Journalism — especially that of the pop-culture variety — has endured all sorts of blows in the last five years: layoffs left and right, publications getting shuttered, checks being slashed. But when all seems utterly dark and the stray vapors of hope have at last vanished into nothingness, at least us media types can be grateful to this period for one thing: It gave us Ke$ha.
Few contemporary celebrities are consistently involved in news as amusing and wacky as the Los Angeles-based, party-obsessed, 26-year-old pop empress otherwise known as Kesha Rose Sebert. Examine this recent timeline of happening$: In May, word spread that Ke$ha ingested her own urine (for health reasons, duh) on her MTV reality show "Ke$ha: My Crazy Beautiful Life." In July, she half-joked that she desperately wanted to bang one of the One Direction guys. "I'm a virgin, yup. I'm saving myself for Harry Styles," she told Sugarscape. (Days later, a DJ on BBC Radio 1 connected Ke$ha and Styles on the air to adorable/awkward results.) Then, earlier this month, she publicly mourned no longer having a tail she was born with. "It was a tiny tail — about a quarter of an inch — then they chopped it off and stole my tail," she told Heat magazine. "That was when I was little. I'm really sad about that story."
Yeah, she isn't the only famous type whose existence continuously inches toward being one big game of Mad Libs — recently, Justin Bieber pissed in a mop bucket and serenaded his grandma in the nude, and Lady Gaga got naked for some performance art thing — but the goofy tone of Ke$ha's antics make her especially likable and fascinating. Excepting a rare case like the post-Sandy Hook hysteria surrounding her song "Die Young," Ke$ha news has a good-natured vibe that demonstrates how gleefully she plays up her image as a kooky public figure who is almost larger than life but not quite there. Her music worships symbols of big, dumb excess — Auto-Tune, partying, boozing — to comical degrees, and she understands the fun that comes with being a glitter-coated hot mess who cares more for entertainment than artistry. She's always seemed smarter than she publicly lets on. Multiple sources, including The Atlantic, have pointed to Ke$ha being a troll who is taking the public for a ride by mocking and indulging in the absurdity of pop music.
Yeah, there's always a chance thinking of this woman as a crafty cultural prankster might be reading too much into things, but it's unlikely. In advance of her Mohegun Sun Arena date, we spoke to Ke$ha for a tightly reined 10 minutes and delivered gold-plated quote after gold-plated quote like it was her job (which it kinda is).
During your recent BBC Radio 1 interview where DJ Nick Grimshaw brought Harry Styles onto the air, you mentioned that you hadn't been that embarrassed in a long time. What was the most recent thing to embarrass you before that?
Well, my mom embarrasses me a lot. Any time I'm trying to make out with guys, she'll say or do something incredibly incriminating or embarrassing, and [they'll] go away, never to return. Aside from my mother, that was the first embarrassing thing that's happened to me in a really long time so mad kudos to that guy.
Several sources mention the music you're into besides pop: Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr., Beastie Boys, Pixies, Sonic Youth. If you're a fan of all that stuff, why are you pursuing pop music today instead of something closer to those artists?
Honestly, the kind of music I like to listen to in my spare time and pop music seemingly couldn't be more different. [What I tried to do] on this record [Warrior] was blur the lines between pop and other genres. I had Iggy Pop featured on my record, Will.i.am, [the Strokes'] Julian Casablancas and Patrick Carney from the Black Keys. I wanted to show that in art, there are no real guidelines, there are no boundaries. Also, pop culture is where you can cause the most trouble, and that's why I always wanted to be part of the mainstream and popular culture. That's where I can make the most noise.
You want to make pop music so you can be part of the pop culture conversation, but do you ever see a point where you're going to want to make something very different?
Oh, of course. I've worked with Wayne [Coyne] from the Flaming Lips for a while now. We make weirdo music. We get together and make noise, and we have one song — if you want to call it that — where we're just making animal noises and screaming. I don't know what the hell you would call that, but I think that it's important to always have fun while you create music because the energy that goes into it is the energy that people are going to receive when they listen to it. I just want to make sure it always stays fun.
I was going to ask you about Wayne. What kind of conversations do you two have when music is off the table?
Well, he likes to fingerbang my ball of glitter. I have a giant ball of glitter in my house that he likes to put clear nail polish on [for] and stick his fingers in and play in. He also likes to run around my house naked. We like paint, body paint, face paint. We like beer, and we like listening to T. Rex records. Neither one of us sleeps very much. We have a lot in common actually.
Some of that sounds absurd if you don't know the Flaming Lips, but I can totally believe all that you said.
[Laughs] But it's all in good fun. It's very much like having two 5-year-olds together [when we] hang out.
There's an enormous amount of information on you out there: the reality show, your book My Crazy Beautiful Life and a billion articles. What's a piece of information about you that's gone untouched so far?
I mean, I don't really read press about myself, because most of it is bullshit, but the stuff that is real just makes me cringe most of the time anyways. Something that people don't know about me... I am kind of obsessed with yoga and meditation at the moment and I try to do it every day. I think it's important to ground myself.
Do you have a favorite pose?
I was just doing Scorpion, which, if you're familiar with yoga, is where you put yourself upside down. I'm really proud of myself.
Another part of the Ke$ha mythology is that you're associated with prison tattoos here and there. As far as tattoos go, what's the next big thing you're planning to get or want to get?
[With] my tattoos, I never plan them. They just kind of happen. That's my philosophy with tattoos. They are going to be more like a scar than a tattoo, I never plan them and they always have to be free.
You mentioned the press, and I wanted to bring up how several places have said that that you're a troll in pop music. Do you think you or your persona have any troll-like qualities?
You know, trolls are really short and I'm really tall, so I think that's completely inaccurate.
I mean "trolling," like how you frame your videos or what kind of stuff you put out there about yourself. How about in that regard?
You mean like an Internet troll?
Yeah, sort of.
Well, I don't really go on the Internet to be honest, so that's probably totally inaccurate, too. When I'm not on stage and I'm not having a weird night of dance parties and tequila and tattoos, then I'm usually in the woods. I'm in the wilderness. I go from haunted hotels to stage and then I do yoga. My whole life is kind of a weird paradox of what you'd probably think it would be. It's very contradictory to what I think people think I am 'cause I do party as my songs will tell you, but I also am kind of a hippie, and I love spending time in nature and meditating and doing yoga, so I think there's two sides to it.
A long time ago before you were well known, you were planning on going to Columbia University to study psychology. Whatever happened to that?
It was just in high school I was studying psychology. I am fascinated by people and what makes people tick and what makes people follow certain people versus other people. I'm fascinated with cults and religion and just how people gain mind control over the masses versus other people that can't. I just think it's a fascinating thing — celebrity and politics and cults and religion.
Do you think you're ever going to end up getting a degree in it and focus on a specific field of psychology? Is there anything in particular you're interested in?
You know, maybe one day I'll start my own religion. I'll keep you posted.
w/ Mike Posner and Semi Precious Weapons
$49, 7:30 p.m., August 23. Mohegan Sun Arena, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd, Uncasville, mohegansun.com