Kesha Rose Sebert (born March 1, 1987), known mononymously as Kesha (formerly stylized as Ke$ha) is an American singer-songwriter.
Born in Los Angeles but raised in Nashville, Kesha first reached prominence in the music industry with (uncredited, at the time) guest vocals on "Right Round" by Flo Rida, which was released to global success in early 2009. During this time, she also wrote songs for Miley Cyrus ("The Time of Our Lives"), The Veronicas ("This Love"), and Britney Spears ("Lace and Leather"), among others.
By the end of 2009, she released her debut single "Tik Tok", which became a massive hit. In addition to setting a record for the most downloads in a single week by a female artist (610,000), it also has the distinction of being the fifth-highest selling digital single of all time.
Her debut album Animal was then released on the very first day of the 2010s, and proved to be a similar success on the charts worldwide. After a string of additional hits ("Blah Blah Blah", "Your Love is My Drug", and "Take It Off"), Animal was re-released as Cannibal, supported by the singles "We R Who We R" (which gave Kesha her second #1) and "Blow."
Kesha's second album, Warrior, was released in 2012 to middling success. During this time, she also teased a collaborative album with the Flaming Lips —titled Lipsha— which was ultimately canceled because of issues with her label and frequent producer Dr. Luke. In 2016, Kesha's long-running tension with Dr. Luke specifically exploded messily in the news, with claims that Kesha was legally forbidden from releasing new music because of it. And that's all we're going to say here.
Despite her personal (and professional) troubles, Kesha finally released a third studio album, Rainbow, in 2017 — her first in nearly five years. Characterized by achingly personal lyrics and a more organic sound than her previous efforts, Rainbow earned Kesha the critical acclaim she'd perhaps lacked until up until that point. It's also notable for including a cover of "Old Flames (Can't Hold a Candle To You)" by Dolly Parton —a song co-written by Kesha's mother, Pebe Sebert— which she previously covered on her Deconstructed EP in 2012. The new version also features Dolly Parton herself on guest vocals.
Her fourth record, High Road, dropped in early 2020. Following up from the cathartic material on Rainbow, Kesha described it as a return to the brighter tone of her early work, and blends the more down-to-earth elements of the last album with the party-focused subject matter of Animal and Warrior.
Kesha's signature style can be roughly summed up as retraux-style synth pop with tomboyish lyrical themes and Auto-Tune up the wazoo. She typically includes satirical lyrics that objectify men to point out how male singers and rappers tend to objectify women. She also incorporates a a healthy dose of rock influence, and has collaborated with famous rock musicians such as Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, and Flaming Lips. (Alice Cooper noted that she wasn't a pop diva so much as a rock star). She also frequently incorporates a talky style of rapping with exaggerated phrasing and enunciation. She tends to experiment a bit.
- Animal (2010)
- Cannibal (2010)
- I Am the Dance Commander + I Command You to Dance: The Remix Album (2011)
- Warrior (2012)
- Deconstructed (2012)
- Rainbow (2017)
- High Road (2020)
Kesha and her work provide examples of the following tropes:
- AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: "thE dee-gen-ER-ates" (the degenerates) from "Warrior" comes to mind.
- Action Girl: In "Blow".
- The Alcoholic: At least in her songs' lyrics. Gradually shook this image off.
- Amazing Technicolor Battlefield: Meta-example with the music video for "Blow" - the last chorus has Kesha and James Van Der firing off gunshots that have rainbow trails following them.
- Anti-Love Song: "Blah Blah Blah," (Basically a sex and leave song), "Dirty Love," (Just after sex again), "Thinking Of You," (I loved you, broke my heart but now I'm a star), and "Die Young" (Break up with your lover to come with me).
- Auto Erotica: "Gold Trans Am". As she bluntly states at the beginning of the song, "This song makes me wanna have sex in my car."
- Auto-Tune: Quickly became the poster girl for this trope as she embodied it almost as much as T-Pain. Her later works have downplayed the usage of Auto-Tune.
- Bad Girl Song: "A Bad Girl's Lament", one of her unreleased ones.
- Be Yourself: "We R Who We R", "Warrior", "Crazy Kids", "All That Matters (Beautiful Life)", "Love Into The Light".
- Bi the Way: The music video for "Die Young" has Kesha heavily make out with both male and female back up. No doubt this reflect her real-life bisexuality.
- Blah Blah Blah: One of her songs is named this.
- Bowdlerise: An edit for "Woman" changes the chorus from "I'm a motherfucking woman" to "I'm an independent woman".
- Break Up Song: "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes", "Blind", "Kiss N Tell", "Hungover", "C U Next Tuesday", "Last Goodbye."
