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Ke$ha rides again

Dylan Dobson, 4Play Editor
December 12, 2012
Filed under 4Play

Fans of glitter and Pabst Blue Ribbon rejoiced Nov. 30 as the world was graced with the new album from Ke$ha, “Warrior.”

Critics have often argued against the singer’s credibility as an artist. This is reasonable considering the star’s many antics, including a digital Christmas card video released by the singer last year, which featured her belting out “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from a rooftop in Moscow while a member of her tour crew urinated in the background.

However, to the informed, it’s always been apparent that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Ke$ha the artist as she appears in interviews and Ke$ha the character as she appears in performances.

Ke$ha’s first album, “Animal,” as well as her early performances, were reportedly inspired by her extensive scuba diving. While observing fish, Ke$ha noted aquatic animals were attracted to her gold jewelry. She utilized this observation of animal psychology in her live performances by spraying gold and glitter on audiences.

During an interview with Ryan Seacrest earlier this year, Ke$ha described the theme of “Warrior” as magic.

“I was in Africa rehabilitating baby lions. I went diving with great white sharks, and just went on this crazy spirit quest,” Ke$ha said. “I got hypnotized, and I just really wanted this record to be really positive, really raw, really vulnerable and about the magic of life.”

Later, during an appearance on “Conan,” she added that a lot of the tracks were inspired by romantic encounters she’d had while touring, including an alleged one-night stand with a ghost.

“I did go to the bone zone with a ghost,” she laughed. “It was a sexy time — it wasn’t like sex.”

While Ke$ha has always found herself under the scrutiny of critics as well as the public, “Warrior” presents a catchy yet savvy set of tracks that show beneath her sweat and glitter-coated skin, there’s some real talent.

To those following her career, Ke$ha’s musical pedigree has always seemed suspect. The singer openly denounces pop tradition, citing artists like The Flaming Lips, Tom Waits and Bon Iver as her biggest musical influences. Tracks on “Warrior” include not only The Flaming Lips but punk rock veteran Iggy Pop as well. Despite her recent collaborations with Britney Spears and Nikki Minaj, it’s always been apparent through interviews that Ke$ha has been serious about her art form.

“Warrior” shows a sense of security in the pop singer’s artistic choices. While the album is extremely party friendly, it’s also bizarre. The singer makes unconditional choices for a pop album — juxtaposing electronic dance pop with rockabilly and bluegrass.

The album’s lead single, “Die Young,” was co-written by fun.’s lead singer Nate Ruess. This radio-friendly track is one of the album’s most typical, but it’s also one of its strongest.

Ke$ha’s songs on “Warrior” show a preoccupation with failure and mortality. Jokes about sexual encounters with ghosts aside, this morbid sense of doom makes “Warrior,” the perfect soundtrack for the weeks leading up to the forecasted Mayan apocalypse.

Ke$ha also takes some risks on the album. “Dirty Love,” the high point of “Warrior,” is a soulful rockabilly dance track. A collaboration with Iggy Pop, “Dirty Love” is the perfect combination of gravely strings and grimy lyrics, including a garbage-ridden play on “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love.” “Dirty Love” is not only the album’s strongest track, but could quite possibly be one of the best tracks of the year as well.

“Wonderland,” an adult contemporary track with southern rock vibes, would sound perfectly at home on a Sheryl Crow or Michelle Branch album.

“Only Wanna Dance With You” features a Phoenix-styled indie pop intro followed up by a Meg & Dia-styled chorus that swings for the fences and scores the pop equivalent of a homerun. It’s not surprising that beneath the track’s dancey garage rock instrumentals lurk the talent of The Strokes. The rock band helped Ke$ha write the track, which features vocals by album producer Max Martin. Martin does his best to impersonate Julian Casablancas, the lead singer of The Strokes.

A few more generic, electro-pop tracks fill-in the album’s roster of tracks.  “Thinking of You” and “Supernatural” each feature extremely effective electronic breakdown. The summer fling track, “Wherever You Are,” exhibits shades of Katy Perry’s musical style. While not as impressive as tracks like “Dirty Love,” these tracks remain catchy and pleasant.

All in all, “Warrior” is a fun album that bends genres and challenges listeners to reconsider how they think of Ke$ha. While it probably won’t win many converts among the camp of those who already dislike the singer, for those on the fence the album is quite a compelling argument for her virtues.