August 13, 2009, 10:06 AM
By Matt Sullivan
Kesha Sebert doesn't want to be Britney Spears. Sure, the honest-to-badness 22-year-old offered her come-on-come-on vocals to Spears's "Lace and Leather" and, much more notably, to rapper Flo Rida's chart-topping "Right Round." But the age of pop innocence that took Spears from teenage schoolgirl to tabloid "it" girl disintegrated precisely because Spears and her Top 40 spawn allowed themselves to be oversexed by a disintegrating industry.
Sebert, who goes unabashedly by KE$HA (the not-so-subtle dollar sign flashes up and down her MySpace page not-so-subtle URL: myspace.com/KeshaIsHot), does not care to feign innocence. Her new solo songs are as straightforward as those of, say, Katy Perry (with whom she did a video), only without metaphor or filter. The running theme of one track is literally how she vomited in Paris Hilton's closet. And this from a young woman who, at 17, dropped out of a flight school on track to Columbia University.
So this weekend at Lollapalooza, where she commanded a kind of tractor beam to the tiniest of side stages (maybe it was those torn-to-shreds tights above, or what she not-so-subtly calls "dance-party fucking magic"), KE$HA didn't so much as bat a star-spangled eyelid at the idea of Spears as role model. "I think I have a really strong sense of exactly who and what I am," she said, swigging a beer. "And I think as long as I hold onto that and don't let any of the other bullshit seep in, I'll be alright."
If she isn't sitting pretty enough already, some more of those torn-to-shreds tights couldn't hurt.
ESQUIRE: So you're more or less on your own now. Has it been tough making a name for yourself under the auspices of a force like Flo Rida? Is it hard to be treated like a backup singer when you have a very forceful personality and sound of your own?
KE$HA: Well, he definitely has been mostly rap, and this is the most electronic dance record he's done, so hopefully people will attribute that somewhat to me once they're aware of my style of music. Plus, it was a big song worldwide, so I mean, I really don't mind it. They wanted me in the video, and I said, "Nah, I want to make my own name for myself."
ESQ: You're from Nashville, and now you're out in L.A. a fixture in this huge, conglomerate, label-heavy music scene. How does that translate?
KE$HA: I've always been loud and obnoxious and sneaking my way into things, and so I feel like I've snuck my way onto the Lollapalooza lineup, and I'm going to sneak my way into whatever else I get to do. Because really I'm just telling stories about the stupid shit I do.
ESQ: Really? What's your songwriting process like?
KE$HA: Okay, for instance, I have a song on my record called "Steven" I've been stalking this guy since I was fifteen, so it's a song about Steven: "Why won't you call me?" I have a song I wrote the other night called "Take It Off" about when I went to a drag show, and how really turned on I was by these transvestite men taking clothes off. I was like, What does that even make me?
I'll usually go out, have one fucking insane night, come home half-drunk, stumbling, and write down a few words. The next morning I'll wake up and be like, Whoa, this story needs to be told. Like this single I have out right now, called "TiK ToK": One morning I just woke up, and I live in this house with I-don't-even-know-how-many roommates it's this Laurel Canyon house with seven rooms and roommates fluctuating monthly.
ESQ: And what, exactly, is going on there?
KE$HA: Well it was the house The Eagles recorded Hotel California in. So it's just this huge hippy... There are a bunch of hippies who come in and out, and there are all these people sleeping on the couches. I don't really care, I don't mind it. But I woke up one day after we went to a party, and I was surrounded by ten of the most beautiful women you've ever seen. And I was like, I'm like P. Diddy there's no man like this in the entire world. So that became the first line of the new single, and we just went from there. It's a daily process in my life.
ESQ: Is it hard to concentrate living with beautiful women crawling around your bed at night?
KE$HA: No, it's inspiring. Bring 'em on!
ESQ: Okay, but it must be difficult to be such a beautiful, single woman in such a big, bustling L.A. music scene.
KE$HA: I like to admire. I'm a fan of beauty, so it's not hard for me. But I think a lot of people can get wrapped up in comparing themselves. And that's when the tragic downfall comes, because there will always be someone more beautiful.
ESQ: So how do you avoid tragedy? Like I said, you're kind of pigeonholed almost, clearly by the MTVs of the world, whatever people are making you out to be. Does the music speak for itself? You certainly do.
KE$HA: I hope so. I just filmed a viral video for my song "Backstabber" with a bunch of trannies...
ESQ: You seem to have a tranny thing.
KE$HA: I have this... It's like my new pick. I'm really fascinated by them. Because I feel like my music stands for the ultimate statement of irreverence. "We don't give a fuck/we don't give a fuck" is one of the lines in the song, and it's true: Me and my friends, no matter how beautiful or not, it's just whatever. So I see these transvestites who are in my video, and I went to one of the drag shows, and I was like, That's taking it to a whole new level.
ESQ: Speaking of new levels, there seems to have been this mass acceptance of the electro scene, which was kind of thrown under the bus for a while as some crazy Euro shit. But it's almost got a pop sensibility now. Will that work for you as much as everything else has?
KE$HA: I like that I reached a lot of people I wouldn't have reached had I not been on this [Flo Rida] song. But it's also exactly the kind of music I do. But I'm a bit of a chameleon anyway.
ESQ: So no regrets.
KE$HA: No, none. Never.