If I were an obstinate 16-year-old girl, I’d probably love Ke$ha.
Her songs are dirty enough that my parents would be disgusted by them (naturally causing me to gravitate toward her), but shallow enough that I wouldn’t have to put a whole lot of pesky thought into the lyrics.
So it comes as little surprise that the notoriously party- and glitter-loving pop star’s concert at the NC Music Factory’s Uptown Amphitheatre was filled Thursday night with scores of 16-year-olds, as well as lots of twenty-somethings with 16-year-old mentalities, along with a good number of younger girls who ... well, who really shouldn’t have been there.
Of course, I’m not 16, and I’m not a girl. I’m a 39-year-old man. And as a 39-year-old man, I struggle a bit with what Ke$ha thinks makes for a good show: stripper poles; frequent, insipid references to both male and female genitalia; simulated sex acts employing props ranging from whipped cream to motorcycles.
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If it was supposed to be titillating, it wasn’t. The presentation wasn’t sophisticated enough. When she smirked and said, “Now would you please all take your (blank) out and (blank) your neighbor,” there was nothing sexy about it.
At the same time, there’s something weirdly courageous about her unabashed approach to sexuality. If you’re going to put it all out there, so to speak, might as well do it with gusto.
Ke$ha lacks sophistication, sure. But she’s got enthusiasm in spades.
As such, a chilled-out rendition of 2010 hit “Take It Off” featuring two bearded male cross-dressers writhing on a stripper pole evoked a laugh. Her charged-up “Gold Trans Am” – a newer single that’s a thinly veiled reference to her private parts – climaxed with the singer using a power grinder to make sparks fly off her metal belt; it was so stupid it was funny.
And the piece de resistance came late. 2010’s “Your Love Is My Drug” was a buffet of crazy, as the stage filled with a giant inflatable pink hippo, giant inflatable stockinged legs, an inflatable killer whale, roller-skating cross-dressers, a rainbow-colored child-size Ford Mustang, streamers, beach balls, and a guy in a unicorn mask.
No rational explanation existed for any of this, or for the instruction she gave the crowd in the break between that song and monster hit “TiK ToK”: “Now is when you take your boobs out.”
I didn’t see a single taker. Possibly because fans were too busy randomly tossing handfuls of glitter into the air and at each other (yes, the kind that gets stuck in the furthest corners of your body and doesn’t completely come out for seven and a half months). Or too busy laughing at the rotund, Santa hat- and beard-wearing dude who used a leaf blower to clear confetti from the stage during her costume changes.
Or too busy trying to guess when Ke$ha was actually singing live (answer: not very often).
But it’s clear that she was having fun up there. She moved through choreographed routines well – better than Britney Spears last time I saw her – and she tossed her hair back and forth with as much bravado as Taylor Swift on her best day. She’s crass, yet not at all mean-spirited; even when she’s taking boys down in her music, she’s flirting with them.
For better or worse, Ke$ha speaks to the obstinate 16-year-old girl in all of us.
Sorry, Mom and Dad.