- Vancouver, British Columbia - After the response I received from reviewing Lady Gaga's The Fame/The Fame Monster, the time felt right to judge the music of a certain Californian girl who goes by the name of Ke$ha (born: Kesha Rose Sebert). Let me just say from the start, I don't exactly expect this to be a particularly flattering review. I have followed Ke$ha against my will for the past year since she first hit the music scene with her single, "Tik Tok," and let me say, I have never been much of a fan.
Nonetheless, Ke$ha is a relevant figure in the music business right now. Why? I couldn't tell you. Her music can best be characterized as half-spoken, half-sung, while mixing thick dance-pop beats to her handcrafted lyrics. And when your first big break in the music business is singing backing vocals to Paris Hilton's "Nothing in this World," you know you have big time potential in the music biz. Okay, maybe that was a low blow. All seriousness though, Ke$ha has actually worked with a variety of pop musicians, such as Britney Spears, the Veronicas, Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, and Katy Perry. Most are household names, so apparently she is doing something right....whether that pertains to her music prowness is highly in question.
What is perhaps most shocking about Ke$ha is not her drab, mentally insulting lyricism, but the fact that she cites such legends as Madonna, Johnny Cash, Freddie Mercury of Queen, and Bob Dylan among her musical influences. Johnny Cash, really? I didn't realize that Johnny Cash was into Auto-Tune, or into the spoken word rap style that Ke$ha experiments with. While I personally do not enjoy the vocal effects that we are seeing so prominently in pop music, the fact of the matter is that it appears that Auto-Tune will forever be remembered as a trademark of the first decade of pop music in the 21st century.
While her studio album, Animal, and her EP, Cannibal, were both released in 2010, I've decided to look at the first of the two, unlike my Lady Gaga review. Animal sold over 2,000,000 records, establishing Ke$ha as a popstar with some clout. The record spawned about 4 singles with varying degrees of success, though rotation on MuchMusic and MTV solidified it within the teenage consciousness.
Let's begin with the lead track, "Your Love is My Drug." It is a catchy track, in part, because it feels like a rather summery love song. With that said, it lacks any sweet innocence, though neither is it intense or mature. Ke$ha's writing does not possess a great deal of lyrical depth or symbolism. Sure, there is some symbolism, but it is so simplistic that it requires no significant thought to understand it. Among the lyrical wonders of this track: "My sneeze is gonna be affected if I keep it up like a love sick crack head." Really? Also, I can't say that I've really ever experienced such an emotional connection to someone that I uttered the affectionate line: "Do you wanna have a slumber party in my basement?" And who could top ending a love song with the line, "I like your beard."
Next up is "Tik Tok," which brought Ke$ha into the public's attention. The first time I heard the opening line, "Wake up in the morning feelin' like P Diddy," I couldn't help but scratch my head and ask, "did I just hear what I think I heard?" What does P Diddy feel like in the morning? In general, this track is just annoying. Sure, I can appreciate how it could get people moving on the dance floor, but when you really listen to what idiocy is being spoken over the music, it is artistically insulting. I mean, really: "Now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger/But we kick 'em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger." Is there any woman today who actually believes that Mick Jagger is a sexy beast? He looks like he should've died twenty years ago! God knows why he hasn't already! Quite honestly, this track is just crap.
"Take It Off" follows and it sounds more intelligent as a track, but it isn't that great. It sounds like a rather standard dance pop tune. It vaguely reminds me of Nelly's "Hot In Here" simply because of the command that we should all take off our clothes. Just curious, but has anyone ever followed the commands of singers in tunes likes these two? The song itself takes a bit of a fall further when a quasi-choir/crowd sings behind Ke$ha, because really....a dance pop track with a quasi-choir/crowd just sounds wrong. All in all, this track lacks any depth or special creativity.
