…And now, let us consider Ke$ha, now that everyone has grown weary of talking about her. Yes, let’s talk about Ke$ha. It’s Ke$ha time. I like Ke$ha, by which I mean I like the one Ke$ha song that I’ve ever heard, which is “Tik Tok,” which is her most famous song. It’s like how my favorite Nirvana song is “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and my favorite Deep Purple song is “Smoke on the Water.” I do not put a lot of effort into picking my favorite songs.
You may not like Ke$ha, which is bullsh-t, and I’ll explain why to you in a bit. And besides, if you don’t like Ke$ha, think about me. I’ve only just started writing this essay and already I’ve had to write that dollar sign thing — let’s count — seven times. I’ll have to write it at least 20 times before I can stop. So, think about me. You might hate Ke$ha, but I’ve had to press “Shift” eight times already now to do that dollar sign, and I didn’t want to do it any of those times. I have more reason to hate her than you do, but I don’t.
My friend interviewed Ke$ha for a magazine once, which gave me a chance to ask a question through my friend; to ask about the dollar sign, ha ha, so stupid, that dollar sign — except that Ke$ha has already explained one million times about the dollar sign, so I didn’t have to. See; the dollar sign was supposed to be ironic.
Back when she was just starting out, Kesha (Earth Prime version) wrote a hit song for her friend, and the song made tons of money, but Kesha (Earth Prime) didn’t get any of the money and was still in fact broke. So Kesha then added the sign and became Ke$ha as we know her. So, it was irony, because she was broke. Imagine having to explain that a million times, and you still have to explain it for the rest of your life, because no one ever pays attention to anything. She has to talk about this in every interview, and then do it again, and again, and again, and she can’t change her name back now, because she’s famous, or maybe she could, but then she’d just have to explain why she changed her name back over and over again. So that’s a reason that you should like Ke$ha, because she has to deal with that forever and she’s just as annoyed about it as you would be.
…Instead of asking about the dollar sign, what I had my friend ask was this: “How much did it cost to have Puff Daddy say ‘Hey, what up girl?’ on your song like that?” Because that fascinated me from the very first time that I heard the song. My favorite part is that Puff Daddy isn’t even saying that sentence — that one sentence, which is all that he has do in the song — he isn’t even saying that sentence with the slightest amount of energy or enthusiasm. …It kills me. It’s so mechanical and forced, and it should be the easiest thing, just to say that sentence normally, like a normal human.
The interview was for Nylon or Revolver or some glossy magazine like that, some magazine that you couldn’t imagine someone actually buying, and then you meet the person who buys it: “…Jesus Christ he had every ‘Axe’ product ever, ever made plus hyper-color shirts plus Ed Hardy posters plus he reads Revolver, and not just reads, but actually fans the issues out on the coffee table, like it’s a display?”
…Anyway, Ke$ha’s answer was that Puff Daddy — or P. Diddy, whatever — said “Hey, what up girl?” for free, as a favor to her. Which was disappointing, since — in preparation for the answer — I had started brainstorming how much that must have cost, to get Puff Daddy to say one sentence half-heartedly like that: one thousand dollars? Ten thousand? Fifty thousand? The more I thought about it, the more I kept revising upwards and soon any answer — it must cost five hundred thousand dollars to get Puff Daddy to say one sentence — started to seem plausible, because this is Puff Daddy that we’re talking about, and not a normal person.
But anyway, the answer was Nothing. And that was my one (limited) interaction that I ever had with Ke$ha, who liked my friend, by the way, and who gave my friend a permanent tattoo on her ankle using a ball-point pen. The tattoo looked like this:
On the outside, you wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with Ke$ha. That girl with all the glitter? Yuck. But inside, where everything is real, she’s expressing everything that you’ve been thinking. It’s time to confess it. It’s time to admit it.
It is time for us to admit that pop music is gloriously… dumb. Which is glorious. But pop music — and this covers the spectrum from, say, Radiohead to Brian Eno to, say, Justin Bieber and Ke$ha — is not a particularly smart… form of art. Not a particularly bright type of artistic medium. I mean, the best band — the best band that ever existed — wrote the following lyrics:
Love, love me do.
You know I love you.
So please — love me do.
Um, yes. Okay. There is an odd artistic law that states that the harder something is to write, the less money you get for doing it — and vice-versa; the easier something is to write, the more $$$ you get. Try writing a good sonnet sometime. You can’t write a good one, and neither can I. Poetry is the hardest form of writing to do. And so it follows that poets die broke and alone, shivering to death in a garret somewhere. Pop lyrics, on the other hand; well. Writing something like this: “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends,” well, that takes exactly zero brain cells, and you get tens of millions of dollars for it. And so it goes.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being dumb! Sort of! I mean, it’s not necessarily the worst thing ever. The point of pop music is that it’s all about energy; the lyrics themselves are redundant, fibrous but not filling. But the energy — oh, the energy is the force that drives the universe: the force that leads to planes flying, people screwing, babies crying. Aristotle said that in a good story, everything that happens pushes something else — that that’s all a good story is: one damn thing after another.
