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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Album Review - Ke$ha: "Animal"

There was a time, you may recall, when pop music and dance music were two separate things; when it didn't pander to the lowest common denominator; when pop stars were actually artists and not just fashion models with voices.  Not today, though.  Today it seems as if the mainstream music, money-making machine chooses style over substance almost always.  Ke$ha is no exception to this trend.  Her music, while containing a few catchy songs (such as the suddenly everywhere, "TiK ToK"), doesn't really bring anything new or exciting to the music world.  As such, Animal, is definitely not an album to purchase as a whole, but one to pick apart and download; again, a trend that has only grown more prevalent over time. 

Around a month ago, I'm spending time with friends when one girl starts playing "TiK ToK."  I immediately dismiss it as crap, not to mention a stylistic rip-off of Paris-based, Uffie (granted, not an Owl City-Postal Service sized rip-off, but enough for me to notice).  A week later, I'm severely inebriated at The Beach, a club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, when the song once again starts playing.  Without me even knowing, the song hooked me; so much so that a few days later I'm downloading the song on iTunes and declaring it the best mainstream female pop song since Britney Spears' "Toxic."  What "TiK ToK" has going for it is its amazing production, an infectious chorus, well-written melody, and enough edge to make it sound fresh.  It is a great cog in the machine, and according to the end of '09's pop charts, I'm not alone in this assessment.

Unfortunately, the large majority of Animal plays things by the book.  Sounding more Rihanna than Gaga, Ke$ha's debut is full of a lot of tracks that mimic every other pop song from the last 5 years.  Very few of them stand out as genuinely unique.  "Blah Blah Blah" is fairly solid track, with Ke$ha singing about how she'd rather a guy just make a move than have him talk her up for half an hour.  The worst part of the track has to be the inclusion of the always-annoying 3OH!3, who guests on the song's bridge.  "Hungover" is even better.  Its retro-dance vibe is enhanced by it's totally catchy chorus about the morning after.  If I had to pick a second single, it'd be this one.

In reading interviews with Ke$ha, she sounds like the kind of person who tries to get a rise out of people, who tries to be edgier than she is.  That's not necessarily a bad thing; everybody has their role to fill.  But Ke$ha's "edgier" stuff doesn't necessarily push any new boundaries.  Pop's cherry was popped decades ago with Madonna and Prince.  If you can't do it better, at least do it justice.   Her "edginess" is primarily relegated to the occasional dirty word or sexual innuendo; not necessarily groundbreaking.  Does she get some credit for at least writing a large portion of her songs herself?  Absolutely, that's much more than the average pop star.  But again, there's nothing particularly new or exciting about a lot of this stuff.

For example, most of the album is spent mimicking the styles of other established artists.  Album opener, "Your Love is My Drug" sounds like a decent Kelly Clarkson song, "Kiss N Tell" is out of the Miley Cyrus playbook, and "Animal" is like an Alanis Morissette song set to a completely worthless dance beat.  Granted, all of these songs could be considered highlights on Animal,  but she gets 0 points for originality.  The album's most nauseating song is "Boots & Boys," which showcases Ke$ha's affection for...well, I'm sure you can guess.  It's filler at its worst, with its double entendre lyrics and easy melody.

All this to say that, yes, Ke$ha's Animal has some good songs on it.  Some, like "TiK ToK" may wind up being remembered long past the album's shelf life.  However, when the pop-star roll call is taken five years from now, Ke$ha probably won't be in class; which is to say that she's just as disposable as any of the industry's other forgettable pop stars.  There are signs of talent and longevity in this album that are hard to deny, but Ke$ha has to find some way to set herself apart if she plans on surviving in the minds of the fickle OMG-ers of the world who will consume this album and then move on to the next big thing.  In the meantime, we can all enjoy the 4 or 5 good songs that Animal has to offer and wish her the best of luck.

Key Tracks:
1. "Your Love Is My Drug"
2. "TiK ToK"
3. "Take it Off"
4. "Blah Blah Blah (f/ 3OH!3)"
5. "Hungover"

5 out of 10 Stars

Elsewhere on Audio Overflow:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

have to agree with you on everything written above!