Consequences? Bring ‘em on!

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Today we’re looking at Ke$ha.

Typically, pop songs are well-crafted, well-sung. This one isn’t. Why? It’s all part of the message and the image. Kesha deliberately understates her looks, dresses down, and doesn’t bother auto-tuning the trailer park out of her voice.

But it’s still huge. There’s a reason it’s used in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid commercial, my first brush with this song. Why? It’s instructional. What it teaches you is how to cast a spell. This is arcane magic we’re learning here. Mumble some words, wave your hands, transform reality. You don’t have to be hot, you don’t have to be able to sing. Kesha goes downstairs to scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and her mom drops breakfast on the floor. Is it because she’s dressed like a hooker? She does have a really short skirt on.

But she’s not dressed like a hooker. She’s not dressed for the boys at all. Guys don’t care about bangles and eyeliner. They’ll pretend they do, but really they just want to see how big your boobs look. No, she’s dressed for the girls. She’s got boots on. High heels advertise sex. Flats advertise sensibility. Boots are a raised middle finger.

Nope, it’s because of her “I don’t give a rip” attitude. That they follow her out and stare while she leaves is just part of her fantasy. She’s ready to party, and the party starts and ends with her. “Consequences? So?” It’s not that the consequences don’t apply, they do. She just doesn’t care. She wants the consequences to happen. Consequences are fun. The po-po can shut her down, all she’s going to do is steal the cuffs and flaunt them to all her friends. She can sleep in a bathtub every night for all she cares.

She’s not trying to get anywhere, she’s not trying to do anything. The boys can line up, offering what boys do, money, looks. She just rolls her eyes and picks the one who doesn’t give a rip. He’s just like her, he’s not trying to get anywhere, just living for the present. Reveling in the pure joy of going against the grain and letting haters hate.

These are the ingredients you need to cast this spell. Just go with it. Take whatever happens and fit it into your fantasy. Fit the fantasy around the circumstances.

What’s the point of the bridge? “You build me up, you break me down.” These are the keys to her heart. She doesn’t care what you do with her so long as everything you’re doing is aimed at her. She’s just going to fit whatever you do into her fantasy. She doesn’t want to be bored. Don’t ply her with money or sex, because these things aren’t interesting to her. She’s anything but promiscuous. Offer her a good time. Take her to get her mani-pedi while in your Mick Jagger getup and blast annoying music from your car to entertain her with while she’s in there.

Maybe she’s having sex at all these parties she goes to, maybe she isn’t. Maybe she even has more sex than Nelly. Reality and facts are not part of the construction materials needed for an identity. Whether she gives you the time of day or not will hinge on whether you can spot what it is she’s looking for.

And that’s why the video’s so big. You don’t need looks to cast this spell, it works whether you’re hot or ugly, male or female. You can take everything crappy that’s ever happened to you, turn it around and wear it like a badge of pride. Flaunt your cuffs. And the second you do that, you’ve cast the spell. People will flock to you, drawn in by your strong sense of self. And people will hate you for it too. Doesn’t matter, they both feed right back into the spell and make it stronger. 

Related posts:

  1. Born Which Way?
  2. WSJ to Women: Only Have Sex With Winners
  3. Promiscuous Boy, Get to the Point

About Napsterbater

You're not smarter than pop music.

36 Responses to Consequences? Bring ‘em on!

  1. DJames says:

    Always wondered why Ke$ha’s music seemed aimed at little kids—preteens and whatnot, definitely not listening to Miley Cyrus anymore.

    It’s the utterly childlike narcissism Ke$ha brings. The same attitude as a 5 year old (which has now become the default attitude of a 25 year old, but it’s okay, we’ve a treatment* for that). Thanks, Napsterbater.

    * The treatment is Facebook, where not urr-body is getting crunk, but everybody assumes urr-body else is getting crunk, and so therefore must assume crunkness. If you’re reading it, it may be for you—but if you imagine everyone ELSE is reading it, then you’d better pretend you are, too.

  2. bean says:

    AH! I should have tried this in high school! It would have all turned out so differently…

  3. Frozen says:

    - “Typically, pop songs are well-crafted, well-sung. This one isn’t. Why? It’s all part of the message and the image.”

