Ke$ha's Warrior: A First Listen
A quick scan of the titles on Ke$ha's second album means it better be her pop masterpiece -- nothing looks as hilarious or striking as "D.I.N.O.S.A.U.R." or "Party at a Rich Dude's House." But even those of us who wanted to love her found that debut fucking annoying. I was finally converted by the follow-up EP Cannibal, with its small-dose masterpieces "We R Who We R" (universality that beat both Taylor and Gaga), "Blow" (video of whatever year that was) and "Grow a Pear" ("But I just can't date a dude with a vag"). These look less promising even though the single's automatic wildfire. So let's see if she's possible to love yet.
Breaking the doors down, eh? What doors? And for who? The "misfits" and "bad kids" apparently. "The ones who flirt with disaster," hmm. Forgive me if I don't quite believe in whatever revolution she's talking about here. But damn me to hell: Matisyahu's "Live Like a Warrior" was more fun. It would be nice if her purported cleverness lived up to its winking image -- Gaga and Taylor describe their misfits and bad kids with more detail and flair, and they're far more privileged than this inspiring, chubby-in-high-school weirdo. The song: adequate.
Run away with the stolen Avicii/Flo Rida riff all you want, don't even care that Nate Ruess of fun. put those four perfect chords in your mouth. The synth riff is amazing, the nonstop melody so fluid and surefire that you don't even notice she's still rapping. Lacks a good lyrical takeaway, though "let's make the most of the night like we're gonna die young" is as honest as she gets and no less up to its own challenge than Japandroids or Titus Andronicus. A lot more concise than those guys, though. One of the best singles of the year, up there with her own best, but you can hear her quirks already peeling off. Something out of place could've only improved this thing. So it's actually too perfect.
The very good follow up to "Die Young." If she sticks with these candy-apple-glue melodies, this album could be a contender indeed. Half-cannibalizes all her other hooks, particularly the still-inexplicably unreleased "Shots on the Hood of My Car," which remains great. I hope it's enough to keep her not only around, but comfortable getting weird -- which it's growing apparent this album is not.
"Thinking of You"
Did you know she listens to rock too? Here's her first attempt at making good on it. Sounds rad -- though it also sounds like Katy Perry's debut, which if I'm remembering right also had a song called "Thinking of You." First dare she makes good on: calls her cheating guy a slut. Wish it had the weight and sting her male counterparts achieve and don't deserve. The vocodered-synth breakdown is awesome. Grows on you as it goes along. So far this album's in takeoff, if a bit haunted by the race against being generic.
More acoustic power chords, some whistling, catchy, but instead of exploding, it reverts to minimalist, better-than-Kreayshawn rapping. And I'd still really, really like to know what makes these kids so crazy. "We don't give a fuck, that's just who are" is getting old, I'm getting impatient. Worse, I'm beginning to think she's more sane than like, Jack White.
"Wherever You Are"
This time the melody's so great that the lyrics don't matter -- doesn't even matter how awkwardly she wraps her not-so-nimble tongue around the word "e-lec-tric." This is damn perfect dance music, pop, whatever box you stick it in. Skyscrapers of overdubbed harmonies. Synths that vacuum up the whole room. Summer in winter. As great as "Die Young." Hope it's huge but I doubt it's wacky enough to release as a single. Whenever she makes a song this good, it's hard to believe she can't sustain a whole album of them. She's not going to be Robyn someday, but here's hoping she gets another good several years to be a thorn in her side.
Voodoo-garage vamp with Iggy Pop, who she's all too gleeful to announce. We are fucking cooking. She growls her way into this swinger, makes like Pink with the tastefully showoff-y vocal runs. Iggy ribs Santorum and Afghanistan and makes the most of his perfect little cameo. The opposite of "Wherever You Are," it would be too great if the label pushed this with a video, but they're too square, even though there's plenty left to corner in this sad year for rock hits, or lack thereof.