Yesterday, my esteemed colleague Kate $pencer wrote a passionate Defen$e of Ke$ha. Her basic thesis was that Twitter Nation shouldn’t have gotten so up in arms over Ke$ha’s performance on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live because she’s little more than a living, breathing embodiment of today’s disappointing pop music scene. In other words, she’s exactly the kind of pop star that America deserves in the year 2010. While there is certainly a discussion to be had about the overall quality of the music that makes up Casey’s Top 40 the iTunes Top 10 these days, we’ll table that discussion for another time. Instead, I’m going to attempt to help explain why people reacted so viscerally to the day-glo nightmare that was Ke$ha’s SNL performance.
As I see it, there are three main components as to why this performance irritated so many of us and did the same thing to my eyes and ears that Ipecac does to one’s stomach:
1) Her Warbly Pipes: When Jay-Z declared the “Death of Auto-Tune” on The Blueprint 3 last year, most of America initially rejoiced. Sure, if his wish came true, it would mean a swift end to T-Pain‘s career, but we looked at it this way: In order to make an omelette, you gotta break a few eggs, right? But from the opening a cappella moments of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”, we immediately began regretting throwing our support behind Sean Carter’s musical movement, for if anyone ever needed saving from this particular ProTools effect, it was Ke$ha and her irritating Valley Girl affect (ugh, the way she enunciated her vowels!). Just how ear-splitting were her vocals, exactly? Well, if Randy Jackson were to describe them as being “pitchy,” he’d actually be giving her a compliment. Even Taylor Swift at the Grammys mistook Ke$ha’s off-key warbling for a cat howling in an alleyway.
2) Her Ill-Conceived Appropriation of the American Flag: Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some tea partying flag prude or anything. I support artistic freedom when it comes to Betsy Ross‘s creation, particularly when it involves Heather Graham writhing around on top of a van as a means of saluting Old Glory. However, I felt that Ke$ha’s decision to perform with an American flag on stage while wearing an American flag cape made her look less like a superhero of the pop charts and more like someone who doesn’t quite grasp what the flag stands for and symbolizes, particularly in this city. “Tik Tok” is an unapologetic ode to crass materialism and faux-edgy hedonism, which are two things we FABLifers winkingly condone, but the decision to wear an American flag while singing about brushing your teeth with Jack Daniels is something that even Kid Rock would think better of. And if you’re going to position yourself in this way, that’s cool, but at least OWN it and don’t come out for your next song dressed like a combination between a candy raver and a Na’vi, especially when your performance is a stylistic rip-off.
3) SNL’s Music Bookers Are Better Than This: This was perhaps my biggest beef with the whole shebang. Sure, Saturday Night Live isn’t exactly known as being a showcase reserved exclusively for musical virtuosos — *cough*, Ashlee Simpson, *cough* — but the show has always prided itself on exhibiting some semblance of taste when it comes to scheduling its acts. Yes yes, the Black Eyed Peas were booked just a few months ago, but their appearance can be easily rationalized: What they lack in critical cred they more than make up for in both career sales and longevity. When it comes to Ke$ha, though, if you asked a ouija board if she will be around three years from now, it will return the answer “All signs point to no.” And while it’s kind of hard to complain about a show that has already scheduled the eclectic (yet still commercially friendly) likes of Vampire Weekend, Regina Spektor and Them Crooked Vultures this season, we see it this way: If you’re actively courting acts who are burning up the pop charts, why not book artists like Adam Lambert or Lady Antebellum?
Then again, even Ke$ha-bashers like me will quickly confess that the evening could’ve been much, much worse. After all, it could’ve been LMFAO. *Shudder*!