Alright, kids. Gather round. It’s time to have a serious talk about Ke$ha.
We love Ke$ha. We support Ke$ha. She’s talented and exciting and funny and her music has moments of extraordinary genius, as thrilling as anything in the pop landscape. And it’s been a rough few months for Ke$ha! She released a song called “Die Young” and as it was climbing the charts, a lot of kids died. She suggested that she never wanted to sing that song anyway. Her album underperformed, peaking at #6. The follow-up single, “C’Mon,” topped out at #27 on the Hot 100, ending her string of consecutive Top 10 hits. And now, “Crazy Kids” — her new single — has a guest spot from execrable club-rap monster Will.i.am, which is rough on its own — the indignity of that has to sting. But it gets worse: Now they’ve gone and thrown Pitbull onto the track, too. “Crazy Kids,” with Pitbull. These are dark days we’re in, folks. Dark days.
Now, there’s a precedent to this Ke$ha and Pitbull teamplay — before Ke$ha was a star, she appeared on his 2009 album track “Girls,” and they’re slated to head out on tour together (which is depressing in the first place). But we always had the sense that even though there’s a certain cynicism to the Ke$ha empire, all of that jubilant no-fucks-given party-girl posturing as calculated a brand as her more buttoned-up contemporaries, there was still something playful about it, right? Something genuine and authentic and charming. None of those are words that can be used to describe Pitbull. Pitbull is the assistant headmaster of the Will.i.am & RedFoo Academy of Soulless Radio Garbage (where Flo Rida is a tortured-but-prodigious janitor, like in Good Will Hunting), an artist who believes that the only way to make music that’s euphoric and celebratory is to churn it out on an assembly-line, all those identical bleeps and bloops and the same depressing lyrics about poppin’ bottles in the clurb, as manipulative and inane as sonically possible.
But Ke$ha isn’t like that. Ke$ha has heart. She’s an artist, even if it’s buried under slick Dr. Luke production and pop-star styling.
Pitbull is not an artist. He’s a brand, a commodity, a predatory pair of mirrored aviator sunglasses who happens to rap, a stuffed package in a pair of white trousers (c’mon, Pit, nobody’s buying it), relentlessly focus-grouped to appeal to specific demographics, one $1.29 sale at a time.
That’s why when RCA, or her publisher, or her management, or whoever is in charge (it’s certainly not Ke$ha), ropes in Pitbull or Will.i.am or any other abysmal rent-a-rapper to do a guest spot on Ke$ha’s new single, because she needs a radio hit and the performance of “C’Mon” wasn’t good enough, it feels sad and cheap and desperate and disheartening, and her fans get upset, and the song is worse for it, and “urban listeners” still doesn’t give any more or less of a shit than they would otherwise, and radio programmers aren’t fooled. They aren’t! A verse from a commercially viable rapper does not an urban single make. Nobody is that dumb. It’s just alienating her core fan base, pushing away the fanatical kids and fanatical gays who have buoyed her to success, and whenever this happens, everyone who loves Ke$ha just emits this colossal groan of despair. Maybe Ke$ha’s already had her moment; maybe it’s over for her. But if she’s going to fail (and hopefully she won’t!) at least let her fail with some dignity.
So we submit, to the pop gods and label executives and everyone who’s in charge: Please, please, please stop putting these no-talent goons like Will.i.am and Pitbull on great singles from great artists like Ke$ha. It’s bumming us out.
Also, Pitbull’s verse sucks.