncommon for Ke$ha. In fact, she reveals gross and goofy stuff about herself (e.g., a history of brushing her teeth with Jack Daniel's, a naked body-painting hobby, a fetish for mullets) so regularly it seems almost impossible for her outbursts to be accidental. These bouts of verbal diarrhea can't really be flubs, right? They've gotta be part of some pre-meditated plot to perpetuate the wild party myths that Ke$ha's been building up in her recorded repertoire, right? She's messing with us, right?
Maybe and maybe not. But either way, she's consistently crazy. And just like her airheaded pop poetry and random interview babble, we can undoubtedly bet that Ke$ha's wardrobe and her oh-so-aptly named Get $leazy tour at the Klipsch Amphitheater will provide us with further proof of this Cali chick's awesome incoherence. After all, according to postperformance reports from previous stops along the tour trail, she will arrive in a costume consisting of glowing neon sunglasses, ripped nylons, dollar-store fishnets, rubber underwear, stripper boots, Wacko Jacko gloves, and a weird silvery breastplate. She will be soaked, head to toe, in glitter and baby oil. She will dole out lap dances. She will cavort with a giant plush set of male private parts. And she will play the theremin. Oh, she'll also do a bit of singing at some point.
Of course, all this scattershot kookiness doesn't mean Ke$ha's stage show won't be serious and ambitious too. As she told Spin in February before kicking off her worldwide trek: "I'm going to bring the planet an epic dance party. That's my mentality with this tour — party as hard as we can and make it as infectious as possible. It's unlike anything anyone else in pop music is doing... It's not scripted. It's pretty trashy. And it's genuinely fun."
Oh shit, sounds as though Ke$ha's talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk. And though we don't wanna admit it, we're probably gonna sing along. And we're probably gonna like it.