Chasing the Shitegeist: Ke$ha – TiK ToK

<Another post from ‘The Grain’>

The Party's Over.... I Hope

Like many people, I suppose, I admit to getting a little swept away with the ‘new-broom-sweeps-clean’ rhetoric that has surrounded the recent change of decade. We all bashed the hell out of the noughties, despaired at its frivolity and then moved on, wide eyed, to face the future. However, a typically untimely Spotify advert[1] for the song (and album) in question here, served as a healthy reminder to me that the brave new world we all hoped had descended upon us may, in some cultural quarters, may be a little delayed.

This song – TiK ToK by Kesha – came out some six months ago but, being a cultural hermit, I’ve only recently heard it with the promotion for her recent album. I can confidently say that this song contains some of the most odious lyrics ever written – lyrics that conjure up some sort of dreadful hangover of the worst dregs of the previous decade – the non-stop partying, the celebration of celebrity, of ‘not taking things too seriously’ (least of all one’s self). In a strange and horrific way, it almost feels like a pastiche – or worse, a homage – to the party girl (Paris Hilton et al[2]) ethos. Jesus, has post-modernity caught up with itself to the point where the ‘current’ from only a few years ago is now the subject matter of loving nostalgia?! One hopes that, in fact, Kesha’s song is actually a hopeless hangover – a relic before it has even outlived its own lifespan. One hopes.

So, to the lyrics. Now I freely admit that lyrics are something of a fetish for me, and bad lyrics are something of a personal; ‘bête noire’. TiK ToK has a number of lyrics that really get my blood boiling. In this company, Jason Mraz is made to look like Oscar fucking Wilde. Here are a couple of examples:

Wake up in the morning feeling like P Diddy

Grab my glasses, I’m out the door, I’m going to hit this city

Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack

‘cause when I leave for the night I ain’t coming back

Where to begin? A deep breath and a count to ten probably. Actually, the more I read these lyrics, the more I listen to the song, the more I just feel sorry for Kesha. Everything is just so out of date with it – it’s unfashionable (and this is coming from someone who was seriously considering buying a pair of bottle green, corduroy flares the other day… from eBay). Firstly, the references. P Diddy. P Diddy! That’s a cultural reference that would have been dubious even five years ago! Similarly, the reference to Jack Daniels seems stilted, strangely from another time. It doesn’t sound ‘real’, and certainly doesn’t sound contemporary.

However, it’s the second verse that tips the lyrical content from clumsy, juvenile – shite even, into outright offensiveness:

‘Ain’t got a care in the world, but got plenty of beer

Ain’t got no money in my pocket, but I’m already here

And now the dudes are lining up ‘cause they hear we got swagger

But we kick ‘em to the kerb, unless they look like Mick Jagger’


Unless the y look like Mick Jagger?! What? 70 years old and made out of fold of cured animal hide? Why on earth reference Mick Jagger, save for the obvious rhyming couplet? And whilst this is not a gripe aimed exclusively at this song, did it become a good thing not to care about things? Why shouldn’t you take yourself seriously? I know it sounds like a textbook ‘grumpy old man’ thing to say, and I’ll stop before I get to ‘in my day’ or ‘what message is it sending to our children’ territory, but this is exactly the sort of surface-skimming fear of being intellectual – no, not even that, a fear of being self-reflexive for even a moment – that I had hoped we would see the back of in this new decade.

There are other little tell-tale, irksome signifiers littered throughout this song that again place it as an already stale product. Firstly, the protagonist spells her name with a dollar sign. Need any more be said? Then there’s the obvious, over-use of auto tune. Kesha obviously didn’t get Jay Z’s invitation to the wake. Then there’s the reference to the Black Eye Peas (another cultural reference that seems hopelessly outdated) in a lyrics that seems frankly sinister in its laissez-faire matter-of-fact-ness: “boys trying to touch my junk, junk”.

Perhaps most noticeable in this song’s confusing presentation is the accent. It sounds, even to these English ears, a contrived amalgamation of ‘fashionable’ American accents. So we hear a ludicrously over-the-top New York drawl in the first verse, on worlds such as ‘door’, ‘morning’, ‘before’ etc. So over the top is this accent affectation, that it brings to mind Kyle’s mum in South Park, rather than some New York hipster. Then, in the bridge, Kesha switches coast, becoming one of the aforementioned Orange County party girls. Words such as ‘toes’ and ‘clothes’ being sung with such a heavy accent as to be all but unintelligible.

So, here’s a song that sounded out of date even before it was released. Is this song a relic of the era just gone, a continuation of this same era (and corresponding ethos of the perpetual search for ephemeral ‘fun’ at all costs) or indeed a nostalgic look back (already) at this era? Let us hope it is the former.


[1] As spotify themselves are keen to remind me (over and over and over again), they only pick adverts that will appeal to the listener, based on their listening history. I’m not sure what heinous musical crime I must have committed to get this advert played at me – maybe listening to Jojo on constant repeat was a bad idea!

[2] Paris Hilton is indeed name checked on the album ‘animal’ – in a lyric that references vomiting in her closet – shudder on that image!

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