NB: This article was originally withheld due to barrel-bottom quality. Read at your own risk.
I’m fairly sure that my first encounter with new pop sensation Ke$ha was in a mall store. Probably Garage or something. But anyway, it was a somewhat obscured listening to her first big single “TiK ToK.” I was at first mildly annoyed by the song, writing it off as yet another one-hit wonder with yet another lame song about clubbing. It left a bit of an imprint in my mind though, because I caught myself humming it one day completely randomly, despite the fact that I hadn’t even heard the entire song.
And then I stated hearing it all the time. On the radio. In the clubs. On the woman’s iPod. As a music snob, my first instinct upon hearing a new song by an artist I’m not familiar with is to listen carefully to the lyrics so as to assess their artistic merit and pass final judgement on that song on that single aspect. Noting that the lyrics to “TiK ToK” were basically garbage (a hypothesis confirmed when I looked them up online), I decided that I did not like the song. I like my fair share of crappy songs, but the lyrics in this one really turned me off.
The thing that bothered me even more than the questionable lyrics was the fact that Ke$ha’s gimmick was apparently to slur her lyrics as if singing drunk. Singing about alcohol or being a drunk is one thing, but singing as if you are drunk is another thing entirely. I was unhappy to learn that it was in fact a recurring device in her music when the second single, “Blah Blah Blah,” hit. I found this song even more offensive, and at this point Stephanie became annoyed at me constantly voicing my annoyance at Ke$ha, since she had taking a liking to the songs, the latter possibly even moreso than the former.
It was a phenomenon that I was hoping would simply go away, like every other slutty pop tart eventually has. I decided to just try to suffer through it as quietly as possible, for Steph’s sake, but then it went up to the next level. We ended up hanging out at our friend’s place one night, and for a reason that I could not fathom at the time, Ke$ha’s album, Animal, had somehow found its way onto his iPod, which happened to be providing the background music for the evening. I suppressed as many negative comments as I could (of course not all could be contained), and tried to listen to a handful of other songs from the album. I was hard though, because we were talking over it, and for some reason “Blah Blah Blah” kept playing. I theorize that Steph had a hand in it in an attempt to annoy the crap out of me in a place where she knew I would hold in most of my criticism (and I wouldn’t blame her at all, I’m really fucking annoying when it comes to complaining about music I don’t like).
Not long after that night, I looked up Ke$ha’s Wikipedia entry to shed some light on the subject. Know thy enemy and all. And that’s when all my hate processes came to halt. Well, not a complete stop. But after following up with the reference pages, I was shocked to learn that not only was she actually really smart, as opposed to an idiot blonde whore (listen to the lyrics. Who wouldn’t come to that conclusion?), but the lyrics aren’t serious and are in fact supposed to be somewhat satiric. This made my head spin. And then she lists Queen and Beck (both of whose music I deeply respect) as inspirations. I’d never been less sure of what to think.
The very next day I was playing pool with Edwin, and completely randomly he mentioned that he’d listened to the entirety of Animal and that aside from the two singles, he found it an incredibly appealing album. Now, Edwin’s tastes in music and my own almost constantly conflict, but he doesn’t immediately buy into everything the Top 40 tells him to like, so I’m inclined to at least listen to and make a fair assessment of his recommendations. He stated that the beats and techno sounds had really won him over, being heavily reminiscent of chiptunes. I’m a man who loves his chiptunes, so I guess it was on that note that I decided that I would have to give the album a listen and see what he was going on about.
God damn it, he was right. They were all right.
I don’t listen to much music which could be cast into the pop genre without argument. Basically there’s Freezepop and that’s about it. The Ouendan soundtracks too, but J-Pop is a different beast entirely. I will irregularly tune into a bit of synth- or techno-pop, but never does the genre make itself a recurring theme in my music library. And now Ke$ha has gone and turned everything upside-down. I listened to Animal, although it started as an experiment in hopes of separating the parts I wanted to hear from those I didn’t. Before the album had finished downloading, I was well into my hunt for a program to remove the vocal tracks from MP3s. I tried a plugin for WinAmp first, and I didn’t even turn it on right away because when I loaded “Your Love is My Drug” I was instantly smitten.