    That is totally subjective. This song sounds pretty poppy to me. The lyrics are dumb, but so are most songs. I don’t see how this is worse than the “Hold it Against Me” Britney song – in terms of musical craftsmanship. Granted, I’m no connoisseur – then again, neither is the intended audience.

    – “She’s got boots on. High heels advertise sex. Flats advertise sensibility. Boots are a raised middle finger.”

    Cowgirl boots and short shorts are sex wrapped in more sex, in my opinion. I’ve never really seen this video before and was shocked at how much better Ke$ha (does anyone else feel like a dipshit writing it with a dollar sign?) looks than at any recent public appearance. I think attractiveness was definitely imbued into this video.

    As for your overall statement: “You don’t need looks to cast this spell, it works whether you’re hot or ugly, male or female. You can take everything crappy that’s ever happened to you, turn it around and wear it like a badge of pride. Flaunt your cuffs. And the second you do that, you’ve cast the spell. People will flock to you, drawn in by your strong sense of self. And people will hate you for it too. Doesn’t matter, they both feed right back into the spell and make it stronger.”

    It’s a half truth. There is no formula here for kids to follow. This is simply what kids (and most adults) WANT to believe. People want to believe that disregard for consequences and loudly being themselves will endear (or at least establish) them to others. It’s not how life works, it’s a fantasy – and that’s why this video succeeds. There is no magic recipe; goth kids will still be goth kids if they wear more black eye liner and cut more. And it’s worth noting that the reason people follow K in this video isn’t because of her “no rip attitude”, it’s because she is the center of the video – what everyone watching wants to be.

    This same fallacy is in your “Promiscuous” review. In the video, two other guys are working so hard for Nelly’s attention but Timbaland gets it because of his confidence and understanding. No work, just being. Again, this isn’t a guide for people to follow, it’s a fantasy – the protagonist gets the girl for no reason other than he’s the protagonist. Certainly confidence helps in the bar scene, but it won’t give the success rate seen in pop videos.

    These videos aren’t some new form of communication between young people. They are only guides to behavior in so far as any other piece of media is. They work on fantasy by showing us a world where everything works our way because it’s our world.

    These videos don’t teach, they dupe.

  4. Napsterbater says:

    Analysis is a subjective activity. And even though I don’t feel like it’s well crafted or sung, I still like the song and it makes regular rotation on my iPod. It’s fun.

    She’s attractive, in that she attracts a lot of attention. But in the video she’s not sexy. She can pull off sexy if she chooses to, the point is that she’s not choosing to.

    What you’re not getting here about the instructional aspects of the video is that in order to get it to work, you have to believe in it and not look down at it. If you approach pop music thinking you know better than it, of course it’s not going to affect you. You talk about success rate. What does that have to do with anything? Nobody expects to have their lives suddenly turn into a Britney video. But if they start paying attention to the craft of entertainment, which suffuses these videos, all of a sudden you start looking at them differently.

    • Frozen says:

      I think a lot of people, on some level or another approach these videos looking for something to emulate. In turn, a lot of these videos are influenced by what is popular in certain aspects of culture right now. That old debate asking if life imitates art or vice versa. The answer, like always, is somewhere in the middle. I believe pop videos tend to be the former; that is, they show a life many would like to emulate. That is often the goal.

      Nobody goes into a video thinking their lives will become like that. The problem is video after video passes, slowly wearing them down – and their life hasn’t changed a bit. Nor should it. If it is advice (once deconstructed), then it’s advice being shouted at all the members of some subgroup. The result should be little relative change among group members. And that’s assuming it’s advice that can be followed. It often can’t – the reason it works in videos is because the protagonist cannot fail, as they are the center of the universe.

      The more videos people watch the more they feel their life should somewhat mimic what is displayed. Things often go in the opposite direction (the older most people (I know) get, the more their life diverges from a music video). There are consequences for our actions that can’t be easily woven into our projected identities, there are others competing for the same things we are (who might be better) and real change takes lots of work.

