Ya gotta hand it to Kesha Sebert. The artist known as Ke$ha doesn’t look like a traditional pop star nor naturally sound like one. But she’s still successful. How? By shrewdly marketing herself as part garbage-chic party animal and part color-by-numbers pop star. The omnipresent Dr. Luke signed Ke$ha to his label when she was 18. He states he thought she was “unique.” OK. But through his Auto-Tuned dance-pop-making machine, he’s homogenized her music to sound like the other singers he’s worked with: Katy Perry, Rihanna, and the like.
Ke$ha tried something new with her second full length, Warrior. Yes, the usual suspects are all over this album. In addition to Dr. Luke, Max Martin and a team of other hit makers essentially created Warrior. In fact, five or six songwriters (yes, Kesha Sebert is one) are credited with crafting each song, minus the final track “Love Into the Light.” However, Ke$ha enlisted the help of some famous rockers. The Strokes’ singer Julian Casablancas and drummer Fabrizio Moretti provide their talents on the very Strokes-esque “Only Wanna Dance With You.” And Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney hits the sticks for the piano-based “Wonderland.” Not to be outdone, smack in the middle of Warrior sits the giddy duet with Iggy Pop, titled “Dirty Love.” Some of the lyrics in the groove-laden track recall Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It.” Iggy Pop laugh-sings “Cockroaches do it in garbage cans/ Rug merchants do it in Afghanistan/ Santorum did it in a V-neck sweater… ” Like the rest of the album, “Dirty Love” adheres to Ke$ha’s feral image.
Warrior furthers Ke$ha’s quest to fight for her right to party. However, she’s smart enough not to brag about having all the fun. Ke$ha is careful to use “we” throughout the album. The opening title track is a rallying cry for all the “misfits,” “bad kids,” and “fuck ups.” Perhaps trying to incorporate Ke$ha’s rock influences, “Warrior” features a modern pop star’s version of a guitar solo, a schizophrenic breakdown in the synths and beats halfway through. The bratty kiss-off “Thinking of You” and nasty buzzing of “Supernatural” do the same. The first single (co-written with Fun. singer Nate Ruess) “Die Young” and the sassy “Crazy Kids” begin similarly – simple chord progressions strummed on a single guitar. Like many of Ke$ha’s songs, the verses snap into menacing throbbing beats. Ke$ha sing-raps “Ke$ha don’t give two fucks/ I came to start the ruckus/ And ya wanna party with us/ ‘Cuz we crazy motherfuckers” under the controlled synths of “Crazy Kids.” And what’s sure to be a hit at her shows, Ke$ha instructs “put your motherfucking phones up” in “All That Matters (The Beautiful Life),” which carries an eerie resemblance to “Beautiful Life” by Ace of Base.
Even when Ke$ha strives to be all, like, serious and stuff, the party doesn’t stop. The slow “Wonderland” features Ke$ha looking fondly at her past as — you guessed it — a wild child “living life like our last weekend” with her friends. Winking at the whole mantra of being free-spirited and just not giving a shit, Ke$ha solemnly starts the final track “Love into the Light” with “I know I’m not perfect/ I know I got issues… I’m not a model.” She addresses her haters in the rip-off of Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” complete with a drum solo. But really, if Ke$ha truly didn’t care, why address her haters at all? Because she’s a shrewd pop star.