I moved to New York City in 2010. It was a year punctuated by struggle, using my credit card heavily and listening to Ke$ha’s debut album. I’m not ashamed to say that, in many ways, Animal got me through some bleak times with its upbeat anthems urging us all to forget our problems and fall into the seduction of the night. The two year gap in between then and now has proven 1) I’ll never stop using my credit card and 2) Ke$ha has somehow managed to change her musical style while maintaining the core message of what she’s about: Glitter and having a good time.
Opening with the title track, “Warrior” is a song that falls in place with Ke$ha’s recent realization that she feels it is her duty to write music with an empowering theme. The thesis statement, so to speak, of the album is summed up in the lyrics, “We were born to break the doors down/Fight until the end.” The songwriting ties in with Ke$ha’s initial quote about choosing the name of the record:
"I’ve seen how many people my music can reach, and I’ve realized that I have somewhat of a social responsibility to make sure everything I say is positive. The underlying theme of this next record is warrior, with the positive message being that everyone has a warrior inside."
Although she was originally planning to call the record Spandex on the Distant Horizon (a title I still feel needs to happen in the future), the idea behind the album is so centered around overcoming obstacles and fighting for what you want (whether it’s a dude or a Trans Am) that it wouldn’t have made sense to call it anything else.
“Die Young” follows “Warrior” with prototypical Ke$ha composition, its anthemic vocals encouraging us to “live this night like we’re gonna die young.” The second single from the album, “C’Mon” possesses an opening musical sound that briefly resembles the intro to The Beatles’ “Because,” a comparison that is quickly negated as Ke$ha delves into lyrics only she could get away with singing: “Feelin’ like a high schooler/Sippin’ on a warm wine cooler,” for instance. Though, how long Ke$ha will be able to pull off such lyrics remains a mystery. She could very well start to suffer from the Britney effect, meaning: How long can you reasonably adopt the shtick of singing about partying, getting drunk and being a hoe? (Britney somehow still sings teenage love songs and it really just isn’t working anymore). I mean, I would love to believe that it would always be socially acceptable to act in such a way, but, ultimately, everyone expects you to hang up your (conical) hat and become responsible or something. But then, I suppose, if anyone could prove that you don’t have to be young to have a good time, it’s Ke$ha.
“Thinking of You” is a revenge song (in spite of its misleading title) that details triumphing over being rejected by someone through that rare set of circumstances that serves as the best retaliation: Becoming famous. Ke$ha further digs in the knife by asking, “Are you having fun with your fugly girlfriend?” “Crazy Kids” is the logical progression from “We R Who We R” as Ke$ha sings, “We are, we are, we are, we are the crazy kids.” It is the song on Warrior most geared toward her fans (animals), a group of unabashedly party-driven and irresponsible lot (or maybe that’s just me and everyone else listens to Ke$ha in their basement).
“Wherever You Are” is that rare breed of Ke$ha that showcases a more maudlin side, with admissions like, “Wherever you are/You are forever on my mind/Wherever you are/Know that our love will never die.” Naturally, there’s a fast backing beat to mask any sense of being overly trite. The contrast of the subsequent song, “Dirty Love” (no longer just a Jenny McCarthy movie) is in keeping with Ke$ha’s brand of humor and features a surprisingly seamless collaboration with Iggy Pop (whose album, The Idiot, Ke$ha modeled Warrior after). Something of a sequel to “Blah Blah Blah,” “Dirty Love” is Ke$ha’s plea to the object of her desire to just shut the fuck up and stop worrying that all women he has sex with are trying to be in a long-term relationship as she wails, “Don’t complicate it/Don’t tell me lies/I’m not your girlfriend/I ain’t never gonna be your wife.” While some may not view this as an inspiring message, it actually puts Ke$ha in that incendiary category of feminist women that everyone sees as setting back the feminist movement (e.g. Madonna. Rihanna, Lady Gaga).
“Wonderland,” the slowest, most country-sounding track, is perhaps Ke$ha’s attempt to pay homage to her Nashville by way of L.A. roots, but proves to be the absolute least tolerable song on the album. It ends up coming off as a Taylor Swift imitation, and, really, if you want to listen Taylor Swift, you should just give your hearing to a deaf person or go to Walgreen’s. “Only Wanna Dance” makes up for this minor infraction with its 80s influence, melding elements of electropop with power ballad passion and Strokes guitar tempos. Discussing her inability to let anyone tear down her emotional barriers, Ke$ha sings, “Fell in love on accident/Now it doesn’t matter/You got to me/You saw through me.”
“Supernatural” is a song that alludes to having a paranormal relationship (which has already been done on Madonna’s 1989 song of the same name), with overtones of desire and yearning. As usual, it is a Ke$ha track that explores giving in and not caring what others think. Singing to her apparition, she asks, “Baby when we’re touching in the dark, can you feel it?/When you take my body to the stars, I believe it/Poison me with love/I’ll bring you back to life.” “All That Matters (The Beautiful Life)" continues the uptempo sound of Warrior, largely produced by her go-to music collaborator, Dr. Luke. For this particular track, however, Max Martin (known for his collaborations with Katy Perry and Britney Spears) brings a distinctive sound to a dance, shall we say, hymnal that finds Ke$ha chanting the mantra “All that matters is the beautiful life.” Presumably money, sex, drugs.
The closing track, “Love Into the Light,” is almost Genesisesque in sound, with a slower pace than the songs that precede it, addressing the often vitriolic detractors constantly accusing Ke$ha of some such debauchery. Defending herself, she asserts, “I’m sorry but I am just not sorry…/Maybe it’s about the time to let all of the love back in the light.” And so, once again, Ke$ha proves that you can simultaneously be a bit of a bitch, but also a compassionate person.
The deluxe version of Warrior features four bonus tracks: “Last Goodbye” (a bittersweet lament about discovering that the person you thought you’d love forever is probably a useless dick), “Trans Am” (an ode to the ultimate emblem of white trash), “Out Alive” (a life-affirming Nicki Minaj sounding track that reiterates living like you’re gonna die .5 seconds from now) and “Past Lives” (a midtempo song that is obvious in its Flaming Lips-produced sound and accompanying vocals). A bonus EP, Deconstructed, is also available, featuring a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You” and acoustic versions of “Blow” (yes please), “The Harold Song,” “Die Young” and “Supernatural.”