Ke$ha, ‘Take it Off’ (Please)

Posted on August 30, 2010

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Ke$ha has always made me feel slightly sick, and her latest single ‘Take it Off’ makes me so sick at heart that I’m close to convinced it’s the worst pop record I’ve heard in years.

While the video’s not on YouTube, and for those who haven’t seen it, the basic premise of it is:  “When we go out we go fucking buck wild and throw paint about and drink some. Gone are the days where we must remain within our frat-sorority houses with our red plastic cups and chong from our friends’ big brother’s spring breaks to Jamaica. We are not the children of American Pie IV, we are something new! Take to the streets, beneath them lies the beach (dude)!” The new school then. Now throw in some bopping college kids, further wildness, some empty bottles strewn about and what-not, and lyrics about sexual stuff and drinking, and you’ve got it made.

Rafiki's been at it again

There’s a place downtown,                                                                                                      Where the freaks all come around,                                                                                              It’s a hole in the wall,                                                                                                                     It’s a dirty free for all.

We’re off to the club. The freaks are all coming around, etc. –

Although Prodigy came out a good few years ago now, (and really haven’t aged well since), there’s appears to be some necessity in presenting club culture in all its wildness with the visual aid of gas masks, Mohican barnets and lots of studded, leather clothing. (These can all be found in the latest videos by the new school.) Fair enough, if you go to Fabric you’ll see people with eyes all pupils, in suits, and you just can’t work out what they do during the week; are they really like this all of the time?; jaw-churning eyebrow-chewing corporate businessman. And yes, if you go to a dance festival you will see the most absurd characters – But all the punk business, as if that’s the only way to present rebellion-plus-music? But anyway, Ke$ha, go on.

When the dark,                                                                                                                                 Of the night,                                                                                                                             Comes around,                                                                                                                         That’s the time,                                                                                                                          That the animal comes alive,                                                                                                Looking for something wild.

Primal. Ke$ha’s album is called Animal incidentally. Out in all good record stores, now.

There’s a place I know,                                                                                                                     If you’re looking for a show,                                                                                                        Where they go hardcore,                                                                                                             And there’s glitter on the floor.

More dancefloor madness, apparently. Not only are people going ‘hardcore’, but ‘hardCORR’ on the ‘flORR’ in an American whine near-impalatable to some ears. Oh, and there’s glitter on the floor too.

Ke$ha first got big after singing backing vocals on Flo-Rida’s ‘Right Round’ last year. After his half-decent third single – ‘Jump’ – Flor-Rida has gone much the same way as the rest of his new school contemporaries, that’s to say, much worse. Will.I.AM., after his second duet with Cheryl Cole – ‘3 Words’ – a sublime house-pop single only bettered by Swedish House Mafioso Steve Angello’s remix, I.AM. has persevered in putting out songs that supposedly combine the euphoria of house with his more usual hip-hop sensibilities.

So over the last couple of years hip-hop and R’n’B artists have begun to put out records almost exclusively for club consumption, and unlike the more illicit fruits on offer in that institution, this is like the straightest, most deadening mephedrone you’d ever had the misfortune of putting up your snout. Dance music without any feeling, a mere reflection of the most mediocre dance cultures. Vapid lyrics only surpassed by the production. As well as a near-ideological use of vocoder (extremist vocoderism), the cut-up looping production that characterises cheap Nineties (Galaxy FM) house is everywhere in the new school. It sounds so dated and amateur. At the start of Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Rock That Body’ video – which is a shocking attempt at Justice’s old sound, disco bass and all – Will.I.AM proudly presents the rest of the band with his new toy, some production equipment that makes everything really easy and electronic! Fergie then storms out ‘cos it’s gotta be about the music, William. Whether this is supposed to be satire aimed at other producers, or is ironic, it’s not really important because they’ve still completely missed the point. Will.I.AM’s new toy is in fact his new production style. His latest work sounds like a kid finding an old Casio keyboard-sampler under the stairs and bashing it about while he’s so high on Dib-Dabs to dig what he’s doing at all. Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-yeah.

Uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-no.

We should remember that the British club-hip-hop blend has produced some wildly different results. As well as Dizzee Rascal’s unavoidable rise to national treasuredom, Tinchy Stryder, Wiley and to a lesser extent Roll Deep, have satisfied chart, club and critical audiences with a music that slickly positions itself in the traditions of transatlantic house music. Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Holiday’, ‘Dance Wiv Me’, his sample of ‘Dirty Cash (Money Talks)’; Calvin Harris’ ‘Ready for the Weekend’ and Tinchy Stryder’s ‘In My System’ and sampling of Olive’s ‘You’re Not Alone’ are all steps forward, not back. (Not that this is universal – the less said about that incorrigible smoothie, Taio Cruz, the better.) If American hip-hop wants to put out music that’s got hedonism, euphoria and dances, then house music is more the way to go about it, rather than the current godawful Eurotrance-with-a-little-rap-and-some-nice-female-backing-vocals-on-the-top. It’s backward, cheap and dumb as hell. Not to say Americans can’t do dance – this isn’t an article written on nationalist fervour – for there wouldn’t be a British house tradition to call upon and sample at all if it wasn’t for Detroit, Chicago and New York.

It’s high time that club R’n’B and “dance” music stopped mucking about with each other. They can complement each other, and so often do – the history of music over the past thirty years features the Wilsonian (Tony’s) double helix theory, where two genres meet and things get good again – but let’s just hope that’s not too far away.

In the meantime –

Drink up kids, time to get home.

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Posted in: Music