Ke$ha was born to be a rock star. She’s a disco queen who dresses like Axl Rose and overdoses on personality like the New York Dolls. She rules pop radio with her megasleaze boombox beats, junk-shop rags and bleached-Sabbath hair. We all know glitter girls who dress like Ke$ha, talk like Ke$ha, party like Ke$ha and slap the world around like Ke$ha. But it’s insanely rare to see one of these parking-lot queens roll with the big-league pop stars. When she’s on, Ke$ha can make everyone else on the charts seem like a church lady.
Over the past three years, Lady K has stuck her dollar sign on a half-dozen or so of this century’s most brilliant radio hits, all of them sounding more or less the same, and all of them endorsing the Ke$ha Philo$ophy of Life to the point where you bitterly regret all the non-Ke$ha parts of your existence. From “Tik Tok” to “Blow” to “We R Who We R,” she makes each of her hits into another installment of her cartoon glam-disco telenovela, an incredibly broad and inclusive vision of pop trash. We all owe her a lot.
Ke$ha crafted Warrior as her rock manifesto. As she confesses here, “I know I’m not perfect/I know I got issues/I know that I got a sordid past/And yeah, some bad tattoos.” She claims “Last Goodbye” was inspired by Neil Young’s deep cut “For the Turnstiles.” And the single “Die Young,” according to producer Benny Blanco, is her version of “old hippie rock,” which is bizarre given that to the rest of us it sounds sorta exactly like Taio Cruz.
Warrior doesn’t hit the giddy peaks of 2010’s Animal, but it has a crackpot sense of rock history. “Love Into the Light” bites the prog-soul of Phil Collins circa “In the Air Tonight.” (Don’t worry – it only takes a minute to get to the drum solo.) “Only Wanna Dance With You” is a hilariously mean (and accurate) parody of the Strokes. When she brings on Iggy Pop himself for “Dirty Love,” her lust for life is unquestionable.
Really, the one way Ke$ha could fail to rock is to get sensitive, turn spiritual and start doing acoustic ballads about past lives. This only happens for about a third of Warrior, so it’s safe to say the great Ke$ha sincerity crisis of 2012 has been narrowly averted for now. If you’re in the mood to hear Ke$ha float across the universe, you might get a kick out of “Past Lives” – she sounds like Owen Wilson in Zoolander tripping on acid with spider monkeys. But she should ditch the ballads, because she packs more of her personality into crazy-horse dance-floor screamers like “C’Mon,” “Thinking of You” and “Crazy Kids.”
None of her sincerity-mongering moments rocks as hard as “Gold Trans Am,” which couldn’t have taken her more than 10 minutes to write. No sensitive poetry here – just Def Leppard-style rap metal that goes, “Wham bam, thank you, ma’am/Get inside my fucking gold Trans Am.” And she must have scored that guitar solo from the first guy to answer her Craigslist “Missed C.C. De-Ville Connections” ad. Ke$ha is hardly the first rock star to discover that her crudest, cheapest, cheesiest ideas are her best. In fact, that’s how you can tell she’s a true rock & roll child.
Listen to ‘Warrior’