Ke$ha's 'Animal' moves to the top of Billboard album chart
By Chris Richards
When was the last time a pop star really repulsed you? Not puzzled you like Lady Gaga or exhausted you like the Black Eyed Peas, but deeply and profoundly pushed you to the brink of disgust? Is it happening right now?
Is it Ke$ha?
On Wednesday, the nascent star-cum-punching bag stumbled onto the top of the Billboard album chart, ending Susan Boyle's six-week reign at No. 1, moving 152,000 copies of her debut album, "Animal." The polarizing pop newbie's disc is full of grating lyrics and delirious hooks, with results as horrible and hypnotic as a car wreck.
But Ke$ha's selling lots of records and breaking some, too. Last month, the 22-year-old's breakout single, "TiK ToK," sold more than 610,000 digital copies in a week -- more than any other female artist in history. Naturally, it's a song about partying until the cops or the sun show up.
(But is "Animal" any good? Find out, after the jump)
Who is this girl? And how do you pronounce her name? (The "Ke$h" rhymes with "fresh"; the "a" sounds sorta like "ugh.") She specializes in a brand of electro-pop not dissimilar from the work of Katy Perry of "I Kissed a Girl" fame.
But where Perry favors naughty and sleek, Ke$ha is a finely curated mess, sporting a dirty-blond bramble of hair, neatly torn jeans and fingernail polish chipped just so. Her lyrics match that image, recounting impossibly wild nights and laughing off the hangovers. Her Wikipedia page reads like a grocery list of impossible stunts: Break into Prince's house to leave him a demo? Check. Puke in Paris Hilton's closet? Check.
She's a party-girl avatar who tweets about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and flatulence and of course, alcohol.
And while Ke$ha's surge in popularity comes as a bit of a surprise, it wasn't dumb luck. Raised in a showbiz family, she moved from Nashville to Los Angeles at 17 to make her name. Today, her résumé includes backup vocal duties for Britney Spears and a guest turn on Flo Rida's recent hit "Right Round."
In September, as Ke$ha's star first began to rise, pop music blog Idolator posted a salient headline: "Ke$ha: What Would Happen If You Crossed Katy Perry, L'Trimm, And A Really Bad Goldschlager Hangover." Since then, radio stations across the country have been playing "TiK ToK" at an unrelenting clip.
So is "Animal" any good?
No and yes.
Or rather, no then yes.
Many of these songs follow a sly formula in which our hero obnoxiously talk-sings about reckless partying before tumbling into an irresistible, high-fructose chorus. It's a very clever trick: Make 'em squirm, then deliver a hook that's both crescendo and reprieve.
So it goes with "TiK ToK," a song co-written by Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald, the mastermind behind Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" and Miley Cyrus's "Party in the U.S.A." During the verses, Ke$ha warbles about eschewing Listerine for Jack Daniel's, slapping unruly boys and other "crunk" transgressions. Then comes the one-size-fits-all-dance-floors refrain: "Tick-tock on the clock, but the party don't stop."
The formula works similar miracles for "Your Love Is My Drug," "Blah Blah Blah" and "Kiss N Tell," pairing Smirnoff-queasy verses with Moët-bubbly choruses. In that regard, "Animal" is nothing if not consistent -- something that can't be said for the work of Ke$ha's party-girl predecessors, those lame Lindsay Lohans and Paris Hiltons whose tedious odes to Friday night once cluttered the airwaves.
Musically, some of Ke$ha's most direct predecessors hail from overseas. But where French rap brat Uffie and pint-size British emcee Lady Sovereign each enjoyed 15 nanoseconds of microfame, Ke$ha seems poised to linger for the full 15 minutes.
Or maybe more. Shtick always has a limited shelf life, but a singer shrewd enough to rankle so many eardrums while tickling so many more doesn't seem capable of vanishing quickly. We may find Ke$ha passed out in America's front yard for many mornings to come.
January 14, 2010; 11:13 AM ET
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