Ke$ha Tuesday, August 30 Roy Wilkins Auditorium, St. Paul
As I was preparing to go to the Ke$ha concert tonight, I found myself in a mild crisis. Having not really paid attention to the artist beyond her video for "Tik Tok" (where she wakes up in a bathtub with a bottle of Jack Daniels) and the whole feather-hair-extension thing that she kind of started, I started to question how much I actually valued my own time. Was I really about to spend an evening of my life watching a juicy young thing with seemingly no filter trounce around in lingerie whilst surrounded by screaming, glitterified teens?
Yes. Yes I was. It would be a social experiment. A pop-music analysis. There were actual points of interest, at least: Would Ke$ha sing at all? How much glitter, actually, would there be? Would Ke$ha really bring the party?[jump]
As it turns out, she does indeed bring the party. She opened with "Sleazy," standing in the center of this crazy two-story metal thing that was like an adult-sized jungle gym, wearing a glitter-encrusted bustier and sunglasses with rims bright enough they surpassed glow-in-the-dark technology.
As Ke$ha ran through her songs, sexy back up dancers in tow, it was obvious that if Ke$ha didn't bring the party, the audience wouldn't know how to identify with her. Songs like "Blow" and "Party At a Rich Kid's House" were enthusiastically received, whilst Ke$ha's efforts towards pop balladry, with "Animal" and "The Harold Song," fell short of inspiring much from anyone, settling on Grade D empty pop. I actually liked Ke$ha more when she wasn't being all fake-heartfelt and diva-y, because at least with her badittude and bratty lyrics she has a personality. Not one I like, but still.
At least Ke$ha has something with songs like "Tik Tok" and "We R Who We R." I cringe to call it "talent," but she's a good enough songwriter. She's got a solid beat, slick lyrics--even rhyming "goner" with "(Jeffrey) Dahmer" in "Cannibal." And her music doesn't have to be deep; that's not why she makes it. It sounds good when you're on the dance floor, better after you've guzzled a million vodka sevens and PBRs, and, man, does it ring true when, after a hard night of partying with your bestie, you wake up to find the bitch has stolen your car, like Ke$ha did in "Backstabber."
I get it. I really do. Gone is the era of innocent pop music, where the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears were only vaguely suggestive. Those were the good old days, when the Mickey Mouse Club kids passed puberty and gave us a string of bubblegum hits that, though sometimes lacking in depth, were at least not inane. This is a new era of popular music, one where those golden icons are surpassed by the artists that, like Ke$ha, are more daring, more sexy, more wildly inappropriate.
Which is why I wasn't even phased (in fact, terrifically excited) by all the glitter that was showered upon the audience throughout the show (SO MUCH GLITTER), or by the awesome balloons dropping from the ceiling during "Your Love Is My Drug," or by the insane guitar fashioned like a machine gun that she played during "Take It Off." The audience loved it. Every second of it. And when Ke$ha decided to tell us a story, she sat down on a chair with a beer in hand and got personal.
"I love you guys," Ke$ha said in an affected drunk Valley Girl voice (or maybe not affected?). "I have to tell you a story. No, it's not about Steven, that guy's penis is like this big!" Ke$ha indicated with her hand that Steven's penis was approximately an inch long. "There was this guy I met one night... and I decided to take him to the bone zone, and you know what he wanted to do? He wanted to talk."
"Story of my life," said a girl right behind me, relating to the artist.
Then it was time to pull an audience member up on stage for "Grow A Pear," where Ke$ha solicited boys that "like to be abused by crazy women." A volunteer was selected from the eager pit, a young man wearing glitter and a fur vest, and he was saran-wrapped and taped to a chair and handcuffed while Ke$ha and crew danced around, berating him until a crew member in a giant penis costume appeared to smother him with foam balls. The volunteer didn't seem to mind, but I'm sure the father behind me, with his pair of elementary school-aged girls, was feeling like hell.
So, sure. Sex and partying and vapidity aside, Ke$ha's not a bad entertainer. Just turn off the intelligent part of your brain and you're fine. In retrospect, I wish I would have been buzzed before I went in, because I probably would have been in the right frame of mind then. But even at the end of the night, before the final encore song (in which a creepy Santa would come out and get the crowd going with a cover of the Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right"), Ke$ha had a rousing message.
"I hope this next song inspires you guys to be yourselves, unapologetically, all the fucking time! I fucking love you guys!" Ke$ha screamed to her fans. "Now, go get laid."
Critic's bias: Ke$ha? The crowd: So many skanks wearing so much glitter. Oh God, I saw way too much crotch action as barely-legal girls teetered up the stairs past my seat. Overheard in the crowd: "She's just, like, SO GOOD," said the girl behind me, to which her friend responded, "I know, right?!" Random notebook dump: I'm sorry, but openers Spank Rock and LMFAO were flat out disturbing. The misogynistic themes ran so thick it that the feminist blood in me started boiling; I spent most of LMFAO's set with my hand over my mouth, trying to suppress outrage and bile. As the one backup dancer in electro-hop duo LMFAO's entourage flexed her butt muscles to the song "Put That A$$ To Work," I scanned the crowd and found, to my horror, a delighted audience of underage youth, like the group of kids who couldn't be older than six years old behind me, cheering and singing along. That set nearly killed the open-minded music journalist in me, and felt mostly like a sucker punch to my uterus. Random notebook dump, Pt. 2: After the dudes from LMFAO ripped off their shorts to reveal tight glittered speedos, my friend turned to me and said, "Did anyone really need to see that? All that banana hammock action?" It was one of my favorite lines of the evening. For more photos: See our full slideshow by Anna Gulbrandsen.
Set list: "Sleazy" "Take It Off" "Fuck Him (He's a DJ)" "Blow" "Blah Blah Blah" "Party At A Rich Kid's House" "Backstabber" "Cannibal" "The Harold Song" "Animal" "Your Love Is My Drug" "Dinosaur" "Grow A Pear"
Encore: "Tik Tok" "We R Who We R" "Fight For Your Right" (Beastie Boys cover)
"Like" Gimme Noise on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @gimme_noise.