[Album Review] Ke$ha Will Eat You Up With ‘Cannibal’
Crack open your soon-to-be outlawed 4Loko and pour a little on the glitter-encrusted floor. This one goes out to all those girls not afraid of their sexuality; the girls who manipulate men to do their bidding; the girls who steal booze and hearts, all while jumping fences in their Docs; the girls who sleep in cars, puke in bars, make out with stars.
This one goes out to our favorite little Cannibal, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Ke$ha[/lastfm], the 23-year-old Los Angeles native who writes songs that cunningly sum up a whole generation of California party girls.
If you are listening to Ke$ha’s sequel album to Animal with the ear of a judgmental hipster or the expertise of a seasoned music critic, you won’t possibly understand what the young pop vocalist is trying to accomplish.
Cannibal is not always good music; it’s contrived, messy, scattered, sometimes flat. But within the deluge of overly-produced melodies and crudely constructed lyrics, we hear the heart and soul of an unapologetic party girl; her “Crazy Beautiful Life” and the “sleaze” that surrounds it.
And–if you look even closer–the darkness of a disenfranchised youth trying to numb herself from the bleakness of her past.
Aptly entitled Cannibal, Ke$ha’s sort-of sophomore album chews you up and spits part of you out while the other part of you is vomited up later in a rush of whiskey-bile and cupcake sprinkles. There is something grotesque about each song, filling you with an odd erotic tension that is both cruel and invigorating.
This feeling starts off with the “Animal (Billboard Remix).” This version of “Animal” sounds almost nothing like the Animal-version of “Animal.” The song is eerily tender, almost like a love story between two people on the night they are both about to turn into brain-noshing zombies. Sonically, the song swirls around you, in a cloud of plaintive sound, creating a barrage of bittersweet images in your head:
“This is our last chance /Give me your hands /’Cause our world is spinning at the speed of light /The night is fading, heart is racing /Now just come and love me like we’re gonna die.”
A love that hurts so much you want to die (or kill) is pretty much the unofficial theme of this album. Yes, it’s also a album about utilizing every moment of your life, but there is a sense of a dark and foreboding future. Just when we feel as if we are going to fall victim to a kind-of blissed-out melancholy, Ke$ha assaults our dreamlike state with “Sleazy.”
Ke$ha raps (poorly) and says ”I don’t need you or your brand new Benz…I don’t need love looking like diamonds.” Obviously, getting “sleazard” or being “Sleazy” is more a state of mind, and not an action, a style sensibility, or a state of hygiene. While we appreciate the sentiment of the song (not hooking up with rich men, living the “sleazy” life), the song promises something edgy and then pulls back with a thud. Lyrics like ”The beat’s so fat it’s gonna make me come…over to your place” are disenchanting.
I wish Ke$ha hadn’t added the inane addendum to that lyric, because without the extension the lyric is a pretty accurate description of what it’s like to be an impoverished club kid enjoying the music for free.
This “Philosophy of Sleaze” carries over to the stellar song “Blow” which starts off with Ke$ha giggling and commanding the listener to dance :“We get in for free, no VIP sleaze.” The song makes me feel like I am going to suffocate in a cloud of glitter, black balloons, and champagne bubbles. The beat creates an almost dismal sense of anxiety, as if going out to dance is more about forgetting pain, rather than having fun. This is expressed in lyrics like:
“Now what? We’re taking control/We get what we want, we do what you don’t/Dirt and glitter cover the floor/We’re pretty and sick, we’re young and we’re bored/It’s time to lose your mind and let the crazy out…Go, go, go, go insane, go insane/Throw some glitter, make it rain.”
“Blow” is definitely one of those multi-layered treats where the auto-tune serves the song rather than destroys it.
We aren’t sure why artists that are obviously good at dirty, dance-pop even attempt to do ballads. We’d much rather Cannibal have been a collection of creepy dance tracks. C.U.N.T stands for “C U Next Tuesday” and it also stands out as the worst song on the album. Ke$ha is almost like a demented, trashy, scandalous version of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Taylor Swift [/lastfm] and it doesn’t suit her. At all.
It’s like Taylor Swift grew up a little, got screwed over by a man, and then just decided to have drunken one-night-stands. It’s not a pretty look on the prettiest of girls and with lyrics like, “So I’ll see you next Tuesday/If I ever get desperate/Or I’m so beyond faded/Just said I’ll see you next Tuesday,” we kind of never want to date again.
Luckily, Ke$ha goes back to the kind of man-eating we love and enjoy. Instead of letting a man mess around with her emotions, like in “C.U.Next Tuesday,” “Cannibal” is vicious, amazing, extreme, and deliciously trashy. Some women are not the porcelain dolls that men like to fantasize about; they are creatures with ravenous libidos and no capacity for love.
Ke$ha says the things that many women want to say, but are afraid to say in fear of judgement from a man:
“I have a heart, I swear I do/But just not, baby, when it comes to you/I get so hungry when you say you love me/Hush if you know what’s good for you.”
She ends the song with two of the best lyrics on the album: “I love you/I warned you.” In a way, my love for Ke$ha is something that people “warned” me about.
Yes, I understand that she’s not perfect, she doesn’t know what she’s doing, she’s bad for my musical digestion. But her songs are just so outrageously candid that I can’t help being sucked in and “falling in love.”
Being ripped to pieces almost sounds exciting in “Cannibal” but in “Crazy Beautiful Life” we get a horrible song musically with an interesting lyrical perspective. Ke$ha tells us how she feels and a mini-story about her life:
“I just hope some people see / There’s nothing that I’m tryna be /Let me just stop, all the shit talk /I know I’m the new bitch on the block/I been through my sketchy phases/Been broke, been a shitty waitress/But, I’m not now, guess it worked out/Got here by runnin’ my mouth.”
And what a dirty mouth it is, as reflected in the next song “Grow A Pear.” Sometimes we wonder if Ke$ha actually takes all of her music seriously or whether some songs sarcastically genius societal statements. She does say “vag” and “mangina” in this song. Probably the first time in musical history. But she also rips on weak men in a way we’ve only heard girls do when they are alone with their closest girl friends:
“When I first met you (Panties dropping!) /Everytime I saw you (It was on and!) /One day you asked if we could just talk /And that’s the reason why I’m walking /If I am honest, I’m just not hooked on your phonics /I’m not trying to be rude or crude /I just wanted one thing from you /And you got confused.”
There is some method to the madness.
A man who obviously had a “pear” was Harold, the subject of “The Harold Song.” Earlier, we wished all Ke$ha’s songs were dance hits, but “The Harold Song” is actually a beautiful song about being young and in love:
“They say that true love hurts/Well this could almost kill me/Young love murder/That is what this must be…Drunk off of nothing but each other til the sunrise”
Nostaligia is a beautiful aphrodisiac.
The album ends with the revolutionary “We R Who We R,” probably one of Ke$ha’s best songs to date. It completely sums up Ke$ha’s philosophy on life and what she is trying to accomplish with her music:
“We’re dancing like we’re dumb/Our bodies go numb/We’ll be forever young/You know we’re superstars/We are who we are!”
It’s not about great music. It’s not about having money or street cred. It’s not about fitting into society. It’s not about fulfilling anyone else’s dreams for you. It’s about handling the obstacles of life however you can, even if that means dancing your life away. It’s about being who you are. At whatever cost.