Tik tok, Las Vegas. It’s time. We need to go ahead and admit that 2012 was not the best year for pop music. A couple boy bands came from across the pond, a Canadian tweenager who presumably has a massive phone bill had the catchiest song of the year, Taylor Swift reinforced she’s in fact the furthest thing from a country singer, Rihanna’s seventh album was a total waste of time, and one of the year’s best songs – “Somebody That I Used To Know” – is intolerable now thanks to its myriad of club-ready remixes and overexposure on the airwaves. One cheeky little glitter bomb, however, never stopped sparkling.
For me, Ke$ha’s sophomore effort Warrior filled the indulgent pop void left by so many others who were poised to reign the mainstream market. I believe she holds the spot for 2012’s best pop release.
I need to clarify something. I love so many different kinds of music. My sonic range is eclectic and I pride myself in that. I’m well aware Ke$ha is not an introspective singer-songwriter bound to stack Grammys on Grammys on Grammys throughout her career. Nonetheless, I love her music for what it is: irreverent, gender-bending, feel-good pop. Yeah, she’s weird in interviews, probably took too many drugs in her short time so far on Earth, has been known to wear garbage bags on red carpets, and makes accessories from her fans’ teeth. Whatever. That doesn’t stop me from putting her latest album on loop when getting ready to go out or trying to keep my energy up on busy work days.
I highly recommend everyone listen to her Warrior LP. Take whatever preconceived ideas of Ke$ha you have and throw them out the window. Just listen to her. Give her a fair shot. I do caution you though… she’s more tolerable when you’re trying to get amped up (for whatever reason). This is not the type of music you want to test out if you’re looking to drown in some sort of emotional watering hole for an evening (although she has songs on this album that begin to toe toward that direction).
Here’s my track-by-track review, for all those who felt enlightened enough to get this far in my shameless Ke$ha-loving post:
1. “Warrior” – Like Ke$ha’s preceding title tracks (“Animal” and “Cannibal”), this one aptly sets the tone for the album’s theme (it’s a rather generic theme, but at least she had some sense of direction. Rihanna? Not so much.). It’s got the sing-talky thing Ke$ha is well known for, and that’s important because it’s familiar and all of Ke$ha’s followers want to know she hasn’t completely abandoned her earlier antics. The breakdown in the bridge of this song is pretty tight and much truer to the dubstep genre than other mainstream artists who’ve attempted this (Britney, Selena Gomez, etc.).
- 2. “Die Young” – Okay, this one I’m pretty over. I just have a thing for overexposing songs, and that happened to this one for me. It’s a catchy jam, but one that I don’t feel bad for skipping now.
- 3. “C’Mon” – Her second (and current) single off this LP, “C’Mon” is insanely catchy. It’s absurd this track hasn’t placed higher on the charts yet, especially considering it’s been widely reviewed as an undeniable hit.
- 4. “Thinking Of You” – This is where we first see a side of Ke$ha that has never emerged, and it’s amazing. If released as a single, this is sure to be a smash. It’s much more of a rock driven sound without losing Ke$ha’s knack for creating a killer hook. The vocoder breakdown in the bridge is so sugary, it’s delicious. A bit reminiscent Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” vocoder breakdown, but both grittier and more polished at the same time. For the record, that is no diss on Robyn – she’s one of my all time favorites and few artists can touch her prowess, in my opinion.
- 5. “Crazy Kids” – I know, it’s another party anthem. But this is also where Ke$ha capitalizes on her rapping ability more than she ever has before. It’s a bit like “Sleazy” from her last album, but better. It leans much more toward rap than her sing-talky thing (there really is no better way to put that, because you know exactly what I’m talking about). The chorus is what really makes this song though. It starts off with acoustic guitar and Ke$ha actually singing – one of the first times we really get a sense for what her voice sounds like without mounds of compression, distortion and auto-tune. The stark contrast between the choruses and the verses is really intriguing.
- 6. “Wherever You Are” – This is a bit broad in context, but this is one of the first attempts Ke$ha’s made to be vulnerable (while still never losing her catchy hook – she’s so good about that). If this is a single, it would be a great transition for Ke$ha to start doing some slower, more stripped down songs. It lets Ke$ha’s current fan base know she’s not a one-trick pony, and it has the ability to build up a new fan base for her.
