Still "scummy", Ke$ha gets respect with her new CD.
Ke$ha pits her heart on the line with new album
Becoming one of pop's top-selling acts over the past two years hasn't changed Ke$ha much - the girl who got famous by celebrating the trashy life and writing raunchy songs about it is still revelling in it.
"I still love having really terrible house parties," says a relaxed and reflective Ke$ha. "I still don't live my life with my happiness being dependent on name brands or how much things cost or some sort of VIP club … I still love being kind of scummy, to be honest."
Her second album Warrior, released last month, flaunts the same uncouth attitude that propelled her debut Animal and the EP Cannibal up the charts. Like those recordings, Warrior is filled with upbeat, living-in-the-moment anthems such as her current single Die Young, which radio stations stopped playing following the mass shooting in Connecticut.
On December 18, the singer responded with an apology on Twitter and a claim that she was "forced" to write the song: "I understand. I had my very own issue with 'die young' for this reason. I did NOT want to sing those lyrics and I was FORCED TO."
That tweet has since been deleted, but an apology remains: "I'm so so so sorry for anyone who has been effected by this tragedy. And I understand why my song is now inappropriate. Words cannot express."
Her song is still on heavy rotation on UAE radio stations, and while Ke$ha may not be actively courting respect, she's getting it - and from an elite group in the music industry. Warrior features an expansion of collaborators beyond musical overseer Dr Luke, the hit maker who discovered and signed Ke$ha when she was 18. Among those on the album are Iggy Pop, Nate Ruess of fun., Patrick Carney of The Black Keys and Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips. Last year, Andre 3000 did a verse for a remix of her track Sleazy.
Ke$ha says she pushed herself to put her "heart on the line" by reaching out to the musicians she admired. "And then when they respond and they're down to collaborate with you, it's scary as an artist because you don't want to get into the room with somebody who you adore and have them think you suck," she says. "You never know how good you're going to be on a certain day or what they're going to think of you."
Ke$ha says she "stalked" Iggy Pop "because I'm obsessed", but the other musical partnerships came through mutual friends. They serve as a reminder that she's a hardworking songwriter at heart, not a label-manufactured dance-pop star. She began her career in the industry writing for others, and co-wrote Britney Spears' hit Till the World Ends.
"It was nice to know that people who I really love wanted to collaborate. Because I feel like when you collaborate with somebody, there has to be some element of mutual respect. Because you're putting your name with their name for the world to judge," she says.
Ke$ha co-wrote five songs for Warrior with her mother Pebe Sebert, a singer-songwriter from Tennessee who penned Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You, a hit for Dolly Parton in 1980. She says she learnt about songwriting by sneaking into her mother's sessions as a child. They now bounce ideas back and forth regularly.
"I can write with her about anything. I can write with her about boys. I wrote the song Cannibal with her, which is about me dismembering men and eating them," Ke$ha notes.
The album features more guitar than her previous efforts, with her punk and hard rock influences heard on Gold Trans Am and Dirty Love, the collaboration with Pop. It also features less Autotune: after being criticised for relying too heavily on voice manipulation technology, she shows her natural pipes throughout Warrior and on an accompanying five-song acoustic EP, Deconstructed.
Despite all the fame and fortune, Ke$ha is happy to get away from it all. At the end of her last tour, she turned off her phone and backpacked around Central and South America and Africa.
"When you live a life where you're surrounded by a lot of people all the time, it's a very egocentric lifestyle. And to prevent myself from, like, totally living on another planet, I wanted to, like, you know, run around barefoot and sleep in the dirt and go meet random people who have no idea who I am and just don't care," she says. "And that was really nice."