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Ke$ha Day 2
koganbot
I was with friends at Tokyo Joe's this evening, a quasi fast-food Japanese joint, and music was piped-in, adding noise to a place already full of crowd noise. Not sure what the purpose of the music is, since it's not loud enough to help create the ambience. Perhaps by adding more noise to the noise it provides cover for people who don't want the customers at adjacent tables to overhear them. In any event, within this overall noise is music that I don't attend to and that is not really discernible - except suddenly I hear a sound of hard compacted beauty emanating from the uproar, pulsing balls of beauty. I'm thinking "This is incredible!" and then realize it's "Blah Blah Blah." Throbbing prettiness within Ke$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:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

"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.
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been listening to the album a lot, blah^3 has a BIT of bosh - there's the eurobeat beat-doubling thing in the middle

another ref in the mix for you, as lots of bits, (esp eg dinosaur) reminds me of Daphne and Celeste.

Yes, reminiscent of D&C (whom she may not have heard), and L'Trimm and Salt-N-Pepa (whom she definitely has). Btw, thanks for posting comments on my threads. I'm way behind on getting around to thinking about all the stuff that people have been saying on my "What do philosophers do?" threads and several others, but if you don't hear back that doesn't mean that the comments aren't appreciated.

Picking up on a few things I said either here or elsewhere, I've been distinguishing between "the heart of the party" and "reflection on the heart of the party," a kind of second-hand recalling of the party with some kind of undercutting edge. On Animal Ke$ha falls somewhere between these two poles, at her best getting right into the heart, where the nonsense syllables become content and stage trumps character, but most of the time there's something a little more off-kilter about it. On the times where it almost-not-quite connects I find myself just as captivated as I am when I play the more obvious party tracks (and there's an almost-not-quiteness even in "Blah Blah Blah," I think, but the song itself is massive enough to make this more irrelevant). Nowhere in any of this do I have sense of Ke$ha as a character, but maybe as ringleader or (shock) emcee. And in that sense I see her like a Tim Burton character -- specifically the mayor from Nightmare Before Christmas, who has only two faces (Cheshire cat grin carnival barker and terrified kabukiesque worrywart) but seems to "exist" somewhere between the two. But like that character, she's more of a guide through the stage than an interesting character in her own right.

Man, still not hearing this -- "Blah Blah Blah," I mean. I like the album fine. But to my ears, "Blah Blah Blah" really goes downhill after its amazingly visceral first 17 or 18 second (which I'd probably give a 10 to), and after that -- when the melody comes in, I guess -- it slips into averageness. Good averageness, but still averageness I'm having trouble caring about. Need to listen to the album more; honestly have yet to pick up on all the audaciously retardo lines everybody keeps raving about either, so obviously they're at least not jumping out of the background at me. Mainly, though, I guess I'm starting to realize that I might have no idea what people mean by "bosh" -- not clear to me, say, how this song is more HI-NRG Europop than, say, "Bad Romance" much less, I don't know, Aqua or Las Ketchup or Jordy or somebody. (Maybe they were too early to be bosh-worthy, or didn't get high enough on the charts? Though it is interesing Gaga and Ke$ha are Americans!) So basically, so far, I wish I was hearing more Scooter (and Dictators, and Flipper, and disco for that matter) in Ke$ha. But maybe I will, still. (Also not sure why people are pretending that nobody took Kid Rock or 3Oh!3 -- the former of whom I prefer to Ke$ha, the latter of whom I don't -- to task for singing about life as a big bumb party, because I thought people took them to task for that all the time. But maybe I'm strawmanning. (Should also mention that I haven't yet absorbed this entire post or the comments yet, much less other blog talk about her -- really falling behind on keeping up with in-depth Ke$ha analysis these past couple days! -- so maybe I'm saying things other folks have already said, I dunno.) (And at that, it's still one of my favorite albums of the year, fwiw, though that's got as much to do with lack of competition as anything else. Doesn't sound like a Top 10 worthy album to me, though that could conceivably change.)

"17 or 18 seconds" plural I meant, obviously.

Also wondering why nobody has compared the album yet to Licensed To Ill (not that I'm saying it's necessarily comparable, but that one definitely reminded me of the Dictators in its day -- and you could dance fast to it, too.)

(And right, I know it was Metal Mike -- not you -- who made the Dictators comparison {See my reposting of it on Dave's Tumblr and on Jukebox.} I don't even know what you think of the Dictators, come to think of it, Frank! And Mike was talking about her lyrics, where you're talking about her music -- get that. Yet somehow you end up in a similar place.)