      Pop videos can influence lives like “The Karate Kid” can influence a kid to become state champion. It’s nice to sit there and imagine; hell, it might even spur some action. But taking advice from an egocentric context and applying it to real life will often lead to more disappointment than anything else.

  5. Fifi says:

    There are different kinds of analysis, even when analyzing art or culture, it’s not all simply subjectivity and personal opinion. (Or I like it or I don’t like it.) Why not more honestly say that your own analysis of pop culture is purely subjective and personal? That way you’re clearly talking about what the video means to you personally (a reflection of your own psyche and personal symbolic language) instead of trying to propose that your analysis is actually a formal deconstruction of a cultural object that may hold greater weight than your personal opinion (meaning it’s part of a larger cultural conversation and about the collective psyche and symbolic language)? It’s one thing to say what it means to you – you’re the expert on that – it’s another to claim you know what it means to others or in formal terms without any backup other than retreating to “it’s all subjective” (meaning you can’t claim other people’s subjectivity as your own and pretend to be an expert on what others subjectively feel when you haven’t actually done anything other than project your subjectivity onto them).

    Yes, it’s impossible to entirely avoid being subjective in any endeavour (that’s the nature of cognition and being human) but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to be more objective and that everything is equally subjective. Of course, if your intent is merely to offer your opinion and a paint a picture of what pop culture means to you, that’s great, but unfortunately you keep trying to claim that you know what it means to teenage girls (which you’re obviously not, even if you like to imagine you are).

    • Napsterbater says:

      “instead of trying to propose that your analysis is actually a formal deconstruction”

      You’re imagining things.

      • Fifi says:

        Of course you are, you may just not be clear on what a formal deconstruction is! (A bit like you apparently don’t know what autotune is even though you’re subjectively sure it isn’t used in the song – that’s an objective fact that can be confirmed or not, it’s not all subjective). You’re proposing you know how a teenage girl perceives this video and then trying to deconstruct it to reveal what you believe is a hidden messages that teenage girls will read, all while commenting on formal aspects. I’m not sure you actually understand the difference between subjectivity or objectivity because you seem to think your projections aren’t projections!

        • Napsterbater says:

          So now you’re formally deconstructing me. OK whatever. Have fun with that.

          • Fifi says:

            Nope, not deconstructing “you”, simply describing what you are doing in the text – that’s not a deconstruction in and of itself, it’s a description. Do you see observations about a text you’ve written as being a deconstruction of you as a person?

          • Napsterbater says:

            I observed the deconstruction of the description of my dog Fluffy humping a lamppost once. I am quite sure this has imbued magic sexual insights and I think my wang even got bigger, too. So, I’m going to have to disagree with your assessment that I’m a deconstructive formalist Nazi.

  6. Fifi says:

    All to say, you really don’t know what it’s like to be and think like a 13 year old girl (or a bat) and to propose you do while claiming it’s all just your subjective perspective when you’re claiming to know someone else’s perspective just doesn’t make much sense.

  7. Fifi says:

    And, er, there’s autotune used in the opening of the song! “I ain’t comin’ back…” – that’s pure autotune.

    • Napsterbater says:

      The entire rest of that intro has her drawling like she’s been barefoot and pregnant the last 3 years. That’s what I meant by “didn’t bother auto-tuning the trailer park out of her voice.”

  8. Fifi says:

    You can’t autotune “trailer park” out of a voice, that’s not what autotune does.

    • Napsterbater says:

      I wasn’t amusing myself at your expense before. Now I am. Loosen up, pal.

      • Fifi says:

        Glad we’re both finding this amusing (well, perhaps more diverting in my case) – clearly a win win situation (apparently you consider this a commodity transaction, I guess it’s all expenses paid for us both). For what it’s worth, I’m a gal (meaning I’ve been a 13 year old girl, not that I believe this entitles me to speak for 13 year old girls, it just means I’ve got a better insight than you do “pal”).

        • Napsterbater says:

          “I’ve got a better insight than you do “pal”).”

          Is this a formal deconstruction, too? Just askin’.

