Of all the names–and we do mean “all the names,” of which there are like 60–on Chimes of Freedom, Amnesty International’s upcoming Bob Dylan tribute album, one stood out a little more than the others: Ke$ha, who announced she’d cover Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” The joke’s so damn easy, right? Some YouTube smart-aleck even took the time to make a “Ke$ha-fied version,” which sounds more like what you’d expect: the same kind of synths as old computer game soundtracks, with a giggly, slithery blob o’ autotuned voice on top.
Ke$ha’s cover does not sound like that at all. It’s almost completely stripped down, her voice is completely raw–not a bit of autotune, reverb, or any processing at all seems to be involved, and it’s a first-take recording in which you can hear her crying at certain points. One writer compared it to the raspy covers Cat Power does. The track’s almost uncomfortably vulnerable, even more so when you read her rationale for the interpretation. Rolling Stone has the whole thing, but here’s a telling bit:
There were particular lyrics in the song that you can just tell, once they came out of my mouth – the emotion caught up with me and I just started weeping,” she says. “It’s something that I didn’t plan on, that wasn’t contrived at all. It just sort of happened. … it seemed like a suicide note to the love of my life and to my former life. Because everything in my life has changed so much. And it went from being this ambiguous interpretation -– this idea we had -– to it being so completely relevant to everything I’m going through. I’m so lucky and blessed, but there are moments that are just so incredibly lonely that it’s indescribable. And I’ve never written a song that’s admitted that. Singing Bob Dylan’s words and feeling my own emotion through it – it was a very intense moment for me.
Because this is a song by Ke$ha, glitter-greased and punctuation-substituted drunken dervish of a pop star, and not by Kesha Rose Sebert, daughter of a country singer with a few earnest teenage contributions to teenage first-tier productions, most reactions fall at one of two poles:
1) This is rubbish, and Ke$ha has permanently soiled the legacy of Bob Dylan with the twin phantoms of autotune and alcohol, neither of which really play into this cover but come on it’s Ke$ha.
2) This is the best song ever. Let’s have an anecdote: even Gawker, an outlet not known for constant, gushing praise, said “her voice is lovely and the sentiments seem sincere.
You can probably guess that we’re closer to a 3): that the cover’s good and possibly even fantastic but, considering Ke$ha’s pre-party background and some of the album tracks on Animal/Cannibal, not entirely surprising; that it’s really not far off from lots of acoustic covers with tears or without, and people are starting to inflate its shockingness just because Ke$ha’s doing it; and that we’re not really looking forward to the grudging “well, sure, fine, I’ll take her seriously but only this once because Bob Dylan” nonpliments.
That said, it did make me tear up a bit, and it certainly shoots down any preconceptions you might have about the album. Maybe Adele or Lucinda Williams will autotune herself! Maybe RedOne’s track will also be a super-sincere version, possibly credited to Nadir Khayat (his real name)! Anything is possible now.