Ke$ha's 'Warrior': What the Critics Are Saying
Ke$ha revives her militant-pop sound on the aptly named Warrior album, out Dec. 4. The star, known for her electronic/dubstep songs about partying and living life on the wild side, also reveals new styles and emotions on her recent release. With help from Iggy Pop on “Dirty Love” and Black Keys’ drummer Patrick Carney on “Wonderland,” the singer tries her hand at both a rock song and an emotional ballad.
Warrior also features less rapping than Ke$ha’s previous releases, Animal (Jan. 2010) and Cannibal (Nov. 2010), to show critics that behind the club anthems and heavy beats lies a singer with vocal talent. Ke$ha addressed critics of her style in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, saying that with her new album, "I wanted to give the finger to anybody who thought I was a one-trick pony."
While some critics praise Ke$ha’s battle to diversify her sound, others beg her to give up the fight. Read below to see more of what the critics are saying:
Andrew Hampp of Billboard magazine comments that, “Ke$ha seems to be fighting desperately to make another record entirely. That push-and-pull makes Warrior, her second full-length album, a fascinating if ultimately unfulfilling listen … One thing that's more apparent this time around is Ke$ha's desire to prove her vocal prowess. 'I got really sick of people saying that I couldn't sing, because I can do very few things confidently in my life,' Ke$ha said in a Billboard cover story previewing Warrior this October. While the attempts at less Auto-Tuned singing aren't always successful, they're at least more interesting than many of her raps -- most notably lead single 'Die Young,' where she sounds drowsy and bored where she should be lively and in-your-face."
The New York Times' Ben Ratliff and Nate Chinen say the album sounds typical. “Ke$ha’s not dangerous. She plays at being a terrible influence -- drinking, sex, swearing, hard nights at the club -- but the furtive surprise at the center of her project is sweetness, as it always was. Warrior (RCA), her second full-length album, contains a very nonlethal competitive ambition. She’s coming at her targets in a bumper car, rear-ending them and laughing and, with a weird consistency, philosophizing."
However, the review later praises Ke$ha’s vocal talent by saying, “In songs like 'Die Young' and 'C’Mon,' in party-defiant mode, Ke$ha bellows her hooks, full and clear; the tone and body and trueness of pitch don’t seem to be faked."
Randall Roberts of The Los Angeles Times says, “Is Ke$ha maturing? Yes and no. The young woman who made her name by brushing her teeth with bourbon on 'Tik Tok' has switched to wine on 'Only Wanna Dance...,' but she's drinking it 'on the cement outside 7-11.' In her world, there are two types of people: those who dance at a club and those who hang by the bar -- couch-dwellers, book-readers and knitters be damned. 'All that matters is the beautiful life,' she sings on 'All That Matters (The Beautiful Life),' and although she may be selling artifice over ethics and pleasure over discipline, she's certainly not couching any of it within self-righteousness."
Sam Lansky at Idolator summed up the album by saying, “The overall consensus is that the album hits high marks sonically, but her big rock collaborators go largely wasted (with the exception of the polarizing Iggy Pop duet), and there wasn’t as much evolution as K$ had teased when recording the album. Still, in a year with a lot of mediocre pop releases, Ke$ha’s will probably be remembered as one of the best."
Hit Fix’s Melinda Newman says, “The problem is that the music on Warrior never aims to be more then ephemeral. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that unless you’re serving fish and chips and you’re trying to convince people it’s caviar. Or you can’t really sing. On rhythmic ballad 'Wonderland,' Ke$ha sings. There’s no talking, no thumping, just Ke$ha singing about sweetly looking back at the old neighborhood and how everything has changed. It’s a nice change of pace, but when her talk/singy gimmick is removed, she’s just another average pop singer."
Newman later notes that, “The most intriguing track on Warrior is 'Dirty Love,' a duet with Iggy Pop. Musically, she shifts up the beat and trades the relentless, mindless thump for an infectious stomp on the fast-paced rocker. Iggy Pop is slumming here, but maybe he sees something of a kooky kindred spirit in Ke$ha."
The Associated Press for The Washington Post praises the album’s fun sounds: “Ke$ha -- along with hitmaker Dr. Luke -- has a knack for creating carefree and upbeat electro-pop songs that make you want to have a good time. It’s pure fun. Yes, some of her lyrics are vapid and need work, but melodically, she’s got a winner, especially on the hooks throughout Warrior. The will.i.am-assisted 'Crazy Kids,' which kicks off with whistling, is anthemic; 'C’mon' is oh-so-fun; and 'Thinking of You,' about an ex, transitions pleasantly from its thumping verse to its groovy hook. The lead single, 'Die Young,' is just as addictive and was co-written with Nate Ruess of fun."
Rob Sheffield for Rolling Stone applauds the album’s rock sound: “Ke$ha crafted Warrior as her rock manifesto. As she confesses here, 'I know I'm not perfect/I know I got issues/I know that I got a sordid past/And yeah, some bad tattoos.' She claims 'Last Goodbye' was inspired by Neil Young's deep cut 'For the Turnstiles.' And the single 'Die Young,' according to producer Benny Blanco, is her version of 'old hippie rock,' which is bizarre given that to the rest of us it sounds sorta exactly like Taio Cruz. Warrior doesn't hit the giddy peaks of 2010's Animal, but it has a crackpot sense of rock history. 'Love Into the Light' bites the prog-soul of Phil Collins circa 'In the Air Tonight.' (Don't worry -- it only takes a minute to get to the drum solo.) 'Only Wanna Dance With You' is a hilariously mean (and accurate) parody of the Strokes. When she brings on Iggy Pop himself for 'Dirty Love,' her lust for life is unquestionable."