In the year end issue of Spin, comedian Patton Oswalt refered to pop-singer Ke$ha as the “Arbys to Lady Gaga’s In ‘n’ Out Burger.” While I find this statement both hilarious and true when it comes to the quality of the two singer’s music, it also perpetuates an image of Ke$ha that I don’t entirely agree with.
Since she dropped her single “Tik Tok” back in 2009, people have thought of Ke$ha as the poor-man’s Lady Gaga. And while it’s true that both apply their make-up smeared pop to Euro-disco beats, the similarities end there. You see Lady Gaga has pretensions towards artsiness that her numerous imitators seem unable to duplicate. Whether she actually succeeds in making art is a whole other debate, but there’s no doubt that there’s an element of fucked-up performance art in everything Gaga does. Her video for “Paparazzi” probably comes closest to portraying the life-as-art thing she so desperately strives for.
Ke$ha on the other hand, harbours no such pretensions. Down to the dollar sign in her name, it seems that all the singer wants is fame and fortune. How she gets it seems besides the point; she’s gonna get it no matter how many strangers beds she wakes up in hung-over as shit, partying her way to trophy-wifedom. At least that’s what her music videos would have us believe. And so far it’s working: “Tik Tok” even managed to supplant Danny Elfman’s theme to an episode of the Simpsons last fall in a move that either payed homage to, or ironically made fun of the track. I still can’t tell.
What’s worse is that at least in her music, Ke$ha gives no indication that drinking and fucking your way to the top might not be the best course of action, or that there might even be another option. And while Ke$ha is hardly the first singer to celebrate spoiled party girls – Paris Hilton’s ill-fated foray into music comes to mind – she’s the most vocal adherent to the cause. Just check out “We R Who We R” where she rallies the troops who “make the hipsters fall in love” and are “running this town just like a club.” Her message: accept us or else.
But Ke$ha’s hardly the first artist to champion a much-maligned demographic who perhaps should have remained firmly on the pop-culture sidelines. Back in ’99 Eminem and Kid Rock did the same thing for white-trash, making wife-beaters and white-angst the style of the day. And while both of those artists have since done a lot to distance themselves from the fans who once made-up the backbone of their base (okay, maybe not so much in Kid Rock’s case), a gaggle of less talented groups quickly swooped in to fill the void. Some, like Insane Clown Posse and their annual Gathering of the Jugalos, continue to blight our airwaves with their extreme ignorance.
So for everyone waiting for the Ke$ha scourged to pass, I’ve got bad news: she’s here to stay. Even if her career blew up in a puff of smoke tomorrow, she’s laid enough groundwork for a whole slew of vapid, self-entitled pop-tarts who look like they taste like whiskey and whose knowledge of feminist theory starts and ends with “Girl Power” and are ready to invade our airwaves. Because not giving a fuck is a hell of a lot easier than actually giving one. So it’s not going to be too hard to recruit new converts to the cause.
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