Kesha

ke$ha

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First of all, what's up with the dollar sign?
She says it's just a joke. Way back in 2009, she sang the hook for Flo Rida's "Right Round," but wasn't credited for it. When the song turned into a massive hit but Ke$ha still found herself broke, she started spelling her name with a dollar in it to show how ironic life can be, or something. Her real name is Kesha Rose Sebert.

What kind of a name is Kesha, anyway?

The kind of name a hippie California musician gives her baby daughter, of course. Kesha was born March 1, 1987 in Los Angeles, but her family moved to Nashville when she was four. Her mom, Pebe Sebert, has been part of Nashville's big industry—country music—since the '90s, writings songs for people like Dolly Parton and Miranda Cosgrove. It was probably those show-biz connections that led to the Seberts apeparing on Paris Hilton's The Simple Life when Kesha was eighteen. When Kesha moved back out to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career, she partied so much with Paris that she says she threw up in the Hilton closet.

Ew, gross.
Right? Glitter everywhere.

But wait, if she was raised in Nashville, why isn't she singing country music?
She actually started out playing country-style folk songs on guitar, and some early clips like that are still up on YouTube. But when Dr. Luke—the production guru behind Katy Perry's and Kelly Clarkson's biggest hits—signed her to his label in 2005, she started working in a more rhythmic electro style. And it's hard to argue with success: remember, her first big break was singing the hook on a club-rap song.

If she can sing, why does she use so much AutoTune?
Because it sounds weird, and she likes making weird music, apparently. But also, AutoTune isn’t just for helping people who can’t sing very well (cough Kanye West cough Lil Wayne cough); it’s one of many different production tools to bend, chop up and stretch the human voice beyond what it can naturally do. Ke$ha mostly uses it to warp her voice to sound like whatever she’s singing about: drunkenness on “TiK ToK,” assertiveness on “Blah Blah Blah, dark glamourousness on “Take It Off” and sheer giddiness on “Your Love Is My Drug” and “We R Who We R.”

So she’s not just a one-hit wonder?

Nope! Most people probably know her biggest hit, “TiK ToK,” but all five singles she’s released so far have gone at least Top Five on the Billboard pop chart, which is an impressive first year on anyone’s resumé. She and Bruno Mars are pretty much tied for 2010 Rookie of the Year, but she hasn’t recorded any prom ballads yet, so there’s that.

She has two albums out already. Isn’t she worried about oversaturating the market?
Who let the economics major in? Actually, releasing a lot of material in multiple formats has turned out to be a pretty good strategy for keeping pop stars’ careers relevant while they’re still working on building one. It’s worked for Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, and it seems to be working for Ke$ha too. The debut Animal (January, 2010) is still the place to go if you want the basic introduction to her party-girl-with-a-weird-glint-in-her-eye aesthetic, but the short album (or EP) Cannibal (November, 2010) drops conflicting clues about where her career might go next. There's stripped-down production, harder beats and electropop so sweet you might want to stay away if you have a family history of diabetes.

Does this Dr. Luke guy write all her songs?
Modern pop is highly collaborative, so there are usually lots of names on the credits of any given song. But the only name that’s on the writing credits of every released Ke$ha song is Kesha Sebert. The other most common names are her mother’s and her producers, including Luke, Max Martin and Benny Blanco, all three of whom produced her biggest hits. They also work with a lot of other current pop stars; maybe you’ve heard of Katy Perry, Taio Cruz and P!nk?

Is she a singer or a rapper?
She’s definitely a singer, although like most modern pop, her music takes some elements from hip-hop. When she does rap on her songs it’s more like talk-singing, and she’s closer stylistically to the Beastie Boys’ or Beck’s blend of hip-hop and danceable rock than to people like Eminem or T.I., who actually have strong flow and write intricate hip-hop lyrics. But everyone sings with a little more hip-hop in their voice than they did in grandpa’s day, so you know, whatever.

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