I hate Cher.
Thanks to her 1998 dance anthem Believe, Auto-Tune was introduced to pop music (or at least exploited), and is now the surefire recipe for pop music success. Don’t have a naturally strong singing voice? No problem! Recent memory has proven that anyone can record Postal Service rip-offs about fireflies that will sit atop the iTunes chart for weeks. Oh, the magic!
The latest Auto-Tune phenomenon is Ke$ha, with a dollar sign instead of an S because she likes money and drinking and clubs and bars and rich dudes. She’s essentially the female version of 3OH!3, but with catchy songs. Tik Tok bitchslapped its way to the top of the iTunes chart a couple weeks ago, and her debut album Animal drops this week. It’s chock-full of “club bangers” destined to appeal to tweens who are in that awkward period between obsessing over Hannah Montana and being “too old” for it. They’ll be all over this Ke$ha business, and it doesn’t even have a Parental Advisory sticker on it (despite songs about banging dudes and clubbing and being drunk). Be warned, minivan soccer moms, you may have to deal with this soon.
But who cares if it’s silly empty dance music? The songs are as infectious as a lot of late 1990s dance pop. The album sounds like throwing the Vengaboys, Avril Lavigne, Lily Allen, Katy Perry, and all those random dance/techno tunes from 1997-2000 into a blender and Auto-Tuning the shit out of what comes out. We already know that Tik Tok is popular, despite basically taking the beat and melody from Kylie Minogue’s Love at First Sight and soaking it in booze. Take It Off is one of the most memorable cuts, using a pounding club beat set to a childish melody that isn’t unlike the type of songs kids sing at summer camp, making it pretty obnoxious. I don’t know what type of place Ke$ha is talking about when she says, There's a place I know if you're looking for a show, where they go hardcore and there's glitter on the floor but it sounds absolutely terrifying.
Kiss N Tell is a conglomeration of Avril angst and propulsive Vengaboys rhythm, in which Ke$ha condemns a former love interest and his infidelity (or as she puts it, I never thought that you would be the one, acting like a slut when I was gone). It has that same bitchy cheerleader vibe to it that Avril's Girlfriend has, which makes it pretty annoying, but still unfathomably catchy. That’s the mark of pop perfection, isn’t it?
I assume Blah Blah Blah will be the next single, since it features a ‘verse’ by one of the fools from 3OH!3 in which he talks about how awesome he is. It also includes a line in which Ke$ha demands, Put a little love in my glovebox. That's straight-up poetry right there. The song does have a great beat, though, that just so happens to be reminiscent of Show Me Love by Robin S., one of the techno dance pop songs that I heard every seven minutes on the Top 40 pop radio stations in 1998.
Stephen is an attempt on the record to be a ‘real’, in which Ke$ha wonders why a guy doesn’t call her back (despite the fact that he has a girlfriend already). I guess Ke$ha gets emo when she can’t inspire guys to cheat on their girlfriends. The melody in the song is pretty cool, and is much less abrasive than the more upbeat songs on the record. It’s the type of song that I could hear from one of those powerpop girl groups of the 1990s, like Dream (the white girl r&b group made by P Diddy). It’s my favorite song on the record, because it's so different from the more in-your-face songs.
Backstabber is the song that reminds me the most of Avril Lavigne, if Avril traded in mall-punk for glitzy glitter pop. The song employs high-pitched shrieking in the chorus about, well, girls fighting each other for some guy’s affection. It's reminscent of Avril’s Girlfriend, due to the structure of the verses and the raised pitch of Ke$ha's voice.
On Dinosaur, Ke$ha imitates Lily Allen, in which she expresses her revulsion at being “macked on” by an old guy. It’s not unlike Lily’s song Knock ‘Em Out from her debut Alright, Still. Dinosaur used to have a faster, harder-hitting beat and some cool guitar riffs, but the new version is slowed down. It’s not terrible, but the original was better.
In all, Animal is a pretty slick record. Ke$ha is essentially the female Andrew W.K. for the club scene, with ridiculously fun songs set to upbeat and peppy dance tracks. The songs are glossy and overproduced, of course, and despite lacking any real ‘substance’, they are aesthetically pleasing for the most part. Handclaps, echo effects, and synthesizers are everywhere, creating a whirlwind of sound that can sometimes make you forget just how much work the Auto-Tune is doing.
I’m not sure if this is supposed to be satire or straightforward pop music. If it’s satire, it’s brilliant; if it’s supposed to be authentic, then it’s another example of how pop music can sell if it has a catchy beat and slick production. No matter your stance on Ke$ha, it's a fun, extremely well-produced record, one that is sure to be a smash hit in the months to come. There's enough on this record to ensure that Ke$ha will be more than a one-hit wonder.
Just don’t play it for your mom unless you want to get yelled at, kids.