Kesha Rose Sebert was practically raised to perform. Born in 1987 in Los Angeles, she got her first taste of the stage as an infant when her performing mother would take her to singing gigs.
By 1991 the Sebert family had moved to Nashville, Tenn., and in 2005 appeared in an episode of The Simple Life, starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. A music producer noticed Kesha about the time the show taped, according to Australia’s Herald Sun, and started calling—then mentoring the burgeoning starlet. But it wasn’t until Kesha sang on Flo Rida’s bigger than big single “Right Round” in 2009 that she really started to attract attention. Though her work wasn’t credited—the dollar sign she’s now inserted into her name is, she told the Herald Sun, an ironic nod to the fact that she didn’t earn a dime from the track—the musical world was introduced to Ke$ha in a big way. Next stop: RCA Records … and Animal.
Paul Lester of London’s Guardian calls Ke$ha a “degenerate Hannah Montana.” That’s apt. Ke$ha co-wrote Miley Cyrus’ song “The Time of Our Lives,” and her ’80s-inflected dance-pop is loaded with both musical hooks and a decedent party-hearty ethos.
Ke$ha is not one for deep introspection, but we can at least say that, if her songs are any indication, she enjoys “living in the moment”—a decent attitude so far as it goes. …
But Ke$ha goes far beyond decent. Hit single ” TiK ToK,” with its references to brushing her teeth with Jack Daniel’s and boys trying to “touch my junk,” is simply a warm-up for Ke$ha’s party-’til-you-throw-up-in-someone’s-closet devotion. With Ke$ha, the typical one-night stand has been cut into, say, one-hour increments, leaving said night open for, well, more than one night. On “Blah Blah Blah,” she explicitly tells a boy to stop making small talk and have sex with her in the back of her “Car-ar-ar,” or perhaps in “the back with the Jack [another reference to whiskey brand] and the jukebox.”
“Take It Off” is a song about exactly what you think it might be about—a plea for any nightclub partiers within the sound of her voice to disrobe. She brags about stuffing a “cigar in the caviar” and urinating in the champagne during a “Party at a Rich Dude’s House.” She talks about being tipsy, drunk, stoned, hung over and, like I already said, throwing up in someone’s closet. She adds, “I don’t care, ’cause the sun is coming up, an’ oh my god, I think I’m still drunk.”
Even when she’s mulling the serious issues of love and relationship, she goes no deeper than throwing around substance abuse metaphors. On “Your Love Is a Drug” (a song she co-wrote with her mother), Ke$ha croons, “The rush is worth the price I pay/I get so high when you’re with me/But crash and crave you when you leave.” She tells “Stephen” that he’s her “drug of choice, my sick obsession.” And, of course, when she breaks up with someone, she feels “Hungover.”
It’s all quite sordid, and the profanity doesn’t help. S-words (some bleeped, some not) commingle with “b‑‑ch,” “a‑‑,” “d‑‑n” and crass references to body parts and sex acts. (On the uncensored album, there’s at least one reported f-word.)
Turns out Animal is an outstanding title for Ke$ha’s debut. Her outlook on life is decidedly … primal. Is it a reflection of the real Kesha—the one without the dollar sign? Or is it a stage game? Music has become as much performance art as soulful emoting, and every rising star seems to feel the need to remold themselves with all the brightness, flash and depth of a Saturday morning cartoon. Our musicians—whom we’ve long asked to plumb and express the deepest longings of our hearts—scarcely seem human anymore.
Only on one song here do we see a very human sense of longing and self-awareness. “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes” talks about partying after a painful breakup, and we see Ke$ha soldiering on in her own alarmingly Ke$ha-fied way when—perhaps—deep down inside, she’d rather just go home, make some soup and cry. “On the floor, I’m just a zombie,” she sings. “Who I am is not who I want to be. I’m such a tragedy.”
Maybe these are genuine whispers of humanity from the depths of her animalistic persona. Or maybe not.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.