"Kiss n' Tell" is the first track that possesses a hint of honest sincerity on the part of Ke$ha and while I don't particularly enjoy her choice of words, we get the sense that Ke$ha is actually writing from some personal experience. However, with all of that said, Ke$ha manages to sink the ship with a line like: "You're acting like a chick, why bother?/I can find someone way hotter/With a bigger wow." The beat itself is more fun than most of her other tracks though, so it isn't as annoying.
"Stephen" sounds like a hint of Alanis Morrisette in some ways, but Ke$ha manages to only come off as an annoying, whiny desperate girl who can't get over a boy who doesn't return her affections. Heck, Stephen has an ugly girlfriend that he is busy with. Move on! To be honest, some of the things that she says, they sound like a creepy stalker chick.
"Blah Blah Blah [feat. 3OH!3]" says everything you need to know about it in the title. I will say right now that I have loathed 3OH!3 since hearing their first mega track, "Don't Trust Me." That song was utter crap and I just so happen to believe that Ke$ha and 3OH!3 are the male and female equivalents of each other. They both enjoy "singing" by talking and the only shade of talent in singing that they display is so processed and masked that it is hard to tell if it is their voice at all. And to be honest, I found the line, "Shush girl, shush your lips, and do the Helen Keller and talk with your lips," to be utterly offensive. It sounds about as stupid as someone telling another to do "the Ghandi" and go on a hunger strike to lose weight. But no, it is okay, since it is a command to a woman to just ship and be sexy? I know I am getting distracted by a different album, so I will cut it off there and simply say that Ke$ha's featuring with 3OH!3 is blah. Just don't even listen to it. It is crap.
"Hungover" is actually a half-decent pop track. Not incredible, but again there is some sincerity in this track. Ke$ha isn't half-bad when she is reflective and refrains from trying to preach how awesome she is and how she owns the club. And while the music is nothing revolutionary on this track, the lyricism is more revealing than anything else on the album thus far. Shocking, but there were a few times when I heard the slightest tinges of Shakira in Ke$ha's voice.
"Party at a Rich Dude's House" is just a little lame, while "Backstabber" sounds rather simplistic. I don't imagine that it required much time in the studio for recording. "Blind" is an angry breakup song that I probably could've written if I turned my brain off and demanded no originality. What "Blind" demonstrates so well is that she makes no artistic effort to be daring, original, or creative. One of my colleagues was a Creative Writing major in university and I remember her having a few of her poems rejected due to not being abstract enough and thus being too accesible. And while I feel like most poetry is simply too abstract and inaccesible for the common man, Ke$ha has the opposite problem. There is so little of anything in her lyrics that there is nothing to attach one's self, thus her music is forgettable. An unfortunate commentary on pop music today is that being daringly original is increasingly rare, while being daringly obscence is the norm.
"Dinosaur" is just stupid. Enough said. I wanted to stab my ears with a fork. "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" could've been something special with a little more emotional investment, but again, we don't see Ke$ha going the whole way with revealing her soul. This album generally leaves the listener feeling like it was itself a quickie record, rushed without the sense of sobering second thought. "Boots and Boys" is just awful, just sayin'.
"Animal" is the closing track of the album (thankfully!). It generally sounds like a rather skippable dance pop track on a dance pop album. Hardly anything memorable...in fact, the sooner that I can finish this review and forget about what I've just subjected myself to, the better.
Animal as an album is a great disappointment. There have been rumours that Ke$ha is merely a parody musician, meaning that she is attempting to highlight the mediocrity of pop music and how easy it is to achieve fame, but let's be honest, this is entirely far too generous in my opinion. With all of the young pop talent out there just itching for a record contract, it is hard to believe that one would spend much of their life seeking a career in the music business just to mock and ridicule the hand that feeds it. Ke$ha will likely continue to pump out more forgettable radio trash and the masses will no doubt eat it right up. If illegal downloading kills the artist, if you please, download Ke$ha.
Rating: 1/5 Sour Grapes