Ke$ha: Animal (Album Review)

“When I woke up, I was like what did I do last night? Like what did I do? I fucked up… story of my life.”
Nicole “Snookums” Polizzi, Jersey Shore

Congratulations…it’s 2010! Who’s ready to drink?

That’s the lasting, ever-present theme of Animal, the long-awaited debut album from Ke$ha. (That’s kesh-uh, like ketchup, not key-shuh, like what I’ve been calling her for almost a year now.)

With a voice that can only be described as belonging to the bratty, rebellious step-sister of Katy Perry and a wardrobe identical to your annoyingly hip cousin who’s ‘over’ consumer culture and shops exclusively at American Apparel, Ke$ha has been toted for some time now as a kind of drunk electro-crap pop protege in the making.

But before we get ahead of ourselves and start praising her as the mainstream answer to Peaches or Uffie, let the record show: Ke$ha is just too squeaky-clean to be anything even close to dirrty pop. Sure, she’ll wear ripped leggings out on the town, hobble ’round drunk on stage with glitter smeared on her face and shout into a megaphone like an ass-backwards loon, but at the end of the day, she’s still a pretty face (with an interest in collaborating with Taylor Swift, as evidenced in this fairly annoying mini-interview).

However, even if she isn’t really spewing blood or punching dudes for sticking their fingers up her hoo-hah while crowd surfing, Ke$ha’s still here for the party on Animal.

With “Your Love Is My Drug” and “Tik Tok,” the “Poker Face” and “Just Dance” of the album respectively, K$ revels in the excesses of pop at its finest. Exuberant, punchy, irreverent–the two songs are the quintessential ‘dancing the night away’ moments of the album, complete with fist-pump worthy choruses and glitchy, gleeful synthesizers that merge fun, kid-friendly beats with the all-important album theme of substance abuse. (The result of which lends itself to literally dozens and dozens of uncomfortable tweenage video reinterpretations, complete with water bottle sippin’ and faux-drunk gyrating.)

Later on, with songs like “Take it Off” and “Kiss N Tell,” Ke$ha keeps the Katy Perry pronunciation guide close at hand for another round of drink-inspired jubilee. If you close your eyes and ignore the awful, skin-crawling over-enunciation of each syllable (“we’re duh-lee-ree-uss-suh, ’til the sun comes back uh-rah-ow-und”), the song’s are almost as fun as the two lead tracks, though inconsistently so: Some days they’re amazing, others simply unlistenable. It all depends on how loud and where you’re playing them.

It’s too bad that the plug gets pulled so soon.

Just as the party’s getting started, K$ takes it back to the schoolyard with a few truly dire attempts including  “Stephen,” a sloppy ode to a boy performed with an irritating, giggly schoolgirl sweetness. “I saw you in your tight ass rocker pants / You saw me too / I laughed ’cause I was completely trashed.” If the tuneless chorus isn’t enough to kill your buzz, the embarrassing ‘this is meant to be ironically immature’ lyricism will finish the job.

Later on, Ke$ha’s childish side is only further exploited with the likes of “Dinosaur,” which doubles as the worst song of 2010 thus far. The wimpy spell-out assault, meant to put the old men creeping around clubs on blast (“D-I-N-O-S-A, U-R a dinosaur!”), is so obnoxious, so incomprehensibly basic that it makes Gwen Stefani‘s “Hollaback Girl” (“This shit is bananas! B-A-N-A-N-A-S”) sound refined.

As songs like “Dinosaur” come to show, one of the biggest drawbacks of Animal is its snotty Kidz Bop-friendly attitude. Back during the summer, when a slew of demos from the singer first leaked, standout tracks including “Disgusting,” “Fuck Him (He’s A DJ)” and “V.I.P.,” (which has mercifully been tacked on as a bonus track overseas) provided a glimmer of hope that Ke$ha was to become our new rude-pop savior. The songs were much grimier, complete with naughty come-on’s and more genuinely clever lyrics (“He’s a stereo type / He’s got the baseball cap and he’s building the hype, as he’s feeding me this hot track / You see, we share the same God, we’ve got the same love / I never want to stop, I don’t want to give him up.”) Now? We’ve got trash like “Blah Blah Blah.”

Not all of the girly girl tracks are worth the hate, though: The strut-worthy prowl of “Boots and Boys” and the deliciously bitchy “Backstabber” are both redeemable bouts of escapist delight.

The time when Ke$ha truly, legitimately shines best is when she drops the baby routine and acts her own age: “Hungover,” “Dancing With Tears in My Eyes,” and “Animal” are all miles ahead of the pack, featuring anthemic pop hooks and devastating choruses. The most successful of all of the grown-up numbers is “Blind,” which ties a minimal, plodding synthesized beat together with one hell of a Clarkson-worthy chorus: “I’m sick and tired of the mess you made me / Never gonna catch me cry / You must be blind if you can’t see / You’ll miss me ’til the day you die.”

The bleary-eyed, post-party numbers are much smarter than the surrounding material, and far more representative of Ke$ha’s ability to be more than just a one bottle wonder–which makes duds like “Party at a Rich Dude’s House” all the more difficult to swallow.

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