Sunday, December 9, 2012

Into battle with a bratty "Warrior"

Love her or hate her, Kesha knows how to throw a good party with her music.  Once again, she comes off as the less serious cousin of Lady Gaga.  Where Gaga makes chilled-to-the-bone space pop that can take itself too seriously at times, Kesha makes much the same kind of music - the difference being that she never takes herself seriously.  (Her twitter handle is "keshasuxx" after all - already suggesting someone ready to laugh at themselves.)

"Warrior" opens with a thumping electro pop title track.  This is the stage-setter - the rallying call - and if you're willing to look past the fact that much of this is a calculated image - it's still an effervescent blast of fun even so.

"Die Young" the album's debut single is a fine piece of guilty pleasure pop - even though it feels like Dr. Luke is running out of ideas to an extent.  With the number of pop artists calling upon him to cook up glossy sugar-coated wonders, one would expect he'd hit his limit eventually.  That said, the song stands as everything one can expect from a Kesha album presented in a catchy, upbeat package - A manufactured (but still fun) picture of a bratty, irreverent hellion who lives by the motto "Party hard, die young and leave a good looking corpse."  Other critics have made hay over the fact that these lyrics ring hollow - but really, if we judged all music by whether or not the lyrics being sung are an accurate representation of who the person singing it really is - well, plenty of music out there would be pretty terrible.  "C'Mon" follows the party hard and die young thread - catchy, but a bit repetitive sequenced this way.  Things change up a bit with the cheating ex-baiting "Thinking of You" - which mixes snarly put-downs with a cooing chorus - she's done this song before, yes (see "Backstabber" from Animal) - but she manages to pull it off.)  "Crazy Kids" is straight up high school-level "queen of the block" peacock strutting - decently done, but comes off a bit stale when it stands alongside so many other tracks like it from previous albums.

"Dirty Love" is a welcome blast of "cock rock" as it's called - and it makes one wish more tracks on this disc had the same sound - Iggy Pop adds a welcome presence - even if some of the lyrics are truly head scratching and conjur images most wouldn't want to ever think of (Santorum in a sweater get the idea)...also, Santorum?  Strange choice for someone to mock in song given how much he's already been, but the song still manages to be a fine bit of cock-rock meets broadway-wanna-be yelps, topped off with more guitars and more organic sounds than just about any other track on this disc.  "Wonderland" hits the brakes on the party hard - and manages to paint a far more flattering picture of Kesha.  The auto-tune that was slathered all over her last disc like too much butter on a bagel is used much more sparingly this time around, especially on ballads like this one.  Hers is not the most amazing voice in the universe, sure, but it's nice to hear it come out from behind all the knob-twiddling for a change.

This brief lull in the storm gives way to an ending phase of tracks that teeter between the party hard side and the more reflective, nostalgic side - and work all the better for it because they don't over-do one or the other.  "Supernatural" feels like they tried to make a beat with the hum of electricity as a template - sort of works - when it provides a spare, note-less pulse for her voice to float over - sort of doesn't - when it can sound a bit grating.

The deluxe edition adds a handful of tracks that are mostly forgettable, excepting "Out Alive" which brims with that ring-the-alarm, put your drinks down and report to the dance floor immediately kind of power that is hard to pull off and have it sound good - and boy, she certainly does with this one.

Is Kesha one of the most talented artists on the planet?  No.  If you already hated her, you won't find anything here to change your mind - and she is running on borrowed time - album #3 will need a healthy shot of fresh ideas lyrically for her to have any chance of surviving much longer in the music world.  That said, when it comes to current-day electropop made to have a good time, hang out and be ridiculous to, Kesha delivers the goods.

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