Pop Singer Ke$ha Admits All Her Singles Sound the Same
Anyone who has heard Ke$ha's songs on the radio know they all revolve around the same theme of partying and wild behavior. Anyone who knows a lot about Ke$ha would know that she's never been happy about it. In 2011, she asked fans to petition her label to release her emotional track The Harold Song. It never happened. When Die Young, C'mon and Crazy Kids were released from her current album Warrior, she always seemed like she was just going through the motions and didn't seem too interested in promoting them. She also refused to perform her feature track Timber with Pitbull.
Ke$ha (real name Kesha Sebert) has now revealed in a Rolling Stone Magazine interview that all of her singles sound pretty much the same:
"I’d like to show the world other sides of my personality. I don’t want to just continue putting out the same song and becoming a parody myself. I have so much more to offer than that and I can’t wait till the world really gets to hear that on the radio."
If you've never heard a Ke$ha ballad, you're missing out on her best songs
Many people incorrectly conclude that all of Ke$ha's songs sound the same. This is completely untrue. In fact, she has far more songs about love and heartbreak than she has about partying and craziness. And sure, she likes to party and say and do bizarre stuff. Few things are funnier and crazier than a Ke$ha interview on late night TV. But it's just one aspect of who she is.
Bradley Stern from the music website MuuMuse says about Ke$ha:
"...anyone who knows the singer beyond the odd Top 40 hit being plugged at radio, she’s got more up her sleeves than just dried body paint and glitter. She’s a genuinely talented singer-songwriter...beyond the hit records, it’s her somber, slower cuts like Animal‘s “Stephen” and “Blind,” Cannibal‘s “The Harold Song” (her greatest, most devastatingly beautiful song to date), Warrior‘s “Love Into The Light” and dozens of her pre-fame demos (like the stripped guitar-led 2000 ballad “Goodbye”) that showcase her genuine talent."
The Warrior Compromise
Ke$ha has absolutely no control over what becomes a single that gets sent to radio. This isn't unusual. What is unusual is that she's not allowed to release any ballads or meaningful songs like every other pop girl. According to Click Music:
"When...asked if she had creative control over her artistry and what she releases, she confirmed that everything up to this point has been done to perpetuate an image favoured by her producers."
She didn't want to write any party songs for Warrior but she was told she had to because she couldn't release music she wasn't "known for." The album ended up having party songs that her label boss Dr. Luke wanted to release to the radio.
While many of the tracks on the album had the rock, country, folk and retro sounds Ke$ha wanted, none of those songs were ever sent to radio. The singles in no way represented the overall sound of the album. Not surprisingly, hardly anyone bought it despite largely positive reviews. Many critics picked up on the creative tug-of-war that became Warrior. The Billboard reviewer said:
"Ke$ha seems to be fighting desperately to make another record entirely"
A reviewer with Yahoo! OMG said:
"But it's the two tracks which strip away her familiar usual studio trickery which turn out to be the highlights, firstly the gorgeously melancholic piano-rock ballad, 'Wonderland,' which could be mistaken for latter-day Sheryl Crow, and secondly the atmospheric closer, 'Love Into The Light,' which even contains a burst of air drums that appear to have escaped from an 80s Phil Collins record.
In the end, 'Warrior' sounds like a compromise between the record Ke$ha wanted to make and the record Ke$ha's label wanted her to make. But there's little doubt over whose vision emerges victorious."
Ke$ha's Full Rolling Stone Comments
There’s an online petition trying to emancipate you from your longtime producer, Dr. Luke. Have you seen it? I have, yeah.
They have over 3300 signatures now. Their argument is that Dr. Luke, and I’m quoting them here, is “controlling Ke$ha like a puppet.” Is this a petition you support? I feel like my fans are really protective of me. They just want to see me grow as an artist, which I agree with. Hopefully in the future, I’ll be in a position where I can put out a ballad or a more vulnerable song.
You don’t have any creative control now? Not really. What’s been put out as singles have just perpetuated a particular image that may or may not be entirely accurate. I’d like to show the world other sides of my personality. I don’t want to just continue putting out the same song and becoming a parody myself. I have so much more to offer than that and I can’t wait till the world really gets to hear that on the radio.
Songs on Warrior that sound nothing like the Singles Die Young and Crazy Kids
Teenager Kesha Sebert was told she was too ugly to be a singer
The #FreeKesha Petition
In September 2013, an online petition was launched to win creative freedom for Ke$ha that even legendary rock producer Bob Ezrin signed. Ezrin produced her duet What Baby Wants with Alice Cooper and her Amnesty International Bob Dylan cover Don't Think Twice, It's All Right. He said:
"Ke$ha is one of the most talented singers I have ever worked with - and she is more than that: she's a real artist. In our business, this is rare and must always be celebrated and allowed to flourish...I love K$ and think she is much stronger than even she may realize. I believe that she will rise above this and I am signing here to show my support and deep affection. B"
The people behind the petition are rumored to be in direct communication with her and her mom Pebe Sebert and both follow the @freekeshaluke petitioners on Twitter. The petition starts out saying something that's very true:
"Ke$ha gets "bullied" as being one dimensional, or a one trick pony."