- The Cameo: In "I Kissed a Girl".
- Camp: The over-the-top party imagery, the cheesy lyrics, the silly teen slang, the exaggerated Valley Girl/Auto-Tune voice...yeah, she's got enough camp for Yellowstone.
- Concept Album: Animal is about empowerment and individuality, Cannibal is grief and strength, Warrior is magic, Rainbow is recovery and moving on, and High Road is being yourself.
- Chainsaw Good: In the second "Take It Off" video. It shoots lasers, too.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Her family housed Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in a 2005 episode of The Simple Life; Ke$ha appeared as their "daughter who is really into music".
- Central Theme: Be your own strange self and it's okay to not take life seriously.
- Condescending Compassion: "Praying" is absolutely filled to the brim with this sentiment:
- Oh, sometimes I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you'll see the light
Oh, some say, in life, you're gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgiveI hope you're somewhere prayin', prayin'
I hope your soul is changin', changin'
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin'
- Cool Car: Her gold Trans Am gets a couple shout-outs before getting a song devoted to it.
- Corpsing: She cracks up at the line "Loosey as a goosey" in "Woman".
- Cute Kitten: Used these to troll her fans about Warrior's artwork.
- Darker and Edgier: Her Warrior album has a parental advisory sticker, not for no reason...
- Deadpan Snarker: She practically does this while singing.
- From an interview with The Times: "Everyone's really offended by that. But come on, brushing your teeth with Jack Daniel's: what girl does that? People are like, 'Do you really advocate brushing your teeth with bourbon?' I'm like, 'Yes, actually, I do, every day, for everybody. Especially eight-year-olds.' I mean, what are you talking about? Of course I don't. Come on."
- "Paris Hilton's Closet." That is all.
- Department of Redundancy Department: "Pedicure on my toes, toes."
- Detractor Nickname: In-universe. The video for "Blow" prominently features James Van Der Beek, who she calls "James Van Der Douche"
- Dirty Old Man: "Dinosaur" is about one.
- Disappeared Dad: Grew up in a single-parent home and doesn't know who her father is (or whether or not he's still alive).
- '80s Hair: In the "We R Who We R" music video.
- Era-Specific Personality: Before finding mainstream success with her auto-tuned party music, She was known as 'Kesha Sebert', whose music had a distinct indie/folk sound. One such example of her work can be found here, as well as in The Barbie Diaries as "Invisible".
- Europop: It's often discussed on a certain group of British radio stations.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles:
- In an Entertainment Weekly article, she professed to "the healing power of glitter" as a hangover cure. Not to mention her eye makeup on the page photo. She even has a guy to literally bathe her in a mixture of glitter and baby oil.
- The video for "Take It Off" turns into a multicolored glitterfest by the second half. It is literally just rainbow clouds of glitter flying around the screen while people dance.
- Averted on her CD, which is mostly sparkle-free.
- Fanservice: "Take It Off" and "Your Love Is My Drug".
- Gay Aesop: "We R Who We R".
- Gender Flip:
- "Blah Blah Blah" was written as an inversion of all the rap songs that objectify women — the entire song is about her telling guys to shut up, strip naked and have sex with her.
- "Kiss N Tell" and "Thinking of You" both call a man a slut for sleeping around, and in "Grow a Pear" inverts "Females are the weaker sex" arguments.
- Genre Roulette: Rainbow holds nothing back in this department. Rock, pop, gospel, country, funk and more. High Road does the same with a side of the electropop that defined her early career.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar/Fun with Acronyms: I'll C U Next Tuesday.
- Grief Song: "The Harold Song" is about the death of a former boyfriend.
- Gospel Revival Number: "Raising Hell" is one of these with a classic Kesha twist, using self-backing vocals, an organ-driven instrumental and a killer sax riff on the drop to give a pastoral spin to a tune about being anything but a paragon of virtue.
- Guns Akimbo: In the laser gun duel in "Blow".
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: The song "TiK ToK" is basically about waking up hung over, getting drunk, heading out to the club, and getting more drunk.
- Hey, Let's Put on a Show: She very sweetly decided to put on a benefit concert to help the victims of the flooding in Tennessee. This act won her a lot of good karma back in Nashville.
- Heroic RRoD / Heroic BSoD: Some of her non-parody songs sound like this, notably "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes". The unreleased "Save Me", to some extent.
- Iconic Outfit: Not applying to Kesha, for once. The green lurex bikini top worn in the video by the brunette dancer/DJ girl in the video for "We R Who We R" during a scene which features advertising for plentyoffish.com. This shows how popular Kesha's influence on fashion is.
