Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tik-Toxic: Is Kesha Nashville's Heir to Britney Spears' Throne?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 3:55 PM

Check it out: Justin Kase on Ellen!
I've gotta say, seeing 2010 start with Rush Limbaugh suffering from chest pains in a Hawaiian hospital has given me high hopes for what new and exciting prospects lie waiting in the decade ahead. Another notable happening to mark the start of the tweens is the overnight success of a local(?) diva. At press time, it's Jan. 6 and, so far, the artist of the decade is (drum roll, please) Kesha. I know, I know, we spilled ink on L'il Miss Jack Daniels breath as recently as yesterday, but that's how you treat an artist of the decade, right? With her hit "Tik Tok," Kesha has the first single to top the Billboard Hot 100 in 2010--as well as setting a sales record on iTunes. What I find amusing about Kesha is that she seems to have started her artistic career where Britney Spears' shit the bed, fast-tracking past the pop-princess beginnings and delving head-first into Federline-era trash-pop and the embrace of adult excess. In this piece, posted today on The Awl, writer David Cho makes a compelling case--albeit somewhat premature--for Kesha as a potential heir to Britney Spears' throne. But is there really a vacancy? Britney Spears spent the last decade trying to make the jump from Debbie Gibson of the '90s to Madonna of the 21st century. As the entire Western world knows, things went uproariously awry and--between shaved heads and shattered childhoods--Spears was reduced to nothing more than an interminable tabloid sideshow. Or was she? Despite the chart failure of her later-aughts singles, and public perception that her creative career was in the shitter, Spears' 2009 tour grossed $82.5 million, ranking 4th on Pollstar's list of the top 50 grossing tours of the year, beating out artists such as Celine Dion, Keith Urban, Coldplay, The Jonas Brothers, Metallica, Paul McCartney and The Eagles. Couple that with the influence of her bad-girl crash-and-burn persona and it seems pretty apparent that--judging by Kesha's Cape Canaveral-style blast-off--Britney Spears is a far more influential artist than I ever anticipated. If there was ever an icon who made the world safe for Ke$ha, it's Britney. I can only describe Kesha's "Tik Tok" as an amalgam of all the latter-Aughts Top 40 trends: high-end department store beatz, Auto-Tune ad nauseam, club-life bravado and harsh attacks of synthesizers with no guitars or other acoustic instruments anywhere in sight. It's not too far removed from Spears' 2007 chart-flopper "Gimme More." While Kesha is an artist that clearly embodies the zeitgeist of pop-music production trends, I struggle to justify why I'm spending my time devoting right brain activity to such McDonald's-ized auditory what-have-you such as "Tik Tok," when there's still an Aerosmith out there to topple and Springsteen songs I haven't heard yet. The reason, of course, is that--tenuous as it may be--there is a Nashville connection, meaning that I can't treat this like I do most contemporary pop sludge and pretend it doesn't exist. Since the success of Paramore and Kings of Leon has sparked in an unending debate over whether or not we should--as Nashville's music scene--embrace successful Nashville non-country acts with proprietary allegiance, or simply call diamonds diamonds and spades spades, I think we might as well just clear the air and decide now how we're going to deal with the potential phenomenon--or phenomenal failure (time will tell which it's gonna be)--of Kesha right here and now. She may very well end up changing the image of Nashville from a singularly country music bastion to a hotbed of white-trash-electro Top 40. So my question to you is this: Do we claim her or not? Should we love or hate her because she's connected to Nashville? Is she a potential flagship artist or a potential embarrassment? Is Brentwood, Tenn., the new L.A. (or Kentwood, La.)? *Note: If Kesha's Cape Canavarel blast-off ends up being more like The Challenger than Apollo 11, this article will be hilariously dated in a few years time.

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