Let me start this rant with a disclaimer or two: I loathe Ke$ha (proof here and here). I find her party girl shtick tired and played and her music as unique and intriguing as a bucket of KFC chicken. That being said, I have downloaded two of her songs off of iTunes – “Tik Tok” and “Your Love Is My Drug” – and find them to be quite pleasurable to listen to while jogging in my local park. Cool? Cool.
Now, rarely would I ever put myself in the position of defending someone who celebrates brushing one’s teeth with Jack Daniels. For one thing, using alcohol in place of toothpaste is only going to lead to tooth decay and does little to cover up the stench of Camel Lights that surely embraces Ke$ha’s gums. Second, if I were to use booze as mouthwash, I’d go with something classy like a 50-year-old Macallan. Anyhoots, we all know Ke$ha is a warbling troll in a vintage T-shirt, but I was completely shocked at the meltdown the interwebs had over her Saturday Night Live performance this weekend. My Twitter exploded in Ke$ha-induced rage after her first song, with 140 character rants about her allegedly disastrous performance accusing her of everything from being drunk to sounding like a bad karaoke singer to ripping off Lady Gaga. I dropped what I was doing and ran home to my TiVo, fast-forwarding through the LOLs to experience what was surely Ke$ha stealing the crown for Biggest SNL Embarrassment from Ashlee Simpson‘s head.
And then…it wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was so not bad that I couldn’t figure out what people were so upset about. Sure, she made her band dress up like astronauts and fingered some lasers and rattled on about aliens before coming out in glow in the dark body paint. But so what? She sang live and on-key (actually, she has a pretty strong voice compared to other pop stars like the aforementioned Simpson, Britney Spears and the artist formerly known as Destiny Hope Cyrus), and while her two performances may never find a home at Lincoln Center, they held our attention and kept us entertained. So why is everyone falling all over each other to out-snark Ke$ha’s SNL stint?
People love having someone to sh*t on, and Ke$ha has become a pop culture punching bag for no good reason other than that there’s no one else out there to knock around. Miley is still too young, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey are too crazy, Taylor Swift is too perfect, Katy Perry is too boring, Rihanna is too awesome (and too off-limits thanks to Chris Brown), Beyonce too award-winning, and Lady Gaga too worshiped for singing mediocre dance tracks and piano-rock songs in crazy outfits (songs that are also on my Running Playlist).
But it’s wrong to go after one mediocre musician when American pop music is – and has always been – ‘meh’ quality at best. To try to suddenly act like we have standards when we’ve all been bopping our heads to Madonna‘s off-key crowing for 30 years just ain’t gonna fly. (And don’t give me that ‘but Madge is innovative!’ garbage. She hasn’t really been relevant since her Sex book came out in ’92.) Why do the Black Eyed Peas, who were terrible on SNL and have made millions simply for rhyming “you” with “do,” not get trashed on a daily basis? What do those two dudes who aren’t Fergie and Will.I.Am do besides stand onstage?
Lady Gaga is really only as innovative as her outfits, and the fact that we’re blown away by someone who can play piano in a bubble dress while ignoring the obscene product placement in her “Telephone” video is a telling sign of just how bad things have gotten. Ke$ha is not ruining our current musical culture – she’s a reflection of what it’s become. Face it, America: 2009’s national past time was a stumpy Italian girl named Snooki. We’ve been begging for someone like Ke$ha to come along and amuse us with her simple, catchy tunes and dumb girl antics and thus we’ve gotten what we deserve: junk food music that goes down easy and leaves wanting more, even if it’s bad for our cultural health.
Which leads me to my conclusion: maybe we are the aliens, guys. Think about it.