Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shining Stars of Davida: Ke$ha

Embarrassing fact: I like Ke$ha. Yes, I know. Ke$ha? With the dollar sign? Embarrassing, but believe it or not, I like her music. Obviously, some songs are better than others, but I really just like her work. After she performed on American Idol, I did some research into her, and got her CD. And, well, I enjoyed it. I have no idea if she can really sing or not, but as long as her voice sounds good on the album, I don't really care. I was pleasantly surprised to find her album Animal as quite feminist and woman-empowering.

Her first single “TiK ToK” and song “Party at a Rich Dude’s House” are just about partying and letting yourself go. I appreciate that she fosters an image of not caring what anyone thinks and sends that message to girls who listen to her - forget what the media depicts as a good girl! Act the way you want! Be who you are! Rebel! (Reminds me of the Laurel Thatcher Ulrich book Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, and the Blu Greenberg quote “We have been nice girls long enough. We’ve made our cholent…we should take to the streets.”)

I also really appreciate Ke$ha's singles “Blah Blah Blah” and “Take It Off” and song “Kiss N Tell.” “Blah Blah Blah” is interesting because it refers to men as sex objects, the same way male performers often refer to women in their lyrics. “Kiss N Tell” also reverses the typical roles described in pop songs, with Ke$ha dumping her cheating boyfriend for “acting like a slut” and because she “can find someone way hotter / With a bigger…wow.” The single “Take It Off” has Ke$ha singing “They turn me on / When they take it off,” a concept usually not stated quite so baldly by female performers. These songs depict her as assertive and able to hold her own, traits that this generation's female teenagers would be well-advised to have. I also find the song “Boots and Boys” interesting, since it's about using men like boots, wearing them until you get tired of them. I don't know if I would label this as a feminist song on Animal, but it's nonetheless another way Ke$ha tries to talk about men the way that they've usually talked about women in songs.

Ke$ha has quite a few woman-empowering songs, and I really commend her for that, but I also commend her for keeping the album balanced. The songs “Hungover” and “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” mourn relationships that didn’t work out. “Blind” is about letting go of an ex, and “Animal” is conversely about a relationship on the verge of working out. “Dinosaur” has Ke$ha singing about a pervy older guy hitting on her. “Backstabber” admonishes mean girls who spread nasty rumors. (It reminds me of the JWA article about gossip, and the subsequent articles about gosip on the Sisterhood here and here.) The single “Your Love is My Drug” and song “Stephen” are about wanting a guy who doesn’t necessarily want you. While “Stephen” could easily be dismissed as a painfully sexist why isn't he calling me??? OMG!!! song, I think it's a lot more than that. Ke$ha wants this Stephen guy to like her, and she's trying to get his attention by writing a whole song about him - not a terribly passive way to go about things, is it? (I don't know. I could be thinking about this too hard.)

As I stated above, I think I like this album because it has balance. There are some songs that are party songs, some with feminist leanings, and others that are just plain old I-need-a-guy-just-because songs. With a song like “Stephen” next to “Blah Blah Blah,” it’s an interesting contrast: “Why won’t you call me? / Stephen / I’m feeling pathetic” “Just turn around boy let me hit that / Don’t be a little b***h with your chitchat / Just show me where your d**k’s at.”

I also like the image that she tries to a foster, a party girl who doesn’t care what people think of her, with messy hair and smudged make up. I think it just tells girls that they can be autonomous and look how they want, without the pressures of society weighing on them.

I dub Ke$ha an inductee to Shining Stars of Davida - strong women and men who make feminists proud.

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