It’s official! Singer/co-songwriter Ke$ha is the first Number One Hot 100 artist of the decade with her song “TiK ToK.” In fact, she just had the second biggest sales week of all time on iTunes (first biggest by a female artist). But if you’re anything like me-even though you pay a decent amount of attention to trivial pop culture things like this-you still have no idea who Ke$ha really is (other than that she brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels). Not to worry: I’ve done all the research for you. And, upon further review, I think she might be this generation’s pre-Federline Britney Spears.
Let’s start with the basics. It’s not Kee-sha or Kee-dollar sign-ha. The correct pronunciation is Kesh-a, “kesh” pronounced like “mesh” (WELL GUYS, I GUESS WE’RE REALLY DOING THIS!). She’s a 22-year-old who was born in the Valley and then moved to Nashville, where she spent her formative years with her punk singer/songwriter mother. After appearing on-and this is now the world in which we live-the Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie reality show “The Simple Life,” she sent her demos to mega-producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin.
Not familiar with Dr. Luke? He’s the protege of Max Martin (and if you’re not familiar with Max Martin, he invented the sound of Britney Spears and ‘NSYNC). In the last few years Dr. Luke has amassed his own fairly impressive pop discography, including Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”, both of Katy Perry’s hit singles, literally all of the Kelly Clarkson songs you like, Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The USA”, and a bunch of other huge, huge hits.
After Dr. Luke and Max Martin got hold of her demos, the producers coerced her into moving to LA, where (according to her official bio) she did the struggling artist thing for a few years before eventually getting a record deal with Jive, the same label that has been home to-wait for it-Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and ‘NSYNC.
Next, she was featured anonymously on the Flo Rida hit “Right Round” (you don’t think you know this song, but you do, and it’s actually the number one most downloaded song in the course of a week on iTunes), and then in October of 2009 she put out “TiK ToK,” to mixed reviews. She began to gain momentum with the ONTD-set and then the tweens by being featured on “The Hills,” the new “90210” (a lot better than you might think!), and other shows of that ilk. Suddenly, she’s the number one singer in America, performing on “Ellen”!
I know this is going to sound crazy and really premature to say,but I think there’s a lot of evidence that points toward Ke$ha being this generation’s Britney Spears (say, the Baby, One More Time through Britney era). Sacrilege? Not at all. Let’s look at this objectively.
You probably think Lady Gaga is this generation’s Britney, but that’s where you’re wrong: Lady Gaga scares the crap out of some people (myself included) and isn’t really palatable to all of America. Sure, she’s obviously a huge superstar with a gigantic following, but for better or worse she’s “Like A Virgin”-era Madonna: a really good pop star who, at this point, is much more committed to creating spectacle rather than just making hit music. It’s just a different lane to go down.
Ke$ha, on the other hand, is a version of Gaga-lite, but in a good way. She is sort of edgy in that she puts on weird eye makeup, but she also just wears vintage-looking t-shirts and jeans when performing on national television. As opposed to donning some weird Gareth Pugh leotard while standing on top of a blood-draped ladder that’s in a coffin set on fire, or something.
Aesthetics aside, and looking past the cute, marketable, blonde-girl-singing-songs written with one of the most prolific producers in the world, Ke$ha is this generation’s Britney because she’s pretty much like any other girl you know.
If you watch her performance of “TiK ToK” on “Ellen,” the whole thing is reminiscent of something you would see on stage at a college sorority’s rush event (note the skipping step into the weird robot move they do in the chorus, 0:58 min mark). But it’s her relatability and sincerity as an exemplar of true girl-next-doorishness that makes her such the right pop star for right now.
Thanks to the Internet, and the whole “death of shame” trend to which it is both handmaiden and accelerant, the separation between famous people and people who really want to be famous has gotten as narrow as Keira Knightley standing sideways. People who want fame badly enough actually can just go and get it. In the same way that a blogger in LA who names his blog after a socialite can become friends with-or more famous than-the celebrities he writes about, or a fashion blogger in the Philippines can get his own eponymous Marc Jacobs bag, a girl like this, who isn’t not talented but really wants to be a pop star, can get on a reality show, get her demo to the right people, work with super-producers, and then in a relatively short amount of time become a record breaking musician. (It helps to have an amazing Twitter feed.)
And that is the deal with Ke$ha.