'Warrior' review: Ke$ha pulls her punches

Ke$ha's album cover for "Warrior."

Ke$ha's album cover for "Warrior." (Credit: Handout)

Ke$ha tries to have her whiskey-soaked cake and eat it, too, on her sophomore album, "Warrior" (RCA), making both her triumphantly trashy persona and her serious, pop artiste aspirations suffer.

Her internal struggle comes to life on "Thinking of You," where she starts off at her best, flinging accusations and insults backed by a driving, tribal drumbeat. "I know I said I wouldn't talk about you publicly, but . . . ," she says in her best angry-snarky condescension. "That was before I caught you lying and cheating on me, slut." And just when you think she's going to deliver the knockout punch, she goes all sing-songy and radio-friendly. Maybe that's how she feels, but "thinking of you-ooh-ooh" totally saps the song's momentum.

"Warrior" is filled with these kind of moments, dulling the power of the songs that really work. "Dirty Love," Ke$ha's duet with Iggy Pop, is a thrilling pop-rocker with a biting sense of humor. ("Cockroaches do it in garbage cans," Pop says. "Santorum did it in a V-neck sweater.") On "C'mon," she revives the fast-talking "Tik Tok" tough girl, while "Only Wanna Dance With You" channels the first Strokes album filtered through Pink. This rule-breaking, anything-goes Ke$ha is the one that works and, hopefully, is the one that is closest to her true personality.

Why that kind of firebrand saddles herself with something as soupy as the drowsy '70s rock-influenced "Wonderland" or the cut-rate Katy Perry beats of "Supernatural" ("E.T." anyone?) is anyone's guess. Oh, Ke$ha, don't you remember "We R Who We R"?

GRADE B

BOTTOM LINE Way better at "Dirty Love" than pop war

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