I was with friends at Tokyo Joe's this evening, a quasi fast-food Japanese joint, and music was piped-in, adding noise to a place already full of crowd noise. Not sure what the purpose of the music is, since it's not loud enough to help create the ambience. Perhaps by adding more noise to the noise it provides cover for people who don't want the customers at adjacent tables to overhear them. In any event, within this overall noise is music that I don't attend to and that is not really discernible - except suddenly I hear a sound of hard compacted beauty emanating from the uproar, pulsing balls of beauty. I'm thinking "This is incredible!" and then realize it's "Blah Blah Blah." Throbbing prettiness within Ke$ha's aggressive clatter, emerging from above and joining Tokyo Joe's dinner clatter.
File photo of Tokyo Joe's, without crowds or clatter or Ke$ha. 1360 Grant Street, Denver:
"Blah Blah Blah" has the boshingest beat ever to hit in North America, even more bosh than Cascada. "Bosh" is a poptimists word that's not easily definable but evokes the most twistingly propulsive and opportunistically ear-attacking squelchy techno or acid house beats (or other genre names the Brits would know better than I) revving up from underneath some Polish (or somewhere) post-Italodisco hot tuneful Europop ditties, or disco-speed covers of "You Give Love A Bad Name" sung by fashion models or sisters-in-law turned "diva." But "Blah Blah Blah" being in white Anglo-America where fun is never part of the natural order but rather is as competitive as everything else, it intensifies the fierceness and the crassness. I used "Mony Mony" as my touchstone yesterday, for having a strong center and a messy party surrounding it; I also think of the Troggs' "Wild Thing" and the 7-inch version of Flipper's "Sex Bomb" (walking sludge that lifts itself up until it's thundering across the landscape) married to the dance-insistence of "Into The Groove." Modern touchstones might be Lindsay Lohan's "First" for its fundamental message of NOTICE ME NOTICE ME NOTICE ME!, and Britney Spears' Blackout for all its wormy little beats and riffs and background voices, a world of crawling creatures, Britney's own self-absorbed voice crawling and scratching and finding its way to a self-centered center. What I said yesterday about "Blah Blah Blah" making other music seem pale and bare in comparison: Britney's Blackout has that effect too, foliage with insects and annelids going about their own business, a minor cacophony on the margins.
But my needing all these comparisons to describe "Blah Blah Blah" just emphasizes its uniqueness. Nothing else on the album comes close to its bosh or bounce. A lot of yesterday's convo revolved around what Ke$ha might be doing, and while she gives the track aggression and meanness as the official party-girl master of ceremonies, this isn't about partying or the concept of the party any more than beer is about partying. Rather, it's the noise maker you use to create a party. "Blah Blah Blah" is pretty much its message, syllables, yammer yammer yammer (cf. woolly bully, a-hip a-hop, womp bomp a loo bomp, dang digga dang d-dang d-dang diggy diggy), that and the boshbeat and the insane prettiness.
The album is something of a surprise, now that I've heard it. It's pretty, too; in fact, I was expecting more aggression and less tunefulness (not that the two need be incompatible). In "Blah Blah Blah" prettiness is merely part of the overall assault, albeit a central part. On other tracks prettiness is almost the point. Dave is right that Luke has gotten himself under control on this album, maybe 'cause he's not on the most Lukish track, which is by people who aren't going for the supervolume that Luke would ruin his own tunes with. Dave's and my complaint when we mention Luke (producer-songwriter Lukasz Gottwald, and when we say "Luke" we sometimes mean frequent colleague Max Martin) is his tendency starting 2005-2006 to create a pulverizing landslide of overloud beauty in his choruses. (Megan McCauley's "Tap That," though an excellent song, and somewhat proto-"TiK ToK" in its Salt-N-Pepa stylings, was a harbinger of future Max 'n' Luke overkill.) Maybe what Luke is now doing right is that he's attaching the beauty to rhythm rather than slathering it all over everything. At least that's what he does on "TiK ToK." The most Lukish track is "Party At A Rich Dude's House" (that and "Backstabber" are my two favorites after "Blah Blah Blah"; neither Luke nor Max is on those three, though I do like some of theirs too), which has a balance that Luke never achieved; basically, what it's got over third-album Avril, which it resembles, is that - maybe inspired by Ke$ha's supposed party vibe - it moves faster, so it doesn't throw so much weight on the chorus.
To be continued. Haven't said much about Ke$ha's lyrics, 'cause I haven't attended to them yet, or her image, whatever it is. Her voice isn't much, which is surprisingly not a problem on a lot of these. Maybe she sometimes knows what she's doing when it comes to sound. The pretty, uncharacteristically spacey title song works best when Ke$ha lets it drift into the distance like Feist or Enya, but the track doesn't have the courage of its wimpy convictions, and Luke revs it up too much.
- Ke$ha Day 2