Just moments after I managed to make my way through the entire Ke$ha album, my RSS feed alerted me to a proper review of it by Ann Powers over at the L.A. Times. She enjoyed the album, it seems—or at least she enjoyed the more upbeat bubblegum rap songs, if not the dreadful ballad—but also points out, correctly, that the album’s overriding theme—”that a woman behaving like a sexist, inconsiderate male oaf turns the tables in a way that shocks but ultimately leads to freedom”—is neither novel nor particularly useful. She also concedes, in slightly different terms, that the album sends messages that are dangerous to young women and the men who’d like to date-rape them. It’s “worth questioning,” she says.
For some reason, though, that’s pretty much as negative as she goes, and she’s essentially willing to let it all go, to chalk the most offensive bits up as merely wisecracking and slapstick. I’d have less of a problem with this had she not, just a few months ago, taken Taylor Swift to task for her song “You Belong With Me,” arguing that it sends the wrong message to young women by pitting two of them against each other in competition for a man, even though it centers on the much more important struggle to define oneself amongst other high school students, regardless of their gender. If T-Swift is sending the wrong message to young women, then KeSha is basically arguing that they shouldn’t have the right to vote.
I get that it’s more fun to search for slight missteps in the music of an unassuming performer who’s marketed as innocent and wholesome, and that pointing out the evils of someone whose entire schtick is to act like a complete idiot is like shooting fish in a barrel, but it leads to double standards that are quite possibly more dangerous than whatever’s being said in the songs themselves.