Maybe it was the bleep-bloopy sounds playing softly in the background, or maybe it’s just a good song. I even played the song again right away because I was a bit confused about what I had just heard. Yup. Edwin was definitely right. A few more tracks in, I had noted that most of them did have succulent 8-bit sounds going on all over the place, and if there’s any one surefire way to get me interested in your product, it’s to play the nostalgia card. The music had me drowning in aural goodness that sounded like it had been composed on a good old grey brick Game Boy. Of course, a fair amount of the instruments (synthed instruments, whatever) had been upscaled because nobody but nerds like me are going to listen to songs that could have been made entirely with the Game Boy’s sound chip. I was a little disheartened to learn that none of the programs I’d downloaded could isolate those sounds, but I found solace in the fact that I really liked most of the album anyway.
The first track, “Your Love is My Drug,” as mentioned before, caught me right away. It’s just so infectious! The little end note always makes me laugh too. “Kiss N Tell” has some more of that chiptune-esque goodness that I looked into the album for in the first place, but I quite enjoy the rest of the song too. The aforementioned 8-bit sounds here for some reason reminds me of the music in Yogi Bear for Game Boy. I don’t know why, as the music isn’t really that similar. “Stephen” I swear could be on a Katamari soundtrack if it was in Japanese. That’s all I can think about when I listen to (and invariably sing along with) the song, especially during the slow verse. And “Animal”, oh how I love it! How did a song so in line with my tastes end up here? I don’t know!
I’m somewhat less excited about the rest of the album, and “TiK ToK” still rubs me the wrong way, but I’m warming up to it through familiarity. Though that stupid power-loss effect on the “shut us down-ow-ow-owwwnnn” part that’s on every second club song these days annoys me to no end. I never liked it, and I never will. I still don’t care for “Blah Blah Blah” on the whole however. There are a lot of songs on the album that I like that have fairly dirty lyrics, but “Blah Blah Blah” takes it just a little too far out of my comfort zone. Show a little restraint, woman! I try to tell myself that it’s satirical, but it provides little comfort.
The best thing I can say about Animal is that it provides a commendable amount of diversity. No two songs sound the same, and I was blown away by that, having judged the book by its cover again and whatnot. While Ke$ha’s supposed “war on pretension” theme doesn’t really come across without a little outside knowledge, it does make for a good party album, and some sweet driving tunes too! Being a man whose tastes cater mostly to 70’s rock, it’s not really socially acceptable for me to be enjoying this album as much as I am (at least in music snob circles), but then that’s actually the entire point. In fact, that fact that I’m picking this album apart means I’m doing it wrong. I still wish she’d picked a better genre to get into (punk would have suited the theme perfectly), because I just know I just fell a few rungs in the eyes of metal-heads everywhere. I really hate that I’m leaving the metal-heads unimpressed.
But in the end I’m happy. I don’t really think that my musical tastes will change as a result of this radically different introduction into my music library (and my iPhone!), and I don’t think that I’m going to be any less snobby about music either. But I feel like I have grown a little bit inside, expanding my horizons just enough to let a little bit of new experience trickle in, but not so much as to really change anything. It’s also quite a relief to get a little bit of hate out of my system. I mean, that hate and cynicism mostly defines how I look at music, but liking things makes life a lot easier. Also it pisses off my girlfriend a lot less. Speaking of which, I’m going to get so I-told-you-so’d when she reads this. That or she’s going to beat me with a sack of doorknobs for being so Goddamn annoying in my hated for Ke$ha and then turning around and saying how great she is. I think I’m just gonna hide out somewhere for a few days maybe…