Newsflash: Pop star Ke$ha doesn’t really brush her teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniels. So don’t read too much into the first verse of her smash hit “Tik Tok.”
Well, actually, she has brushed with Jack. But, the thing is, you can’t always take Ke$ha (rhymes with Tesh-a) at her word. She mixes sarcasm, a tongue-in-cheek attitude and a dash of irony into relentlessly catchy PG-13 pop concoctions that should be called A Girl Just Wants to Have Too Much Fun.
In “Tik Tok,” the 23-year-old party animal rhymes “everybody getting crunk” with guys “trying to touch my junk” with a boy “getting too drunk.”
While those lyrics might put parents in a funk, they helped put Ke$ha’s electro-pop dancefloor celebration at the top of the pop charts for nine weeks this winter. That was the longest run at No. 1 for a debut single by a female artist since — no kidding — Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” in 1977.
“I couldn’t think of two more different songs, but I salute her,” said Ke$ha.
“Tik Tok” is romantic in a different sense — like a girls-gone-wild sense. Ke$ha says the song is about the notion that “anybody can feel like a pimp.”
“I wrote that when I was really broke and didn’t have a pot to (pee) in, but I was feeling really awesome. It’s like a celebration of being young and broke. Maybe life isn’t like quote-unquote ‘perfect,’ but you’re not letting anything stop you from having a good time.”
Rolling Stone described her chart-topping album “Animal,” with its percolating beats and deadpan raps, as either “propulsively catchy or repulsively moronic.” As with Lady Gaga, music listeners seem to either love or hate Ke$ha. The haters talk not just about the party-out-of-control lyrics but also about the over-the-top real-life tales.
She vomited in Paris Hilton’s closet. “Oh, I was 17,” said Ke$ha, who sang backup on Hilton’s 2006 CD. “Whatever.”
She lived in her late grandfather’s Lincoln Continental after moving to Los Angeles. “I just lived in it for, like, two weeks and parked it by the beach ‘cause I didn’t have an apartment yet. It was really roomy, spacious, comfortable. Can’t complain.”
Then there was the time she broke into Prince’s Beverly Hills mansion a couple of years ago and left him a demo tape of her music. He never called.
“I might issue a formal apology and pull him up onstage and make him dance with me,” Ke$ha said. “I’d want to say: ‘Sorry if you think I’m crazy. I’m not. I’m just ambitious.’”
Kesha Rose Sebert was born in 1987 in Los Angeles to a single mother who isn’t sure who Kesha’s father is. Pebe Sebert tasted success as a Nashville songwriter (her “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You” was a hit for Dolly Parton in 1980), then tried to make it as a singer-songwriter in L.A. When Kesha was 6 or 7, Pebe moved back to Nashville with her three children.
Growing up on Johnny Cash, Shania Twain and Bob Dylan (his “Nashville Skyline” is her all-time favorite album), she started writing songs at 14. Three years later, via a friend of a friend, her demo tape wound up in the hands of Dr. Luke, the hot producer behind Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.”
“I thought her voice was distinctive, and I fell in love with her personality,” Dr. Luke told Entertainment Weekly. “She had the same sass and irreverence she has now.”
He invited her to Los Angeles, so Kesha quit high school weeks before graduation and passed on a scholarship to Barnard College in New York. But Luke got tied up on other projects, and Kesha was broke for two years. Hence, Ms. Irony added the dollar sign to her name.
In the fall of 2008, Dr. Luke reconnected with Ke$ha and finally delivered on his promises. She sang the hook on Flo Rida’s “Right Round,” which went to No. 1 last year, and recorded “Animal,” which debuted at No. 1 in January.
Ke$ha has been on the fast track all year: She appeared on the Grammys in January, sang on “American Idol” in March and “Saturday Night Live” in April, and will hit the road this summer with Rihanna and Lilith Fair.
With “Animal,” she has scored three Top 10 singles, all of which she co-wrote. The current one, “Your Love Is My Drug,” was one of three writing collaborations with her mother.
“She helped complete my thoughts,” Ke$ha explained. “She’s an incredible songwriter. Her and I are best friends. I’m just really honest with her — as I am with the entirety of the world at this point.”
What she’s doing is all in good fun, Ke$ha says: “My intention is to make people happy and give them a momentary escape from reality.”
She doesn’t complain about how people perceive her. “People can take me seriously or they can’t. I’m a serious artist and a serious songwriter. I’ve written for Miley Cyrus and the Veronicas and (“iCarly” star) Miranda Cosgrove. I will continue to write and make records for a really long time. I think respect comes with time. So I’m not going anywhere.”
The most misunderstood thing about her, she thinks, is her drinking habits.
“I think people think I’m drunk every morning,” she said with a giggle. “But I’m not drunk every morning. Not every morning.”
Asked to describe herself, Kesha demurs. “How do I answer this without sounding like a douchebag? Musical, magical. I can fly. I can paint. I’m glittery. I like unicorns. I’m snazzy. I am wearing fake fur. I like shiny things. I don’t like mangos because I’m allergic to them. I like jumping in the ocean. And sometimes I brush my teeth with Jack Daniels.”
“Just once a week,” she said with an I-might-be-pulling-your-leg giggle.
// Notes from the Road
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