Tuesday, November 16, 2010

You are hairy! Like animal! -- Ke$ha - Animal

Dear readers, I have a confession to make. I have a guilty pleasure. A pleasure I enjoy only when no one is home, and when I know I can never be discovered. Sometimes, I turn off the lights to make myself feel better about it. Yes, it is shameful to admit, but I still enjoy it all the same. I am talking, of course, about “Sailor Moon.” It’s probably a nostalgia thing, as I grew up watching it, but even though it’s not really meant for boys, there’s something about that show that just entertains me. However, “Sailor Moon” is not related in any way, shape or form, to today’s entry, except perhaps that they both have blond hair.

That’s right, we’re talking about Ke$ha! Ke$ha, that patron saint of holding your hair back while you puke. Her music is flighty, shallow, and ridiculously catchy; if you’re looking for an anthem for a night of hard drinkin’ and making duck-lips, there’s a good chance she’s got a song for you. You would think that 14 tracks of bratty white-girl would get monotonous, not to mention lower your IQ about 15 points, but Animal manages to surpass my expectations. Granted, there will be some necessary brain-powering-down to do at the door (or do what I do, and plant your tongue firmly in your cheek), but there’s a surprisingly good time here, if only because I’m surprised it’s not terrible.

You know. Duck-lips.

Animal is largely a dance-y affair, which you may already be familiar with from songs like “Tik Tok” and “Your Love is My Drug.” Most of the songs are mid-tempo, high energy tracks that are to a basement party what Lady Gaga is to a posh nightclub. Thematically, the album could conceivably be vignettes from one long night of partying, with tracks about hitting on dudes (and being hit on in return), causing minor drama, and gettin’ your drank on. Occasionally the album slows up, and, in a surprising change from the norm for singers that hang their hat on club tracks, the record doesn’t suffer for it; I think it’s because the songs are thematically similar to others on the disc (partying, but these songs are about coming down from the night’s highs), and they end up making the album feel cohesive instead of stopping the party dead.

I did not have high hopes for Animal. In fact, I would probably have never generated the interest to look into Ke$ha’s catalog of music if it hadn’t been for an episode of “The Simpsons.” This particular episode eschews the traditional ‘Round Springfield intro in favor of the cast lip-synching and dancing to, of all things, “Tik Tok.” Maybe it was the image of Lisa Simpson putting on Stunna Shades and singing “Wake up in the mornin’ feelin’ like P. Diddy,” but my interest was piqued enough to go back and listen to that sugary, infectious single. The rest is history.

Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack.

While there is nothing on Animal that matches the heedless fun of “Tik Tok,” there are a few winners. “Your Love is My Drug” is a catchy, fun track with some cool-by-way-of-wack lines (“My steez is gonna be affected if I keep it up like a love-sick crack head”), “Blah Blah” is great for a club setting with its dialtone synthesizers and imitable chorus (“ta-ta-ta-talkin’ ‘bout…”) that even a guest appearance by 3OH!3 can’t ruin, and “Take It Off” is a thumping dance track with a sing-song melody and odd snatches of acid techno. There are also a few songs that I ended up warming up to, like the low-key and self-explanatory “Boots and Boys,” and the snotty, but still-appealing, “Kiss and Tell.”

There are also a few songs that give me pause. “Party at a Rich Dude’s House” seems like a Weird Al style-parody of a Ke$ha song, but it ultimately ends up sounding hollow, as if it were just going through the motions. “Blind” is a slower song that for some reason just didn’t catch my fancy; perhaps there wasn’t enough pawrty in the lyrics. Finally, there’s “Dinosaur,” which I find HILARIOUS, but only in the sense that it’s being sold as legit music (“D.I.N.O.S.A. you are a dinosaur! D.I.N.O.S.A. you are a dinosaur! O.L.D.M.A.N. you’re just an old man! hittin’ on me whaaaaaat?! You need a cat scan!”).

D.I.N.O.S.A. you are a dinosaur!

So far, this sounds like a regular dance-pop record from the late 2000’s, and you’re not terribly wrong to think so. However, there are a couple things that stand out to me about Ke$ha. First and foremost is her writing style. Rather than making thematically-general songs, she makes songs that sound exactly like they were written by a bratty white chick in her early 20’s; throughout the album, she drinks heavily, macks on guys, and hits up every skeezy party in town. Compare this with her pop diva contemporary (and supposed homegirl) Katy Perry. Katy Perry writes songs that sound as though they could be sung by anyone (song about California, song about on-and-off relationship, etc). Ke$ha’s subject matter is rather specific, and is much more interesting to listen to as a result.

Second is her production style. Many of Ke$ha’s songs use the sung melody and synth line in an overlapping sort of way that helps one complement the other; it’s as though the two melodies team up to create a weird Venn Diagram of sound. Let’s use one of K.P.’s songs as an example: “California Gurls” vs. “Tik Tok.” Both are in the same key, use the same chord progression, have the same tempo, and utilize similar-sounding melodies. For my money, though, “Gurls” sounds way too busy, with not many elements sonically standing out to me (I’m also not a fan of her breathy singing style, but that’s neither here nor there). “Tik Tok” seems to subscribe to the Keep It Simple Stupid school of song design: there’s a bass line, an uncomplicated drum track, a simple-but-wicked synth line, and a mostly-rapped and mostly-sang-on-one-note vocal performance. Ke$ha simply does more with less, and this odd lack of the kitchen sink (especially for a record in 2010) is strangely endearing to me.

Bottom line: if you didn’t like “Tik Tok” or the other Ke$ha singles that have been released, give Animal a wide berth; there’s nothing here that will change your mind. However, if you don’t mind a bit of shallow, drunk b@%#$ music, and can listen to your tunes ironically, give it a shot—there’s definitely some fun to be had, and if you ever find yourself in a place where you need some melodies to make some duck-lips to, you’ll be covered.

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