Don't think that "Bad Romance" is any less indebted, but I think "bosh" has to be a little less...I think the word is "tasteful"?...in its execution. The three you mention after "Bad Romance" may just pre-date the concept, yeah, though I think Aqua comes closest. There's also a specific strain of bosh in which non-Europop songs are given a throbbing techno beat (the ones I think of most readily are Cascada, though to be honest I think in some ways their version of "Sk8er Boi" is less in your face than the original). The only direct sonic Scooter link that I find on Animal is "Take It Off." But there's something about Scooter's single-mindedness that I think Ke$ha has in a way Lady GaGa doesn't.

This'll no doubt by a xpost by the time I hit submit.

I'd forgotten Aqua, despite being the person who put "Lollipop (Candyman)" in my top ten of the '90s list. Aqua's beats might be too non-techno-aggressive to be bosh, though.

I think katstevens may be the person most responsible for popularizing the term "bosh" (at least in its poptimists use; I seem to recall that in the intertitles to the original Douglas Fairbanks' version of The Mark Of Zorro Don Diego's father always kept saying "bosh!" but I think he merely meant "nonsense," since in 1920 Eurodisco had yet to cross over to the U.S. in a major way). I don't know if Kat would endorse my view of the blah blah blah chorus as being essence du bosh, but I don't care; I think the blah-blah-blah chorus is the pinnacle of bosh, and I'll define bosh any way I want in order to get that result.

I would say that RedOne's aggressive bass push, which I don't always like, takes us near bosh (and rock, for that matter), and of course he's the producer of "Just Dance," "LoveGame," and "Poker Face." But GaGa still seems not "bosh," but something else. (Which isn't to say that she shouldn't be something else.) Didn't some of you decide last year on that ilX GaGa thread that she was old Belgian new beat?

You know, I've barely heard the Dictators. Beastie Boys certainly fight for your right to party, but in sound I'm getting them more "Kick Out The Jams" rather than "Wild Thing," which is to say not the garage Troggs punk I'm associating with "Blah Blah Blah" but the more reflective, probing punk that I wasn't calling "punk" until '77 of, say, the MC5 and the Stooges and Sex Pistols (was considering that not punk because I still associated punk with junior high school creeps playing tough, rather than thoughtful strong people probing toughness, not simply trying to act it out). Of course the MC5 covered the Troggs, but not very well.

(I'm not necessarily saying that "Blah Blah Blah" should be considered punk, by the way. Don't know how usable "punk" is as a term, anymore. Too respectable. But also, without anyone necessarily intending it, there was a sense in "Louie Louie" and "Wild Thing" that they were taking us at least a millimeter if not more away from where we'd been before, the very idea that these should be our anthemic party favors. I'd say that even Scooter has that sense. Whereas the Ke$ha party does just seem to be a niche and a cliché, the skank version of the L.A. thing, just more Hollywood Reporter and TMZ fodder. I wouldn't mind being wrong about that, though.)

people are pretending that nobody took Kid Rock or 3Oh!3 -- the former of whom I prefer to Ke$ha, the latter of whom I don't -- to task for singing about life as a big bumb party, because I thought people took them to task for that all the time

Not sure what you mean here; from the Jukebox thread a lot of the complaint about Ke$ha - at least a lot of Lex's complaints about Ke$ha - is that she's doing a boring old hat version of big dumb party, and he'd probably take Kid Rock and 3OH!3 to task for the exact same thing, and he did take Asher Roth to task for it. I mean, I don't think anyone's claiming that it's a breakthrough for Ke$ha to be taken for task for sounding like a big dumb party. Would seem to be an American perennial, the partying and the taking to task. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that supporters of John Quincy Adams took supporters of Andrew Jackson to task for dumb partying.

Shooter Jennings' "Daddy's Farm" ought to be part of this discussion, though that's a somewhat different strain of recalcitrance - the Blue Cheer strain, perhaps, mixed with Hank Jr. (whom I don't know nearly enough about). But in his way Shooter is as L.A. as Ke$ha is. --Sad that I didn't have enough nominations to get "Daddy's Farm" into the poptimists best of 2005 thing. By the way, while you weren't looking, Miranda Lambert and - finally - Ashlee Simpson got tracks that qualified for the next round of the best of the 2000s

(no subject) (Anonymous) Expand
yammer yammer yammer (cf. woolly bully, a-hip a-hop, womp bomp a loo bomp, dang digga dang d-dang d-dang diggy diggy)


Gotta say this -- which I'm probably taking out of context, since I haven't absorbed your entire spiel -- is perplexing me a little too, given that one thing that's been so obviously great about all the Gaga hits in the past year (which I've pointed out repeatedly) is their unabashed reliance on goofy repeated nonsense syllables. Of course, Gaga doing it doesn't negate Ke$ha doing it, but I'm not sure how Ke$ha is doing it better (maybe you think hers are more in your face? She does put them in the song title, after all.)

