So, I’ll admit right off the bat that I really don’t know much about Ke$ha. The only thing I really know, that I’m totally sure of, is that I can’t stand her. I hate that her stupid music gets stuck in my head; I wish I had a remote that would just turn her off all at once. I’m not that crazy about her publicity stunts – like the leaked photo where she’s covered in a mysterious white liquid. But you know what I really can’t stand? It’s that she stole her whole production from an L.A. based aspiring gay singer named Clayton Clayton.
Clayton Clayton is the gay man’s answer to Lady Gaga (even more so than Adam Lambert), though it’s probably a little unfair to compare every intensely visual and fashion-obsessed artist to the Gaga Lady. Anyway. Clayton Clayton’s music effortlessly crosses in and out of genres, blending electronica, pop, and glam rock in a style that’s similar to queer male pop singers past and present. I’m thinking of the eccentricities of Patrick Wolf, IAMX, Freddie Mercury and Marc Bolan to name just a few.
With his sequins, disco balls, and glitter guns, ClayClay has taken the L.A. queer night scene by storm. Luckily for Ke-dollar sign-ha, running in the same circles as the underground club kid – they used to play same venues, pre-TikTok – gave her ample opportunity to steal his schtick.
How would you feel if you’d been on the scene for years and then out of nowhere here comes this heifer who completely jacks your whole act? ClayClay isn’t oblivious to it, and here’s what he’s quoted as saying about the whole thing:
… At first, I thought it was just a coincidence. We had a lot of mutual friends, we ran in the same circles and played some of the same venues. And it would be, like: Oh, look, we have the same shoes; or, Oh, look, we’re both shooting a glitter-gun – Which I made up, and it took me a while because I had to figure out if there needed to be some water mixed in with the glitter or… But, yeah, I mastered the glitter-gun – So, okay, that’s kind of… That’s very similar; or, Oh, how weird, her band is wearing astronaut masks. My band does that too. So then, when she had mannequin heads on stage,… Well, that’s always been my signature. I mean, that’s been my signature for years.
But the key issue for me isn’t originality, as in who thought of what first. Everybody has thought of everything already, nothing is ever new these days, and everything has already been done. So what does it mean to be original anymore? How can we talk about original artists in this moment of Ladies Gaga, where all the new acts are culling inspiration from any number of sources, often completely Xeroxing them sample for sample, tit for tat.
Clearly, Ke$ha is an artist without an ounce of genuine talent, a strategically produced and marketed product of the international pop music machine. Not that all pop music doesn’t end up this way – it’s just that Ke$ha is proof that, with the weight of the industry behind them, really anybody can be made into a pop star.
What ticks me off the most is when people with real innovation (often black or gay) don’t get the credit for the ideas that less creative people steal. It is as if it’s A-OK to steal from gay culture, say, because it’s a minority culture, it’s less visible, it doesn’t exist in everybody’s heads. We saw it with Madonna and the vogueing scene, we’ve seen it with the commercialization of disco and house music, and we’ve even seen it with the recent rise of the phrase “hot mess.” But actually, Ke$ha is one pop star who really owns the mess in “hot mess.”