Kesha Rose Sebert, styled as Ke$ha, is a female singer. Her rise to fame first started with her collaboration with Flo Rida on the song, "Right Round". Her debut single, "TiK ToK", which was released on August 7, 2009, is now her major claim to fame.
Life and career
Childhood and youth: 1987–2004
Ke$ha was born in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles to Pebe Sebert, a singer and songwriter. Her mother, a single parent, looked after infant Ke$ha onstage while performing. Pebe was struggling financially while supporting Ke$ha and her older brother, Lagan, at the time and they had to rely on welfare payments and food stamps to get by. Pebe moved the family to Nashville, Tennessee in 1991 after securing a publishing deal. She often brought Ke$ha and her brothers, Lagan and Louis, along to recording studios and encouraged Ke$ha to sing.
The Sebert family was featured in an episode of The Simple Life in 2005. Ke$ha was already working on her music by then. Pebe had taught Ke$ha how to write songs and they would often write together when she returned home from high school. She described herself in an interview as being "very studious" in high school; she would often drive to Belmont University to listen in on Cold War history classes after school and achieved "near perfect" SAT scores. However, she dropped out at the age of seventeen and earned her GED later, after being convinced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin to return to Los Angeles and pursue a music career. They had come across her demos and were impressed.
Career beginnings: 2005–2009
At the age of eighteen, she was signed to Luke's own label and music publishing company. While in Los Angeles, Ke$ha had the opportunity to sing background vocals for Paris Hilton's single, "Nothing in This World," which led to a later incident in which she vomited in Hilton's closet. Luke and Ke$ha later became estranged, with Ke$ha eventually signing with David Sonenberg's management company, DAS Communications Inc. in 2006. They were tasked with obtaining a major label record deal for her in a years time. She worked with several top writers and producers while at the company and credits the creation of her beat-driven sound to a co-writing session with Greg Wells. She also co-wrote The Veronicas' single, "This Love" with Toby Gad. Her songs were used on Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Hills, Teen Cribs, and My Super Sweet 16 as well.
Ke$ha had wanted Prince to produce her music, so she located and trespassed into his Beverly Hills home. Once discovered, she was thrown out, but not before she left her demo with Prince, who did not contact her afterward. She later remarked that, "I felt it was harmless at the time, but looking back it was pretty psychotic." Ke$ha moonlighted as a waitress and a telemarketer to make ends meet while furthering her music career in the studio. She appeared in the video for Katy Perry's single, "I Kissed a Girl." Her appearance in the video arose due to her friendship with Perry; they met frequently as aspiring pop singers in Los Angeles and shared many musical collaborators.
In 2008, DAS attracted the attention of Kara Dioguardi, who wanted to sign Ke$ha to Warner. The deal fell through due to existing conflicts with Ke$ha's contract with Dr. Luke's label. She terminated her contract with DAS in September and reunited with Luke. She later sang background vocals for Britney Spears' song "Lace and Leather".
Ke$ha gained exposure in the mainstream media in early 2009 after appearing on Flo Rida's number one single, "Right Round." The collaboration was called "an accident" by Ke$ha; she had walked into a recording session with Flo Rida and Luke, who was producing the song. Flo Rida had wanted a female voice for the song, Ke$ha was then suggested for the part by Luke. Flo Rida liked the end result so much that they did two more songs. Ke$ha is not credited for her feature on the US release of "Right Round" and did not collect any money for the part. She also refused to appear in the video; she explained in an interview that, "if you want to be a legitimate artist, it’s more important what you say no to. I knew he would want me to be some sexpot, shake my booty, and whatever." The song soon achieved success worldwide while Ke$ha continued to live on a meager income, which inspired the dollar sign in her stage name. She states that it was meant to be ironic, in that she "actually [stood] for the opposite of putting a lot of emphasis on money."