And that’s all a good pop song is: one damn thing after another. And for me, at the moment, Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” randomly embodies this idea. Or maybe I’m just blathering and trying to excuse my love of a crappy pop song, but let’s hope not.
“Saxifrage is my flower that splits the rocks.” “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/ Drives my green age...” Energy, energy, energy, energy! I’ve always had all this energy and I never knew what to do with it until I started writing, but sometimes I get depressed, and then I understand what life must feel like for people who don’t feel compelled to write 3,000 words of prose every day. Energy! I’ve always had all this energy, and I feel like Ke$ha does too, which is why I like her. She’s too busy dancing and wearing progressively stupider outfits to notice that people are — semi-correctly — calling her an idiot, and that’s the way that I wish I was, in a way: happy and not too bright.
And flowers can split through rocks; saxifrage is an actual tiny, tiny flower that splits solid rock in half as it grows upwards, so passionate is the little flower to reach the light. Salmon swim so hard upstream to spawn that they end up bruised and bloody. And then they die. …Those two quotes from above are by William Carlos Williams and Dylan Thomas, by the way; anyway. …Anyway. Art shatters light through the universe, to (extremely) paraphrase James Joyce. …Energy! Give me energy and excitement that verges on stupidity any day. Give me the people who blather insanely and — yes — self-centeredly at parties over the people who skulk in the corners at parties, making their tiny little oh so perfect snarky remarks about the people who are actually — y’know — talking and dancing and having fun.
And then there’s Ke$ha:
Wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy.
(Hey, what up girl?)
Grab my glasses, I’m out the door, I’m gonna hit this city.
Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack;
‘Cause when I leave for the night, I ain’t coming back.
I’m talking pedicure on our toes, toes;
Trying on all our clothes, clothes;
Boys blowing up our phones, phones.
Drop-topping, playing our favorite CDs,
Pulling up to the parties…
Trying to get a little bit tipsy.
Don’t stop, make it pop,
DJ, blow my speakers up.
Tonight, I’mma fight,
‘Til we see the sunlight.
Ain’t got a care in the world, but got plenty of beer.
Ain’t got no money in my pocket, but I’m already here.
Li Po couldn’t have put that any better.
…And so, Ke$ha goes through her sleazy, stupid day, getting drunk, hitting on others and being hit on by others, stealing booze, almost getting arrested. “Life is many days, day after day,” wrote James Joyce. And then he stopped writing and put a period at the end of the sentence, and that was all he said. “Life is many days, day after day.” It sounds horrifically dumb and obvious until you think about it, and then you’re like, whoa, no one really ever expressed that in a single sentence before.
And then James Joyce wrote this:
If Socrates leave his house today he will find the sage seated on his doorstep. If Judas go forth tonight it is to Judas his steps will tend. Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.
Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, always looking for something else, but always meeting ourselves. We cannot escape the self; try though we might. …But sometimes, at night, there is the hope of redemption, and Ke$ha, of all people, sings about this. Ke$ha, of all people, sings about her day — and then she sings about how, at the end of her day, she enters the club, which is what her entire pointless day has been building up to.
“Now, the party don’t start ’til I walk in,” she says. She enters the club and here’s music — and here’s her hearing music — and she sings about hearing the music, which is recursive, of course:
DJ; you build me up,
You break me down.
My heart, it pounds;
Yeah, you got me.
With my hands up,
You got me now.
You got that sound.
Yeah, you got me.
DJ; you build me up,
You break me down.
My heart, it pounds;
Yeah, you got me.
With my hands up.
Put your hands up,
Put your hands up.
…And I always misheard “my heart, it pounds” as “my heart is pure,” up until this very moment, but whatever; that’s not important.
What Ke$ha is saying is that life is many days, day after day. “…Intimations of the end, but one by one,” someone or other wrote, I forget who. On the outside, we live our crappy, stupid days — but inside, where everything is real, we are always hoping for something, something at night, perhaps; some vague intimation of immortality that will redeem the time, redeem the unread vision in the higher dream. …I may have had altogether too much coffee while writing this, but that’s what Ke$ha is singing about. And she expresses it dumbly, but perfectly.
And what she’s expressing is life, more or less, and it’s hard to think of anything else — more or less — to say about it. She expresses it stripped down, for lack of a better term, because she can only express it in “basic.” …Put my hands up; put your hands up. My heart is pure; or — my heart, it pounds; whatever. Yeah, you got me?
And so. And so. …And so, flowers can smash through rocks. Fish beat themselves bloody swimming upstream — for sex; yeah, sure, but also for life. …The stream moves ever onward — and I have somehow just written an essay defending Ke$ha — but the river moves ever onward and no one will even remember that I defended her tomorrow, for life is energy; tide and flow, ebb and sway, and Ke$ha explains the universe… more or less.