To slice through the pop-culture clutter these days, it helps to have an angle. Lady Gaga wears coats made of Kermit the Frogs and headdresses made of hay. Ke$ha has her distinctive delivery - as if she's channeling some in-your-face Valley girl, as if Paris Hilton were trained to rap by the Beastie Boys.
That unique delivery is what propelled Ke$ha's single "Tik Tok" to No. 1, and it's what gives her debut, "Animal" (RCA), its most amusing and strongest moments.
After all, Ke$ha, who co-wrote all of the album's 14 tracks, is at her best when she takes no prisoners. "O-L-D-M-A-N, you are an old man! Hittin' on me, what? You need a CAT scan!" she taunts in the ridiculously off-kilter "Dinosaur," spooling out her sass over the electro-pop track. On "Backstabber," which charmingly floats along like an early Lily Allen dance number, Ke$ha takes aim at frenemies gossiping about her.
"Your Love Is My Drug" fuses that brash delivery to the Eurodance vibe that her mentor and producer Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald has hammered out for Britney Spears and Katy Perry for years. "Boots and Boys" rides a similar vibe, but with less of a vocal edge.
It's quite the dilemma for Ke$ha on "Animal." She can't use the same approach for every song because it's too distinctive. But when she tones it down, she becomes just another interchangeable singer, another Gaga wannabe. For now, Ke$ha should stick to what she does best.
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BOTTOM LINE Flashes of trashy, sassy brilliance