On 2010″s “Animal”and its companion follow-up, “Cannibal,” Ke$ha sounded like a bratty little sister to Pink and Katy Perry. On “Warrior,” out Dec. 4, she makes her bid to push them out of the way for good and makes a case for her disposable, of-the-moment, liquor-soaked, trashy pop.
Ke$ha”s music provides the template for wanna-be party girls, who start to get itchy for the weekend around Wednesday afternoon. Just like those girls, who teeter precariously on 6-inch stilettos about to topple over outside of clubs that won”t let them in, her music feels just as precarious. It”s well-crafted in its patchwork fashion, but feels like it could fall apart at any moment and won”t be remembered in the headachy haze of Sunday morning”s hangover.
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Dr. Luke, who has worked with Ke$ha from the start and has signed her to his RCA imprint, executive produced the set and gets a co-writer credit on 10 of the 12 tracks, but there are plenty of other big guns on here: fun.”s Nate Ruess co-wrote current single, “Die Young,” Max Martin co-wrote a number of tunes, and everyone from the Black Keys” Patrick Carney and Ben Folds shows up to produce and give her a slightly more rock edge.
The title track plays up Ke$ha”s Katy Perry side (an inevitable by-product of working with so many of the same collaborators as Perry) and without the spoken parts would have sounded completely at home on “Teenage Dream.” The song is four seasons in one day: it goes from singing, to rapping, to a electronic break down that flirts with dubstep to rock. It”s the aural equivalent of Ben & Jerry”s Chubby Hubby ice-cream: it”s way, way too busy.
Luckily, things calm down a tad and, mission statement delivered, Ke$ha gets back to what she does best: party-til-you-puke anthems whether it”s the all-we-have-is-now “Die Young” or the come on in peppy “C”mon,” where she stretches out the pronunciation of Hooters to “Hooooo-Ters,” and references a sabertoothed tiger or “Crazy Kids,” another tune about trying to convince ourselves that we”re so outside the mainstream that we”re the cool ones.
Taylor Swift”s confessional take downs of her exes have nothing on Ke$ha”s “Thinking Of You.” She takes no prisoners as she tells her wayward beau to “sick my dick,” and refers to him as a “slut,” in the gender-morphing tune. And yet, she still misses him. Who said Ke$ha”s world was uncomplicated?
For the last few years, after brushed her teeth with Jack Daniels on “Tik Tok,” Ke$ha has spent a fair amount of her time trying to prove that she can really sing, not just perform in a nasally, vaguely Valley Girl talk/sing way that grates like nails on a chalkboard. She”s also associated herself with artists of far greater artistic ability, whether it”s her take on Bob Dylan”s “Don”t Think Twice, It”s All Right” or collaborating with the Flaming Lips on the mind-twisting “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)”.
The problem is that the music on “Warrior” never aims to be more then ephemeral. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that unless you”re serving fish and chips and you”re trying to convince people it”s caviar. Or you can”t really sing. On rhythmic ballad “Wonderland,” Ke$ha sings. There”s no talking, no thumping, just Ke$ha singing about sweetly looking back at the old neighborhood and how everything has changed. It”s a nice change of pace, but when her talk/singy gimmick is removed, she”s just another average pop singer.
The most intriguing track on “Warrior” is “Dirty Love,” a duet with Iggy Pop. Musically, she shifts up the beat and trades the relentless, mindless thump for an infectious stomp on the fast-paced rocker. Iggy Pop is slumming here, but maybe he sees something of a kooky kindred spirit in Ke$ha.
Swizz Beatz recently announced that he”ll only release singles going forward instead of albums. That seems like the perfect solution for someone like Ke$ha. She”s not meant to be listened for 12 songs in a row. When that happens, everything runs together and her album is just one silly string of the same clanging beats, her irritating party talk and synthetic hooks. Parsed out over the course of several singles and many months and those same songs create an instant pick-me-up in the day, an aural caffeine boost or just a welcome reminder that the weekend will get here…eventually.
The album closes with “Love Into the Light,” an atmospheric, ’80s big-drum sounding (think Phil Collins” “In The Air Tonight”) self-penned track on which Ke$ha addresses all the haters. “I”m sorry, but I am just not sorry because I swear and because I drink,” she sings in her non-apology apology, followed with “Can”t we all get over ourselves and stop talking shit?” This sensitive Ke$ha 2.0 wants us to let bygones be bygones and just love one another. It”s a ludicrous, yet very human, way to end her album after she”s just dedicated the previous 40 minutes to being crazy and partying til dawn and declaring she doesn”t give a shit. She can”t have it both ways.
And that, in a nutshell, is Ke$ha”s problem. She wants to be the ultimate party girl, who cares about nothing but the moment and getting wasted and hanging with her friends, and, yet, she also wants us to see her as someone who, when she”s not smashed out of her gourd, really just wants world peace. She can”t have it both ways.