Ten ... make that 8 minutes with Ke$ha
02:30 PM, Aug 21, 2013
If you go
What: Ke$ha, pop-rock rapper Mike Posner and glam pop act Semi Precious Weapons.
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center, on the campus of Finger Lakes Community College, near Canandaigua.
Tickets: $29.50, $39.50 and $49.50 for the pavilion; $25 for lawn seating the day of the show ($20 in advance) at ticketmaster.com, (800) 745-3000 and the Blue Cross Arena box office.
The machinery of stardom doesn’t do anyone any favors. Case in point: Ke$ha.
I inquire about an interview. Here’s a 26-year-old phenom whose first release, “Tik Tok,” is the second highest-selling single in digital history. She’s not doing many interviews, her handlers say. But they’ll try to squeeze me in, since her tour is here Sunday at Constellation Brands-Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center. They offer 10 minutes on the phone with the controversial electro-pop star. Normally I get 20, sometimes longer. Johnny Cash talked to me for 40 minutes. Some ramble on for an hour. I’ve even had musicians call me back. “I forgot to mention the old-growth trees!” said Natalie Merchant.
OK, maybe I can get it done in 10 minutes. An hour before last week’s scheduled interview, I get an email. It’s to be a conference call. I groan. Loudly. Two things I avoid: sending questions via email for the musician or his/her publicist to answer at their leisure, and conference calls. I conceded to a conference call some years ago with Roger Waters, ex of Pink Floyd. I’m not Rolling Stone it was the only way I could get to him. It was five radio guys and me. One of them actually prefaced a question with, “I’m a card-carrying member of the Roger Waters fan club …”
So you know that’s going to be a hard-hitting session.
But I go ahead with the Ke$ha conference call because I’m not Seventeen; it’s the only way to get to her. I place the call and dial in the conference-call code. I’m on the line immediately and discover that it’s not a true conference call, but a string of writers calling in, one after another. I’m eavesdropping. The guy in line ahead of me sounds young. He’s asking Ke$ha what she likes to drink. She doesn’t mention urine. There’s a YouTube video of her riding in a van with her band where she’s supposedly drinking her own urine out of a bottle. Instead, she says, “I’m a Southern girl, so I like whiskey.” She says she also likes her tequila.
“OK, I guess that’s all the questions I have for you,” the kid says.
I’m up. Except Ke$ha disappears for a few moments. I hope this is not coming out of my 10 minutes. There’s a lot of ground to cover. She has a rap-talking style, and she kind of yodels. She uses a lot of Auto-Tune, the rapper’s best friend. Her shows are obscenity-laced and sexually provocative. Her new line of jewelry is modeled after male genitals. She surrounds her right eye with makeup inspired by the film A Clockwork Orange. She’s an animal rights activist. But as it’s the 21st century, I don’t consider a person professing to be bisexual to be a news angle anymore, unless it’s a Republican congressman.
Ke$ha’s back on the line. I ask if she’s really the outrageous character I’ve been reading about.
“I don’t read any of my press, it just makes me depressed,” she says. “It’s mostly untrue.”
What aspects of your personality should we know about?
“That I meditate and do yoga.”
I ask about her pre-concert meditative practices.
“I do my warrior goddess chant to get ready to do the best performance that I can.”
I know Ke$ha was raised in California, and then Nashville by a single mom who wrote songs. “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You,” that was one of mom’s. While working as a waitress, Ke$ha wrote and sang background vocals for Katy Perry, Britney Spears and Flo Rida. I ask her what kind of music she enjoys.
“I love making pop music, but it’s not my kind of music,” she says. “Offstage, I listen to records, but I don’t really listen to pop radio at all. I mostly listen to one of a very few records I bring along on tour. I like vinyl; I think it’s really sexy.” OK, so Ke$ha has a turntable on the tour bus. She says she has vinyl records by Iggy Pop, T-Rex and Al Green.
I ask Ke$ha if she’s annoyed by people who declare her to be overly manufactured, but ignore the fact that she had to fight to get to the factory. “I grew up in hard times,” she says. “In the beginning of my life, we lived on food stamps, I never could afford to shop at The Gap. Everything seemed incredibly expensive.
“I think people say whatever they want. There are people that love me, people that hate me. Trust me, I’ve heard it all. I concentrate on the people who are my supporters.”
A disembodied voice is on the line. “Wrap it up, Jeff.”
“A couple of more …”
One? Better be good. Ke$ha confirms that it’s true that she wrote more than 200 songs for her first album. “It was therapeutic for me, writing about anything negative breakups, people cheating on me, people stealing my car and turning it into a pop song.”
The stolen car part is from her song “Backstabber,” a vituperative rant against an ex-friend. “Damn, Jeanie,” she sings, “why you gotta tell the secrets about my sex life?”
“It’s my way of making the best I can out of a bad situation,” Ke$ha says.
And that’s it. I look at the clock. Eight minutes. No time at all to explore the rumor that Ke$ha is actually a startlingly smart woman who, as a high-schooler, used to sneak into lectures on the Cold War at the local college, had a near-perfect SAT score and is now playing us all for saps by writing ridiculously bad but catchy songs and getting away with it.