          • Fifi says:

            Heh, you seem to want to make this personal rather than dealing with the actual points brought up about your text. It’s not personal or about you as a person from my perspective, it’s about the text. You seem to use “it’s subjective” as to avoid discussing the actual text and ideas you propose, all while pretending that you’re proposing ideas that other should consider.

          • Napsterbater says:

            Does the consideration of my personal subjective perspective pretend that the text wants subjective consideration? Or does the discussion of personal perspective propose actual textual points?

  9. Fifi says:

    What this seeming confusion of your own subjectivity with projecting projecting your subjectivity onto the teenage girls does is create lack of clarity, something you claim is of importance to you in terms of your texts. You seem to be confusing your own subjective perspective with that of a teenage girl, it’s a false premise that you’re building on. Nothing wrong with being subjective and clear that it’s just your subjective opinion, the problem arises when you claim you’re only being subjective and then claim that you’re seeing the video from the perspective of a teenage girl (and it’s an objective claim about how teenage girls perceive the world, as if this is a fact and not your projection). It’s not really very complicated but clearly it’s not something you’re willing to consider.

    • Napsterbater says:

      Let me restate this post in clearer terms.

      “You think you’re being clear, but you’re not. You’re not a teenage girl, don’t pretend you know them. I’m fine with you stating your opinions, just don’t pass them off as Kesha’s.”

      See what plain language does for clarity?

      • Fifi says:

        All to say, you really don’t know what it’s like to be and think like a 13 year old girl (or a bat) and to propose you do while claiming it’s all just your subjective perspective when you’re claiming to know someone else’s perspective just doesn’t make much sense.

        Sorry if the bat reference went over your head. Clearly you understood what I wrote if you can paraphrase it. Plain language seems to be doing little to actually make your ideas clear – clarity of ideas is clarity of ideas, plain language is plain language, they’re not the same thing. Just like complexity of language doesn’t automatically mean complexity or clarity of ideas. Now, I’m off to play with people who are actually interested in ideas and pop culture and not just fantasizing about teenage girls and their sexuality.

  10. Fifi says:

    But, hey, I’ll leave you to it since now that it’s clear that you’re not actually interested in discussing ideas (or even open to considering teenage girls in any context other than what you want them to be, objects you can project on to to serve your own purposes). I’m slightly disappointed because I get genuinely excited by discussions of culture and meaning and had thought I’d found an interesting blog that was interested in analyzing pop culture – but, hey, now I know it’s just your opinion and all personal for you (all about you and your projections, not actually about how culture is perceived by anyone else or what the artist intended), I’ll stop (apparently futilely) trying to discuss your ideas and pop culture with you.

    • Napsterbater says:

      I’m sorry I’m not living up to your expectations. I’ve tried explaining to you my purpose and my goal. I’ve even outlined the process I go through to write these things. I don’t know what more I have to do. The mere fact that you have a negative opinion of it does not entitle you to any of these things, nor does it entitle you to pages and pages of long, technical, formal debate. This ain’t college. I’m sorry you chose to take my observations as some kind of logical fortress to be assailed, and that you’re not getting your expected response when you trumpet an assault. These are brief, throwaway articles written in a fun, spirited fashion, not research for my doctorate thesis.

  11. Dan Dravot says:

    So do you enjoy Autotune? I’ve always imagined that the unremitting shittiness of it must be the appeal: It’s the sound of Plastic Retard! Similarly, the slackjawed clumsiness of rap drum machine programming is weirdly reminiscent of the Demoralized Sluggish Limp that young “urban” (*snirk*) and pseudo-“urban” males affect when they’re trying to seem threatening. The sound embodies whatever kind of dull cartoon the audience fantasizes about being.

    But I’m not a fan, so maybe I’m missing the point entirely. What does Autotune sound like to you, as somebody who enjoys it? Or do you even notice it? You don’t seem to take much interest in the musical aspects of the music you write about.

  12. AnonymousAtLarge says:

    1) A lot of pop songs are not well crafted or well songs. The majority of popsongs do not feature great vocal talents or amazing musical arrangements. This is a pretty generic run of the mill pop song actually.