Animal / Cannibal: 2009–2011
Ke$ha performed at The Echo in 2009. Soon after, it was announced that Ke$ha had signed a multi-album deal with RCA Records through Luke's imprint, after being sought after by many major labels, and was working on her debut album. She made her official stage debut at that year's Lollapalooza as part of the BMI Stage, with Time Out Chicago saying that the set "left the audience wanting more," comparing it to crack cocaine. Her debut single, "Tik Tok", had been released digitally in the US in early August, and was sent to radio two months later in October. Her label noticed her strong following on social media when negotiating her contract and relied on viral marketing to build a following for the song, offering the song as a free stream on MySpace as early as July. Ke$ha had co-wrote the title song for Miley Cyrus' The Time of Our Lives EP, made appearances on Pitbull's album and the cover of Women's Wear Daily. In September 2009, the former lead singer of punk band The Actual, Max Bernstein, was hired as her bassist. She supported Calvin Harris on tour in the UK and toured with Mickey Avalon in the US.
A number one placing in New Zealand for "Tik Tok" gave Ke$ha her first number one; this was followed by number one positions ten other countries. It reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first number one of the decade. For its second week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, "Tik Tok" set the weekly record for the most digital downloads of a female artist and became the second best-selling single in a week, after "Right Round", by shifting 610,000 copies. At its fifth week at the top, it broke the record for the highest weekly total Top 40 Mainstream airplay record. Spending nine weeks at number one, the song became the longest running number one debut single by a female artist since Debby Boone's 1977 single "You Light Up My Life". "Tik Tok" was featured in the opening sequence for The Simpsons episode "To Surveil With Love" where the entire cast lip-synced to the song, making it the first time that the series has forgone its traditional opening theme for another song since its creation.
Ke$ha's debut album, Animal, was released on January 5, 2010 in the US to mixed reviews from music critics. Rolling Stone called the album "repulsive, obnoxious and ridiculously catchy." The album debuted at number one in the US, selling 152,000 copies with 76% of sales coming from digital outlets, the largest weekly digital percentage share for an album at number one. By March, the album had sold a million copies worldwide with half of the sales coming from digital downloads. Second single, "Blah Blah Blah" managed to debut on the charts in the US, Canada and Ireland before being announced as the next single due to strong digital sales following the release of the album. She presented with Justin Bieber at the 52nd Grammy Awards and performed on American Idol on March 17, 2010. Ke$ha made her debut Saturday Night Live appearance as the musical guest on April 17, 2010.
Ke$ha's musical credits in 2010 include a co-write for Miranda Cosgrove's debut album as well as features on singles by Taio Cruz and 3OH!3 and Mickey Avalon's record. She will be the opening act on the North American leg of Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth tour and is one of the acts performing for the revival of Lilith Fair. In May, her former managers from DAS filed a lawsuit seeking $14 million in damages from Ke$ha and $12 million from Dr. Luke for commissions on her RCA record deal, alleging that she squeezed them out of her career under pressure from Luke. Ke$ha's lawyer, Charles Ortner, said she was entitled to end her relationship with the firm for failing to "get [her] a major-label record deal in a year" and that they had nothing to do in her eventual signing with RCA.
Ke$ha began writing for her second studio album while on tour. She intended to make a "cock rock" album inspired by 1970's rock, a departure from her first two electropop albums where there were few guitars to be found in the production. She explained the inspiration behind this direction to MTV, "I just want to capture some of the true essence of what rock and roll is, and that's just irreverence and sexiness and fun and not giving a fuck." It featured productions from her main collaborators Dr. Luke and Max Martin, as well as a song by Wayne Coyne, the lead singer of the alternative band Flaming Lips. Coyne had reached out to Ke$ha for a collaboration after hearing that she was a fan of the band. They recorded the song "2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)" for the band's collaboration album, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends and some songs for her album. Ke$ha also provided her blood for a limited edition release of the band's album. In an interview with fashion publication V magazine, Ke$ha stated that many songs on the album would not contain Auto-tune. At the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, Ke$ha announced the first single, "Die Young" would be released in September. Warrior, her second studio album, was officially released on November 30, 2012 in most regions; it was released on December 4, 2012 in the United States. It was met with mostly positive reviews. She later confirmed the second single from the album to be "C'Mon". The album also included a collaboration with Iggy Pop.