And actually, personally, I'd say that, compared to Gaga or Sam the Sham or Little Richard or Sugarhill Gang or Kid Rock, Ke$sha's blah-blah-blah's feel considerably less in my face! They sound kind of bored -- and, uh, blah, when she could instead be using them to, say, propel the beat. (Though I do get the idea that, by her yammering, you might actually be referring to the rest of her words there.)

GaGa's nonsense syllables always sound gentle and lyrical (though not lyric-al)!

But what was on my mind was that "blah blah blah" should be taken more as nonsense syllables than as belonging to whatever Ke$ha might think that she's saying in the lyrics (so I'm extracting "blah blah blah" from the idea that Ke$ha may be making a comment on partying [which she may well be doing; I haven't gotten that far in figuring her out; but blah blah blah as party enhancer supersedes any commentary that it may contain, is my point] - this was in reaction to Dave and Sabina's and Erika's focus yesterday, which is a fine focus, but isn't fundamental to what I was reacting to in "Blah Blah Blah").

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

Ha ha, isn't this what Sonic Youth (as "Ciccone Youth") were blatantly trying to do on their "Into The Groovey" 7-inch? And much as I hate to say it, from my current vantage point, they did it a lot better. (Though if I was actually hearing either "Sex Bomb" or "Into The Groove" in "Blah Blah Blah" I might think otherwise. Honestly, musically my favorite part of the song might actually be those repeated jolts of metal guitar noise that sound like they're being turntabled in in that aforementioned first 18 seconds. My ears tell me they disappear after that, but maybe they just become more subtle, and I'll notice them later. Though, the way people describe this song, subtlety should not be an issue.)

The girl who put the FUN back into dysfunctional

OK, now, POTENTIAL INSIGHT!

Both Ke$ha and Ying Yang Twins are making a big thing of their behavior's dysfunction as part of what makes it fun. Ying Yang Twins: "Got so drunk he fucked the floor! FUCKED THE FLOOR? Yeah, fucked the floor." But my initial impression (more from reading what others are saying than from my own research into and pondering of the matter), is that Ke$ha is willing to wave DYSFUNCTION as a banner, not in sadness but in pride for how far over the edge she'll go, while for the Ying Yangs it's the over the top and onto the floor FUN that they're waving. The Ying Yangs are regular old partying taken to extremes, while Ke$ha is EXTREME PARTYING.

Do you think that holds as a distinction?

Re: The girl who put the FUN back into dysfunctional

I'd agree that Ke$ha is doing something that is not "regular old partying," but I'm not sure I'd call the distinction "Extreme Partying" by any means. She hasn't pushed partying into some new area, but rather approaches partying from a bizarre vantage point, from which partying becomes "partying." Part of my fascination with her is that I still hear a party even though logic is telling me that she doesn't quite understand what a party actually is. And it's in this disconnect that I'm projecting something like sadness (here is someone rendered pathetic by their pursuit for fun -- someone who doesn't really sound like they're having any fun at all).

There's a kind of alchemy happening, wherein the content that tells me that this person has no understanding of actual joy beyond accidental weirdness or cliche (which is not something I'd ever claim of Ying Yang Twins) is still inspiring actual joy in me. There's a difference from the other Lukeites, who sound like they're dressing up (poorly, in my opinion, but that's not really the relevant thing) -- there's no "other thing" (depth thing) to compare Ke$ha to, hence this weird character just kind of sits there in the center of everything. She neither invites nor discourages the party, it just happens around her.

Re: The girl who put the FUN back into dysfunctional

Instead of "extreme partying," maybe... well, I think what I'm trying to get at is that she is willing to go to any lengths and suffer any consequences to have her party, and then try to make that seem like a virtue, make the vomit the symbol of the good time. (If that's true. Still haven't delved into the words much.) A crack ho also goes to any lengths, but probably doesn't parade then parade the degradation as an emblem of the experience's fun and value. (Well, I wouldn't know. Haven't done a survey of crack ho's recently.)

So, what would be the right term for what seems a determinedly low-rent way of going to any lengths and suffering any consequences to have her party, and then trying to make that a virtue, the vomit being the symbol of the good time?

("Hungover" wouldn't fit this, but it's mediocre, so let's forget it.)

Re: The girl who put the FUN back into dysfunctional

And significantly, the vomiting doesn't symbolize "suffering" or "depth." (Or anyway, I don't take it that it's supposed to symbolize suffering or depth.)

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