The reason given for this is Ke$ha's contract with mega pop producer Dr. Luke:
"Ke$ha is "forced" to work with the same collective group of people, through each record. Dr. Luke is controlling ke$ha like a puppet, feeding her what she doesn't want, and her creativity is dwindling and affected negativity."
Now, some people ask why Ke$ha signed with pop's biggest producer if she didn't want to make dance music, since all of her favorite artists are rock, country and punk legends. Ke$ha's professional singing and songwriting career started as a teen, years before Tik Tok. At that time, she mainly sang and recorded pop rock, rock, and country songs.
There were a few reasons. She had just turned 18 when she signed on with him. Her songwriter mother's connections within the music industry told Ke$ha to give up her dreams of being a singer because she was "too ugly" to succeed, so it's not surprising that she jumped at a promising opportunity that came her way. And at that time, Dr. Luke was an up-and-coming producer who was still playing guitar on Saturday Night Live. He was producing pop rock songs for singers like P!nk and Kelly Clarkson. Pop radio changed and Ke$ha got caught up in the dance wave. The fact that she didn't know that Tik Tok was a good song until people started telling her it was shows how out of her element she was making dance music. It's a testament to her talent that she was actually so good at it. The RKD music blog summed up their article on Ke$ha's label troubles with this:
"Poor Ke$ha. It ain’t easy being a rock star disguised as a pop star."
It took weeks for the entertainment media to find out about the petition. When they did most were skeptical and some mocked the fans behind it. They thought it was fans making excuses for Ke$ha's flopped Warrior album and two flop singles C'mon and Crazy Kids (the movement is still going strong despite Ke$ha having worldwide success with her current feature single Timber). Articles asked why Ke$ha would possibly want to be freed from the biggest hitmaker in pop music.
Maybe it was hard for them to believe that the girl with a dollar sign in her stage name who got her big break rapping about brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack actually cared more about music than commercial success. The fact that Ke$ha brought legends and alternative artists on board as collaborators on Warrior should have made it obvious that she isn't your typical hit focused popstar. The Flaming Lips, Ben Folds, Iggy Pop, Patrick Carney and The Strokes helped out on the album.
And a lot of people in the media don't seem to realize that Ke$ha is signed directly to Luke's label. Singers like Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus who have had massive Dr. Luke produced hits aren't tied to him. They're hiring him to work for them as a producer. He doesn't control their careers and they can move onto someone else if they feel he isn't working out for them. This isn't the case for Ke$ha, who has tried many times to work with outside producers like The Flaming Lips, Nathan Chapman, David Gamson and Matt Squire, only to have most of those songs rejected in favor of Dr. Luke productions.
I hope to hear blues rock songs like this one on Kesha's next album
Dr. Luke Seems Out-of-touch
The flopping of Warrior was not at all the cause of Ke$ha's dissatisfaction. She started airing complaints about her record label starting with her book . The book came out when Ke$ha was still a success story. Die Young was a huge hit for her at the time. Her flop album Warrior hadn't been released yet. She explained in the book how she was told by Dr. Luke to change the sound she wanted on the album because he was concerned the songs she was recording wouldn't be played on the radio. My Crazy Beautiful Life
I listen to a lot of pop radio, so I'm shocked that the most successful pop producer around appears so clueless about what actually sells now. The success of Adele and alternative crossover artists has completely changed the sound of pop radio. The format is now filled with R&B, funk, folk pop, electro-rock, pop rock and ballads as well as Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and pop songs that have meaningful lyrics.
Generic party songs don't sell like they used to. Some of Ke$ha's rejected demos like Meet Me In Space, and album tracks like the heartbreaking folk pop track Last Goodbye, soft rock love song Only Wanna Dance With You and anti-hate ballad Love Into the Light were far more radio friendly than the generic party songs Luke demanded.
Dr. Luke also told Miley Cyrus that her song Wrecking Ball, which he produced, wouldn't be a number 1 hit. The first time I heard the song, I knew it would be huge for her. And it did reach number 1.
Since I wrote this, Kesha has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Luke accusing him of sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abusing her starting when she signed on with him in 2005. She's asked a court to grant her an injunction that would allow her to sign to a new record label until her case is resolved. There will be a hearing on February 19th, 2016 to determine whether she'll be granted that injunction. If successful, she'll release new music in 2016.
A new Kesha demo called Lover was leaked by the producers Spookey Ruben and Schpilkas. It's a mature, experimental indie electronic track that was apparently recorded in 2013. It's one more example of what post-Luke Kesha music will sound like. Spookey Ruben accused Dr. Luke of having their official versions of the song removed from YouTube, Vimeo and Soundcloud.
You can sign Care2's petition asking Sony Music to drop Kesha from her contracts here.