The latest video from Ke$ha’s kind-of-respected 2012 record Warrior was released this morning, for its second single, “C’mon.” In it, Ke$ha shows up for an exaggeratedly gross waitressing job, quits immediately, and then goes on a psychedelic journey of sexual awakening with a van full of furries and a bunch of cheap booze. Typical Ke$ha stuff.
If that sounds like your sort of thing, you can watch it right here:
It is not my sort of thing. I’ve been thinking about why…
I touched on this in our 2012 album list of infamy, but Ke$ha’s ubiquity has me considering her place in the world more and more. Do I think that a reckless, insatiably hedonistic, and not impossibly beautiful pop singer can be a potent avatar for the messy feelings of the average young woman? Sure! Am I a teen girl in search of such an avatar? No. Do her songs sound mind-numbingly similar and uniformly super dumb to me? Oh, very much yes. Are we allowed to both validate the possible social utility and timely importance that a singer might have as a cultural figure for her audience, but still think that her songs are lacking a novel take on well-trod subject matter? Sure! We can have two thoughts! Is filling a cultural position for a generation the same thing as making good art? I guess that’s the real juicy question, isn’t it?
I’m not saying that simple, archetypal teenage aggression and the celbration of dumb but real youthful impulses isn’t the stuff that the best rock n’ roll is made of. We have so much evidence that it is. But Ke$ha doesn’t add much to the theme of restless youth beyond smutty winks and some barely amusing word play (“Sabertooth Ti-grrrr” made me smile). So, why should I displace the stuff that I more fully connect with to listen to her?
It doesn’t help that in the song and the video, Ke$ha is a self-centered dick! We can all agree on a stance against sexually harassing diner bosses, but what about that sorta cranky guy who just wanted the waitress to pour him some coffee? He was a little rude, but it’s basically a reasonable request! The video’s “youth = perfect and oppressed,” “adults = terrible and gross” theme has the flat crudeness of an old Nickelodeon sketch show. (Which adults aren’t expected to acknowledge as good art, either, btw.) Does that poor beleaguered bodega owner deserve to get his store trashed, and his life forever altered by being turned into a scared kitten? No! Ke$ha grossly refers to the store in the song as a “Meximart,” that she plans to steal from, even though she almost certainly comes from a better economic position than its owner. A classic suburban teen move, not far from what was depicted decades ago in the Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” video, for example. But from outside that tingle of safe teenage transgression, we can recognize in retrospect that it’s a shitty impulse from a creep who will hopefully grow out of it.
At 3:35 or so, when the bridge kicks in and the camera zooms in on the BMW insignia of the motorcycle Ke$ha is barely pretending to ride, the song distills to its most universally relatable segment:
Of course we all know that feeling! That whiny, juvenile twinge still pops up constantly. “I wanna do what I wanna do!” At the right formative life stage, it’s the most basic nudge away from what others want for us into figuring out what we want for ourselves. But at a certain point, it stops being aspirational or useful, and starts being the worst lingering part of us, the part that is actively fucking us over, rather than moving us on to bigger and better things (“what’s going to be after this,” basically). Celebrating Ke$ha’s music as a grown man feels like willful, patronizing regression. The supportive argument towards Ke$ha boils down to she’s a post-millenial rock star, and if you don’t get it, it’s because you are old and out of touch. Well, I think I do get it, but it’s not for me. Commiting to liking it right now is a sort of critical method acting that I don’t think anyone should really expect.
It says nothing to me about my life. Nothing good, anyway. So, and it might date me to say this, but, hang the DJ, hang the DJ, hang the DJ.