- The Illuminati: More subtle than Lady Gaga or Rihanna, but the symbolism is still there, mostly in regards to her eye-makeup.
- "Die Young" fully embraces it in typical Ke$ha style.
- "Animal" also has her throwing around golden lazers shaped like pyramids for some reason.
- "Rainbow" features a jacket with the word "Lucifer" on it, though since Lucifer also means "light bringer" it has a more positive meaning as well.
- Intercourse with You:
- "Party At A Rich Dudes House", "Your Love Is My Drug" and C'mon.
- "Supernatural" is about having sex with a ghost. Word of God claims that the song's based off a true incident—although considering Ke$ha, the seriousness behind that statement is in question.
- In the "Warrior Interrogation" video, Ke$ha admits that "Gold Trans Am" is about her "hoohah". Cars to vaginas? Close enough.
- "Dirty Love" deals with the no-strings-attached side of sex ("All I want is your dirty love"), with Iggy Pop's verse dealing with the primal, "everyone does it" aspect.
- Interspecies Romance: "Godzilla" is about being in love and dating, well, Godzilla.
- The Lad-ette: At least it's what the lyrics indicate.
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: The song "Tik Tok" uses this effect on the word "tipsy", appropriately enough, as well as the final "shut us dooooown". She uses it a lot in her music, to "Self Bleep" herself and such.
- Light Is Good: The main theme of "Rainbow", down to rejecting the Dark Is Not Evil themes of goths.
- Love Is a Drug:
- "Your Love is My Drug".
- "Stephen".You're my object of affection
My drug of choice
My sick obsession
- Long Title: "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes", "Party at a Rich Dudes House", "Only Wanna Dance With You".
- Lucky Charms Title: Ke$ha (as put by Glee, "Ke Dollar Sign Ha"). She dropped the dollar sign since 2014.
- Misandry Song: Blah Blah Blah, and Boots N Boys are the heaviest examples of this.
- New Sound Album: In an interview with Rolling Stone, Ke$ha claimed that Warrior would be influenced by The Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire. She also confirmed that it would be influenced by '70s cock-rock, and that she wanted to move pop into a rock direction with the album. It's better to say that she split it between heavy dance tracks for half of the album, and then mood whiplashes us into the cock-rock (and occasional ballad without Auto-Tune) out of nowhere with the help of Iggy Pop. And it is glorious.
- Still, apparently, she wasn't allowed to do what she wanted there, especially in the midst of the Dr. Luke allegations. She has stated Rainbow is "truly from the inside of [her] guts", and if its first singles, "Praying" (a piano ballad with soul elements) and "Woman" (a funk throwback with a Cluster F-Bomb chorus), weren't enough, Rainbow itself shattered her "hot mess" image once and for all with a diverse collection of songs.
- Noodle Incident: The video for "Blow" gives us this gem."So, I grabbed the bear by the throat, looked him right in the eyes, and I said 'Bear, you have 'till the count of zero to put some pants on and to apologize to the President.' And, um...that's the story of how I was elected to the Parliament of Uzbekistan."
- Non-Appearing Title: "The Harold Song".
- One of the Boys: Plays up to this.
- The Parody: Possibly her entire career.
- Poe's Law: Kesha's lyrics tended to exaggerate and milk the "hot mess" stereotype for all it was worth. But, surrounded by other artists (like The Black Eyed Peas and LMFAO) who were embracing party music just as much, but without a drop of irony, she instead became a figurehead of the dance-pop scene. And a lot of people still don't get it.
- Pretty in Mink: In the video for "Take It Off", she grabs a white fur coat from a car and wears it briefly.
- Protest Song: "V.I.P." has a pretty strong undercurrent of this. "Party At A Rich Dude's House", too.
- Record Producer: Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco co-wrote and produced most of her songs from Animal to Warrior. After her hiatus, her collaborators diversified, including the likes of Ricky Reed, Stuart Crichton, Drew Pearson, Jeff Bhasker and Stint, along with a collaboration with Ben Folds on the title track of Rainbow.
- Refrain from Assuming: You know, the one where she sings about "The Glitter in My Eyes" or "DJ Turn it Up"?
- Revenge Ballad: A secondary theme of "Rainbow", where she vows to bury her offender:I'll bring fire, I'll bring rain
And when I'm finished, they won't even know your name
- Rock Me, Amadeus!: "Take It Off" borrows from "The Streets of Cairo""There's a place downtown where the freaks all come around
It's a hole in the wall it's a dirty free for all"
- Running Gag: The 'bottle of Jack' used to be a running gag. Now it's glitter, which she is obviously aware of.
