Filed under: album, review | Tags: animal, charlotte richardson andrews, ke$ha
RCA / Sony
Despite being released over five months ago, Ke$ha’s current single ‘Tik Tok’ is still raging, having claimed the #1 spot in New Zealand, Canada, Australia and her native USA, where it toppled the gargantuan forces of both Susan Boyle and Lady Gaga. Her recording career began in 2006 but Kesha Rose Sebert’s breakthrough came only after appearing on rapper Flo Rida’s chart-topping single ‘Right Round’ last year, a spontaneous collaboration that came about after a chance meeting on the day of recording. And though she reportedly wanted neither royalties nor credits, her verse paid for itself in exposure. The singer turned down a spot in the video because she believed it would damage her plans to be seen as a legitimate artist, and took the point further when refusing the use of ‘Tik Tok’ in a fast food company advert campaign out of a hazy, anti-corporate principle. She seems keen on casting herself as a conscientiously different-from-the-rest artist, though as this fizzing, intentionally obnoxious debut reveals, Ke$ha’s musical authenticity is highly discrepant.
A childhood in LA spent on welfare under the care of her single parent mother took pace once the struggling singer-songwriter secured a recording contract. Ke$ha was frequently brought along to the studios, enjoying the advantage of being raised in an environment populated by industry talents, and dropped out of school at seventeen after having her demos discovered by Dr Luke and Max Martin. She went on to mingle with various Hollywood glitterati, appearing in good friend Katy Perry’s video for ‘I Kissed A Girl’ and singing backing vocals for Paris Hilton on the heiress’s second single. She’s written for Miley Cyrus and The Veronicas, and has guested on tracks by urban artists Pitbull and Taio Cruz, as well as enjoying exposure on various young/rich/teen shows like ‘My Sweet 16’ and ‘The Hills’, though she’s been emphatic in explaining the ironic use of the $ sign in her moniker, apparently shunning wealth as a symbol of success. Despite the music-over-money attitude and her welfare beginnings, this blonde-haired twentysomething is smack in the middle of the privileged pop elite, a factor this album both relies and capitalises on.
It’s relatively difficult to decipher any threads of her supposed influences (country, rap, punk and soul) in the pumping electro and mind-numbing, autotuned ringtone melodies of Animal, a fault presumably excused under the heavy vein of intentional parody in her lyrics and subject matter. Sugary, hyperactive pop is laced with profanity and crudeness, and though she’s apparently adverse to endorsing fast food she’s got no qualms with drunken, puke-sodden self-abandon in ‘Party At A Rich Dude’s House’ and pupil/teacher seduction in the explicitly perverse ‘Stephen’. She pontificates a heated refusal to compromise her body and self-respect in the fame game of ‘VIP’ but advocates Girls Gone Wild-type raves in ‘Take It Off’. It’s clear she’s seeking to undermine the pop princess caricature with a Jack-Daniels-for-mouthwash rebellion, but her “punk on the inside looking out” posturing is conversely deplorable. Ke$ha’s vocals and instrumentals have all the nasal, high-pitched glitter of teen sensation Miley Cyrus, which will immediately appeal to the young female demographic, but cultivates a Lindsay Lohan-like hot-mess persona, an insidious combination that undermines Ke$ha’s own supposedly anti-materialist, anti-objectifying missive.
She peppers this debut LP with urban colloquialisms, leading the New York Times to claim her rap-inflected singing encapsulates “the complete and painless assimilation of the white female rapper into pop music”, but Ke$ha is far from the line-crossing spectaculars of Eminem. Animal is slick, annoyingly infectious, label-polished noise based on a identity that professes to shun the franchised, MTV clone world it’s clearly a product of; it’s a precarious contradiction that her US audience is voraciously consuming if record sales and gossip coverage are anything to go by. At the most, Animal scores points for scraping the sparkly layer off a genre that revolves around vacuous, narcissistic, pre-pubescent booty shaking, but, in truth, it’s a point that P!nk’s been making quite cogently for some time. This is an undecided debut that reeks with uneasy ambiguity; whether Ke$ha is truly rebelling against the Hollywood girl-pop cliché or is just too intent on being praised as an innovator to see the parody within the parody is yet to be seen.
Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 01/02/10; www.myspace.com/kesha
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