There are nuclear bombs with more subtlety than Ke$ha. High goddess of bombast, queen bee of the obnoxious, debut album Animal was greeted with equal amounts love and disgust from music fans of all genres. Is she manufactured, or all her own creation? Deadly serious with her unbrushed hair, facepaint and failure to 'sing pretty', or playing a gigantic joke on us all? Becoming such a polarising figure was undoubtedly a huge achievement for Ke$ha, an artist utterly determined to get up the noses of absolutely everyone who might have beef with a young woman talking about drinking, partying and sexing it up. In public. The horror.
This refusal to apologise for behaving like a human being is written all over Warrior's 'Love Into The Light'. With its "I'm sorry but I am just not sorry, 'cause I swear and 'cause I drink", it's as close as Ke$ha is ever likely to get to 'We Are The World', kicking off with what sounds like the drum beat from 'Another Day In Paradise' before blowing up into a stormy anthem. Yes, Ke$ha has produced a song accurately described as 'anthemic', helped along by Pop God Greg Kurstin; and frankly, it's stunning. Unexpectedly, Warrior's slower, party-comedown, vocally-driven moments – yes, there are large swathes of this album not featuring That Sort Of Gnarly Rap Thing - are frequently its highlights. There’s a deep structural knowledge of pop on display, without which this album, rammed with sonic mash, would disappear into a black hole of insanity.
Naturally, this being a party album on a mission, the uptempo numbers are still pounding attention grabbers. ‘Thinking Of You’ informs a crappy ex-boyfriend that "I'm over it so suck my dick"; it’s Ke$ha’s version of ‘Single Ladies’, with hard guitars, drunken 'this is what you're missing' phone calls, and what sounds like Discovery-era Daft Punk riffs in an utterly mental middle eight. And ‘Supernatural’, an end-of-night dirty poppers-out tune, talks about, er, raising the dead through the process of getting rodgered but good. I do not think you would find this kind of séance on Most Haunted.
There's much to be said for Ke$ha's willingness to experiment with everything, up to and including hitherto unexplored corners of the kitchen sink. There's Animal’s scuzzy synthpop, classic rock, EDM and, on occasion, dubstep. In ‘Crazy Kids’ we get all the above with bonus cut-and-paste points, completely changing between genres like a light switch.
'Dirty Love', a firm attempt at channelling a classic rock stomper, sees Ke$ha in full on rock chick mode. That said, listening to her singing "I just want your dirty love" to Iggy Pop is to lean on the very edges of squicksville. More immediately winning is 'Only Wanna Dance With You', featuring The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas and Fabrizio Moretti, possessing a guitar line that would have little problem fitting in on Is This It.
There are times when it all goes overboard, certainly. Sometimes there’s too much overindulgence, a random hook too obviously crammed in for the sake of being contrary. But it's difficult not to admire the sheer ambition in throwing together clashing instruments, pop hooks, often whole genres in something Dalí would probably dismiss as 'too outré'. Pushing the boundaries in this way is exactly what pop music, in all its genre-thieving, structure-hijacking glory, should be doing. Producers Dr. Luke and Max Martin, noted pop legends both, deserve credit for creating something probably unrepeatable, that nonetheless everyone will be scrambling to rehash. While Ke$ha is vomiting her entire record collection over the mixing desk, they stand toe to toe with her, coordinating the lunacy while never once giving the impression of reigning in the songstrel.
There will be many who absolutely hate Warrior, with its insistence on turning the volume up to 12 and wallowing in baser joys. There will be people who won’t even listen to it because it’s Ke$ha, and frankly that’s their loss. Others will love it for its balls-out attitude, seen not nearly enough from any artist nowadays let alone a female pop starlet, and willingness to fall on its face in search of something new. It's undeniably batshit insane, but Warrior is never dull, always fun, and frequently a thrillingly unpredictable ride.
8Krystina Nellis's Score