No matter who you are, hearing the name Ke$ha brings a very distinct picture to your brain. Based on what I’ve heard from my intellectual counterparts, most people with any taste in music see her as lacking depth due to her promotion of nonsensical partying and total debauchery. There may be some truth to the argument that K$ (K-dollar, as I lovingly call her) is just another pop star playing to the masses to make a buck, but I tend to think there is something deeper going on there. It just takes some work to see it.
Ke$ha was raised in LA by a single mother, Pebe Sebert, living off food stamps and welfare until they relocated to Nashville, where Pebe, a singer-songwriter, found success in the country music scene. Ke$ha wasn’t a Mouseketeer or Star Search contestant like her pop icon counterparts. She didn’t weasel her way into the spotlight by appearing on MTV reality shows or getting a tattoo on LA: Ink. She built her career off of co-writing some of the biggest pop hits of the last 5 years, not by making a sex tape or being the heir to one of America’s famous fortunes. Ke$ha got her start by making demos with her mom in their apartment in Nashville and passing them around to producers—the old school way of breaking into the music industry.
Ke$ha claims the title of songwriter above all else. When you really listen to Ke$ha’s lyrics, they aren’t the most intelligently-worded bits of poetry, but they say some really important things, aside from it’s okay to wake up in unknown front yards sometimes or throw up in the occasional stranger’s closet. They say things like, “We R Who We R.” I know that phrase is grammatically problematic and isn’t spelled with every letter it deserves, but it asks the listener to tell the world they deserve to be who they want to be in very few words. It promotes letting go of the world’s expectations of you and living by your own, even if that might mean brushing your teeth with a bottle of Jack everyday. Who are we to say that Ke$ha shouldn’t live her life that way? Frankly, it seems to be working out for her.
Her lyrics don’t appeal to us because they are smart. They are catchy phrases that the masses can relate to, even when others have said the same thing in more complex and sophisticated language. Even though it is simplified, the message is still relevant and important. Who ever said her intent was to appeal to the intellectual? Why does everything need to be held up to that standard? If it isn’t Nitchze, is it garbage?
Ke$ha never claimed to be anything other than what she is: a glitter glam pop princess with natural 20-something desires to party and push boundaries. She promotes sexual confidence, being comfortable in your skin and, most importantly, “not giving a fuck” what the world thinks of you. Her fan base just happens to appreciate the encouragement in simpler words than Proust or Rilke can offer. I’m a 25 year-old college grad. I’ve read Rilke and Proust. But Ke$ha’s music has still cultivated a confidence that allows me to let go of myself and dance more freely than those dudes’ musings ever did. Her lyrics have taught me that in the scheme of living up to the world’s expectations, I should have no fucks to give as long as I am making choices that foster self-expression and don’t hurt anyone.