- Refuge in Audacity: She's been described as "the degenerate Hannah Montana"; whereas other pop artists would deny their crude, party-girl image, she completely embraces it (just watch the video for "TiK ToK") in what she calls "the war on pretension".
- Shout-Out: Her signature makeup style includes dramatic mascara at only her right eye. She's confirmed this as an intentional shout out.
- Silly Love Songs: "Your Love Is My Drug." "Only Wanna Dance With You", "Animal", "Wherever You Are", "Supernatural".
- "Stephen" also applies, a disturbing example of this trope.You're my object of affectionMy drug of choiceMy sick obsession
- "Stephen" also applies, a disturbing example of this trope.
- Stalker with a Crush: The narrator of "Stephen". Very much so.Stephen... I'll knit you a sweater. I wanna wrap you up... in my love... forever. I would never let you go, Stephen. I'll never let go.
- Stealth Parody: Based on her website, MySpace page, intellect and public comments (she's said she doesn't take this very seriously), it's at least possible that Ke$ha's career is some kind of parody.
- Spiritual Antithesis: Out of the world outfits, ideas, and creepy videos which in some degree don't make much sense, obsessed with partying, rebellion and 'fame', with a higher message, and lampshades various pop star expectations and then uses those tropes to their highest degree (Lady Gaga)...Except she does it for fun, is out there cuz she parties and she knows it, just does her thing and has not made herself the official spokesperson for any particular social group and just wants us all to have fun and love one another. Stealth Parody elements are more within Kesha's choices then Gaga's too.
- Spiritual Successor: Easily fits into Britney Spears shoes, fun pop star, who likes to release cutting edge pop music with a more Be Yourself leaning, who wants to create epic stage shows and has some instrumental training/talent.
- Surprisingly Gentle Song:
- "Feels Like Rain", "Goodbye", "Invisible" and of her album tracks "Wonderland", "The Harold Song" and "Animal".
- "Past Lives" and "Love Into the Light" from her Warrior album.
- "Lover", her new Dr. Luke-less song, is this as well.
- Surreal Music Video: Let me count the ways. To expand...
- "Take It Off Ke$ha 'n Friends Version" which opens with a Leopard and from there turns into a neon alley way rave with furries and Evil Sorceress Ke$ha winning an RPG dance battle.
- "Animal", which involves Ke$ha fighting backwards headed monsters in deep space and ends with a credibly impression of a Wave Motion Gun.
- "Take It Off (Original Version)" which ends with a rave in an empty swimming pool filled with chalk dust. And that chalk dust used to be people.
- "Your Love Is My Drug" which turns into an animated acid trip by the end.
- "Blow", which starts with the line "So I grabbed the bear by the throat, looked him right in the eye, and told him 'you have until the count of zero to put some pants on and apologize to the president'. And that's the story of how I was elected to the Parliament of Uzbekistan." which Kesha tells to a pair of unicorns while drinking champagne. It then evolves into a club full of unicorn people and a laser gun fight with James Van Der Beek where the unicorn people bleed rainbows when hit with the lasers.
- Take That!: If you know anything about her history, it's hard to to see some songs like "Stuck Up" as anything but a Take That at Paris. More generally, a good third of her songs are Take That! at either various stereotypes or her detractors.
- Teacher/Student Romance: Hot for teacher variety in "Mr. Watson" to the Nth Degree.Mr. Watson I want to get with you.
I won't tell a soul what we're gonna do.
Wanna get my hands in your khaki pants,
teacher, teacher, what you gonna do?
Cause I am coming on to you.
- Three Minutes of Writhing: "Blow," "Your Love is My Drug"
- Subverted with "Timber", as the main singer is Pitbull, meaning that the camera has to focus on him, too.
- Title Track: Animal, Cannibal, Warrior, and Rainbow.
- The Something Song: "The Harold Song" on her Cannibal EP.
- Title-Only Chorus: Your Love Is My Drug
- Uncanny Valley Makeup: "We R Who We R".
- Wave Motion Gun: Although perhaps not necessarily a real example, when seen with the explosion at the start or the Magic Missile Beam Spam earlier in the official video for Animal, it's hard not to see this towards the end when she lobs a giant pillar of light into the sky.
- Wearing a Flag on Your Head: The American flag t-shirt, as well as a sparkly cape with an American flag design on the inside she wore for a Saturday Night Live performance.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: "We R Who We R".
- Yandere: "Stephen"
- And even further with "Hunt You Down".
- Your Cheating Heart: "Kiss N Tell" is one example.