Monday, November 26, 2012

Ke$ha Gets Rockin' With 'Warrior'

At the New York Times, "Dancing Up a Storm but Dying to Rock: Kesha Tilts Closer to a Rock Sound With ‘Warrior’":

At the Third Encore rehearsal studio in North Hollywood there’s a wall decorated with photographs of clients who’ve prepared there for tours, legends like Robert Plant and Slash. In a room behind that wall, waiting while her band and dancers rehearse for a live appearance at the American Music Awards, sat Kesha, 25, a young woman who’d really like to join that swaggering pantheon. A hugely popular, if deeply polarizing, singer who ruled the radio in 2010 with No. 1 smashes like “Tik Tok“ and now returns with “Warrior” (RCA), the follow-up to the smash album “Animal” and its EP supplement, “Cannibal,” Kesha would be filed under dance pop by most people. So it’s surprising to discover just how much reverence she has for the rock 1970s, an era that ended seven years before she was born.

For instance Kesha’s look today was inspired by Marc Bolan of the glam-rock band T. Rex. “I was watching a documentary on Bolan, and he’s wearing all these funny suits, and I was like, ‘I want to wear a funny suit,’ “ she said. She was sporting a black wide-brimmed hat with a pink rose nestled in it, a black jacket with a garish floral pattern and a pimplike extravagance of rings. Strangely, though, there’s no glitter, one of Kesha’s trademarks and an affinity she shares with that long-dead rocker. And like Bolan, Kesha practices her own androgyny. The persona she developed on “Animal” parties hard, trash-talks and treats conquests like sex toys, just as male rock stars have done for decades. But precisely because Kesha challenged double standards by seizing male rock’s license to misbehave, she became a lightning rod for contempt.

“Oh God, I have so many people who hate me, it’s unbelievable,” Kesha said, her laughter tinged with discomfort. “It’s the main reason I don’t go online.” She added, “There’s people who want me to die.” The Web abuse includes hate blogs and a patronizing video skit made by a Princeton humor magazine in which the poet Paul Muldoon analyzes “Tik Tok.”

Attributing her use of rapping and AutoTune to an inability to sing, detractors assumed that Kesha was a manufactured puppet. Actually she jointly writes her songs, supplying the lyrics and most of the vocal melodies. The rap element, influenced by the Beastie Boys, and the gimmicky use of AutoTune effects, inspired by Daft Punk, were deliberate choices. As with other female stars with over-the-top cartoon images, like Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj, the persona is her own creation. “Kesha” is an amped-up caricature of Kesha Sebert’s real self and the feral lifestyle she was leading here at the time “Animal” was recorded. And whether you find her trashy antics annoying or refreshing in a pop era of anodyne glamour, there’s no denying that Kesha’s music caught the mood of embattled hedonism in post-crash America. Her live-for-now stance, in songs like the current hit single “Die Young,” made her pop’s YOLO queen two years before that acronym, which stands for “You only live once,” became a rallying cry for let’s-get-wrecked recklessness.

Discussing her potty-mouthed, Jack Daniels-swigging image, she said: “You must realize by this point that I’m in on the joke. I know I sound like a jackass half the time. I do it on purpose.” Actually Kesha seemed not very jackasslike that evening, but reflective and earnest. Flashes of the flirty playfulness of her videos were offset by hints of vulnerability.

Robin James, a professsor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who writes about female personas in 21st century pop culture, argued that messy hedonism is treated differently when the perpetrator is female. “If you look at, say, Judd Apatow movies, the women have to be responsible and stable and pursue careers, while the men get to behave badly,” she said. “But when women are irresponsible, they get punished for it.”
Continue reading.