- 7. “Dirty Love” – Completely out of place yet one of her best songs ever. It really doesn’t make sense being on this album, as it’s Ke$ha’s most experimental sound, but as a track on its own, it’s amazing. She’s recruited Iggy Pop (so random), but the whole thing just works. The lyrics are hilariously appropriate for the vibe of this song, and if Ke$ha released more songs like this, I think I (and many others) would be very appreciative of that.
- 8. “Wonderland” – I won’t pretend this song doesn’t sound really weird coming after “Dirty Love.” It does. But this is the first stripped-down song Ke$ha put out on this album cycle. I think it’s pleasant, even if it’s a little boring, but it’s cute and different for her. You won’t hear anything but actual instruments and her raw voice on this track. This is a milestone for Ke$ha and something everyone should consider when discussing her entire music catalogue.
- 9. “Only Wanna Dance With You” – My least favorite on the album, this is pretty much a standard (and semi-dated) Ke$ha track. It’s very expected, but when in doubt you can count on it to at least have a great hook. I just expected more from this one because it features Julian Casablancas and Fabrizio Moretti (The Strokes). I’ll still listen to this song for sure, I just hoped it would be a little more experimental.
- 10. “Supernatural” – Between the soaring chorus and that addicting buzzing sound in the verses, this song would be an incredible hit on the radio. I can already picture the remixes this track will (and probably already has) inevitably spawn. The lyrics are a bit “ET” by Katy Perry – these could be sister songs. But Ke$ha’s track is superior in practically every way (I largely appreciate the lack of a Kanye West verse).
- 11. “All That Matters (The Beautiful Life)” – Reminiscent of a 1990s dance chart topper, this song is such a fantastic throwback. This song has got to be amazing live as well given its interactive bridge where Ke$ha asks her listened to light their phones up in the air. Above all, I really appreciate Ke$ha exploring various kinds of dance tracks. This was an exploration that paid off big time.
- 12. “Love Into The Light” – Another I’d die to see live, this song has an epic quality about it. When it starts, you don’t think much of it. It’s very minimal, but then the drums kick in and the chorus comes out of nowhere. It’s very catchy in a strange way, and the lyrics are surprisingly mature for Ke$ha. The crazy guitar work particularly in the latter half of this track is both trippy and unlike anything we’ve ever heard from Ke$ha. Also, this is an appropriate album closer (for those who didn’t get the deluxe edition).
Now we’re entering the bonus tracks:
- 13. “Last Goodbye” – This one grows on me the more I listen to it. I love the forward motion of this beat; it’s very fitting for the track’s message – moving on even though it sometimes hurts. I don’t have a ton to say about this one, it’s not gloriously intricate, rather beautifully simplistic.
- 14. “Gold Trans Am” – CAUTION: mature audiences only. This is a very raunchy song. I won’t get into specifics, but Ke$ha’s cleverness is in full force here. I totally dig the American rock feel of this song and the lyrics only amp up the campiness of it. And yet again, this is an entirely unique sound territory for Ke$ha, and she proves she can handle it.
- 15. “Out Alive” – I’m personally floored this wasn’t included on the actual album. It’s unabashed pop gold that could slay in any mainstream music platform. The way she utilizes the downward music scale every time she sings “No one’s getting out alive” is so interesting – very few people use the music scale to that effect, as the main hook in an already catchy chorus.
- 16. “Past Lives” – Teaming up with Ben Folds and The Flaming Lips, this is one of her best songs in this album cycle. Another that I cannot believe is only available on the deluxe edition. It’s adorable, has thoughtfully original and meaningful lyrics, is catchy as anything else she pumps out, not to mention it’s backed by some other brilliant musicians (the aforementioned Ben Folds and The Flaming Lips) who deliver a wholly different type of music from Ke$ha. Absolutely adorable.
Okay, that’s enough. She put out a deconstructed (read: acoustic) EP along with this LP, but that’s another post entirely (I do recommend listening to that one as well though).
I’m not trying to turn anyone into a die-hard Ke$ha fanatic. I’m just trying to get people to respect what she does. It’s not rocket science and it’s not legendary. But it matters to literally millions of people. She’s stated many times the world is a hard place to live in, and these times specifically are quite trying for so many people. She’s just trying to alleviate some of that distress. Her music isn’t a magical elixir for life’s problems, but it’s an applause-worthy attempt to help people forget about the hectic state of our current sociopolitical upheaval, if only for a song or two.