Ke$ha organized a benefit concert held on June 16, 2010 to help victims of the May 2010 Tennessee floods from her hometown Nashville. She also donated 1,000 pounds of dog food to a local animal shelter for pets abandoned in the flood. Ke$ha elaborated on the situation, "Nashville helped shape me as an artist and as a person and my love for this city is beyond words. I will continue to do anything I can to help rebuild this city and support the families and animals who have been affected by this tragedy."
Image and artistry
Ke$ha has been noted for her party girl image and behavior, while both her and her music have been dismissed early on as lightweight, calculating and crude. She insisted otherwise in an interview, "I have been working on realizing this dream, my path, my mission, for years. I’ve really invested a lot of thought, time and effort into it. The last thing that makes me is a victim [in the 'cauldron of celebrity culture']. I think it’s a bummer when people don’t represent that properly, when they portray me as purely one-dimensional."
Ke$ha's styling comprises messy hair, smudged makeup and a wardrobe she describes as "garbage-chic". The look developed from her being poor and trying to brand herself as best she could on a budget. She has named Keith Richards as her fashion inspiration. The Guardian called her "the degenerate Hannah Montana" and stated that "her whole shtick appears to be predicated on the idea that she's a rebel in American Apparel." Her stage makeup is characterized by dramatic makeup at her right eye, inspired by A Clockwork Orange, and body glitter. Ke$ha came in at number fifty-six on Maxim's 2010 Hot 100 list of the "world’s most beautiful women".
Ke$ha has listed Beck, Queen, Madonna, Johnny Cash, Aaron Neville, Bob Dylan as well as rap and old-school punk bands such as the Beastie Boys and The Damned as musical influences. Her lyrics are influenced by the storytelling style of country music.
Themes and genre
Ke$ha has writing credits on every song on her album. She defended her decision to make pop music for Animal in an interview, explaining that, "People get so pretentious about pop music so I do feel like I'm fighting this battle. My record is honest and fun. It's a celebration of youth and life and going out and getting crazy. I'm about non-pretentious irreverence and f**k off good fun!"
Ke$ha credits the album as having a rock edge, with straightforward lyrics based on her life experiences. She has expressed frustration at the double standard for the objectification of women in music. Thus, in songs such as "Blah Blah Blah" and "Boots and Boys", she makes it a point to sing the same way men traditionally sing about women. She has urged critics not to take her lyrics seriously; such as in "Tik Tok", where she has been criticized for referencing brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack Daniel's whiskey. She explained that, "Everyone's really offended by that (the Jack Daniel's lyric). But come on, brushing your teeth with Jack Daniel's: what girl does that? People are like, 'Do you really advocate brushing your teeth with bourbon?' I'm like, 'Yes, actually, I do, every day, for everybody. Especially eight year olds.' I mean, what are you talking about? Of course I don't. Come on."
Animal is of the dance-pop genre; it incorporates elements of electropop in its production. It ranges from high energy pop dance songs, to electronic ballads, to songs with guitar riffs. When it comes to her slower ballads, Ke$ha states; "Even if it is a slower song it’ll still have that four-on-the-floor to keep the heads moving". Ke$ha also regards the need for her live shows to be "rowdy and really fun, and hopefully dance-inducing".
"TiK ToK" (2009) is Ke$ha's debut single and one of many songs in which she raps and uses Auto-Tune on her voice. Ke$ha uses a sing-song rapping style on a number of her songs, most notably on her debut single "TiK ToK". The New York Times proclaimed that the success of the song represented "the complete and painless assimilation of the white female rapper into pop music." The Los Angeles Times compared this vocal style to that of L'Trimm and Salt-N-Pepa. Ke$ha has been criticized for using Auto-Tune and Vocoders to distort her vocals on her album Animal. Billboard conceded that the heavily processed vocals "[made] it hard to tell whether [Ke$ha could] actually sing."
- Main article: Discography