    2) The accent is put on purpose. Autotuning it out would defeat the purpose. Madonna did this in the 80s, where she exaggerated her urban accent to look “tough”. Ke$ha is creating a tough girl don’t GAF image.

    3) Not everything a female singer does is intended to give men an erection. Quite often actually singers adopt fashions which send other messages besides/in addition to “sexy”. Fashion is first and foremost for women. Aren’t men always complaining that fashion models are sexually unattractive?

    I think ke$ha is going for like this electronica-trailer park punk look. So you see all these fun punk components (her messy curly hair, her oversized t-shirts off the shoulder with lots of layers), and you also see some vague country elements (her cowboy boots, her ethnic appearance, the short shorts), and then there is that electronic/club part (lots of glitter and metallic/shine). This is 80’s madonna for 2011. Look at a pic of madonna from the 80s and compare it to ke$ha now. It’s the same thing, except madonna never did “trailer trash/cowgirl” because madonna did “italian” instead (e.g. the italians do it better t-shirt, the music vids featuring catholicism and “relatives” who looked like extras from the godfather, so on).

    4) Her mom drops breakfast because she looked a frightening mess status post clubbing, at 9am in the morning. Most kids would clean up before going down to see mom, but not ke$ha, just like the honeybadger Ke$ha is a crazy nastyass who doesn’t GAF. This is part of her tough girl pop-club-punk image.

    5) None of this is new. Female pop artists have been doing this “tough pop punk club girl GRRR don’t give a hoot!” as long as there were female pop artists. Madonna might have been the first (the first darling of the music video, the queen of pop) but since her every decade has one of these. Madonna and cyndi, and avril lavigne, and now ke$ha. Same junk different decade.

    6) Your seeing “narcissism” in Ke$ha is silly, because she is aimed at a target audience where self centered naricssism is completely and totally developmentally healthy (teens). It’s called being a Kid. Ke$ha is a 22ish year old woman who is playing a 16 or 17 year old girl. What next, we are going to be surprised & remarke upon that ke$ha is most interested in peer relationships and less so long term partnerships?

    • Napsterbater says:

      “Ke$ha is creating a tough girl don’t GAF image.”
      You’re saying this like I didn’t already spell it out.

      “Not everything a female singer does is intended to give men an erection.”
      Kesha isn’t just a “female singer.” She’s a pop star. Pop stars generally sell sex. This song is interesting because it’s a pop song that doesn’t. Good lord woman, I write article after article deflecting attention away from sex, to other elements in a video, only to have you sanctimoniously lecture me.

      “Your seeing “narcissism” in Ke$ha is silly, because she is aimed at a target audience where self centered naricssism is completely and totally developmentally healthy (teens).”
      There’s lots of different ways to be a narcissist. I think they’re all interesting.

      • AnonymousAtLarge says:

        Children are supposed to be rebellious and self centered. She is young and fun, you’re trying to compare this to pathological narcissism which IMO is silly.

  13. cat says:

    To me, this video seems like working-class fantasy empowerment – even the opening sequences where Kesha wakes up in the posh bathtub and scares the traditional, middle class mom-making-American-pancakes family. Instead of being her literal family, they are middle America: everyone else is trailer trash – the deliberate accents, the police try to stop you but they can’t, “I’ve got no money in my pocket but I’m already here/ got plenty of beer”, the white-trash guy who gives Kesha a ride. Even the little kids, who swap their ghetto blaster (or whatever they’re calling it these days) for Kesha’s bike, and then let the balloons fly into the sky. It’s about freedom, but for a particular demographic. Kesha deliberately flaunts that she doesn’t have money, she revels in the trailer trash image, she tramps her dirty boots around that clean bathtub, spits in the sink.

    It’s saying, hey, you might not have anything, you might have a shitty life but you can still say f*** you to the authorities, get out of your head and have a party anyway, even if it’s in the street.

  14. SNAFU says:

    She doesn’t wake up in her own house. The camera focuses on a picture of the family early in the video and she’s not in it. She supposed to have partied so hard that woke up in some random family’s bathtub. The mother is shocked that some trashed broad is wandering through her home.