NEW YORK — Ke$ha, who burst on the scene with the drunken party anthem "TiK ToK," wants you to take her seriously.
The pop singer, who is one of the year's top-selling artists and arguably the most successful newcomer, hasn't been recognized for her artistic talents. Instead, she's been bashed for what some see as her vapid lyrical content and party-girl vibe.
But the 23-year-old thinks she has been misrepresented.
"I'm responsible. I wouldn't have a No. 1 record or song if I wasn't a hardworking person," she said in a recent interview backstage before a festival performance.
"People say 'party girl' and instantly you think: DUI, drug problem, (privates) out, no underwear, going to nightclubs every night. Problem. I'm none of the above," she continued.
Ke$ha's not interested in controlling the public's opinion of her, in any case. She's hard at work on where her career is going. And — like her or not — her career is heading in a promising direction.
Her debut song, "TiK ToK," shot straight to No. 1 in the United States, where it sat on top for nine consecutive weeks. Her album "Animal" hit the No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts as well; it's sold about 785,000 units since its January release, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The album's second single, "Blah Blah Blah," was also a Top 10 track while the current radio hit, "Your Love Is My Drug," peaked at No. 4. She was featured on Flo Rida's monster hit, the No. 1 tune "Right Round" and appears on 3OH!3's Top 10 jam "My First Kiss." She co-wrote every song on "Animal" and has also written for Miley Cyrus and Miranda Cosgrove. And her North American summer tour with Rihanna is set to kick off July 4 in Vancouver.
But while many music fans have appreciated her music, critics have not been adoring. The Los Angeles Times, while giving credit to her act, had this description of her: "Ke$ha comes on like a well-worn worst nightmare, her manicure chewed and her morals thoroughly compromised," adding that the singer "offers a thoroughly fleshed-out character to embrace or despise."
And the Boston Globe slammed "Animal" and Ke$ha, saying: "Like the sound Ke$ha's hit single references, you can almost hear the clock counting down her 15 minutes of fame. Tick, tock."
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Ke$ha, who's called her personal style "garbage chic," can usually be seen wearing her hair like she just came back from an all-nighter, with ripped clothes to match.
"It's not all about fancy clothes, it's not all about expensive shoes, it's not about always having every body part hanging out, it's not about wearing cake-on makeup," she said, wearing a Budweiser T-shirt she "bought five years ago at the thrift store for $2" and jean shorts.
On "TiK ToK," she jokes that she brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels and on "Party At a Rich Dude's House," Ke$ha says that she threw up in the closet (in real life, it wasn't a dude's house, but Paris Hilton's closet where she vomited).
"I get it," Ke$ha responds about the concern of some of her lyrics. "But it is a joke and I'm nobody's parent."
"There are things that are said on television that are way more dramatizing like violence and sex and a lot of things need to be explained in a grown-up world to little kids. I hope none of them go around drinking Jack Daniels for breakfast," she added.
Though Ke$ha is unapologetic about her image, she admits she's not always able to dismiss the negative attention: "It can bum you out when your intentions aren't, like, translated properly."
Sharon Dastur, the program director at New York City's top pop radio station Z100, says now that Ke$ha's produced more hits, people are giving her chance, and seeing her done up nicely helps them get past her sometimes sloppy demeanor.
"People go, 'OK, she's not the girl with the hair in her face with the glitter with the Jack Daniels bottle in her hand. She cleans up nice,'" Dastur said. "She's just evolving as her music continues to come out."
The singer, born Kesha Rose Sebert, grew up in Nashville, Tenn., with her mother Pebe, a songwriter who co-wrote Dolly Parton's "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You"; Pebe also has writing credits on three songs on Ke$ha's album. Dr. Luke, the mega-hitmaker who executive produced "Animal," met Ke$ha when she was 17 and let her sing background to songs he produced for Hilton and Britney Spears.
Ke$ha hopes fans will take away from her story a message about realizing your dreams, instead of drinking tips.
"People told me, 'You shouldn't be singing,'" she said. "I went through awkward, chubby, total weirdo phases. I was in a marching band. Did you ever think a little, (expletive) chubby, awkward girl with braces in the marching band would be No. 1 on top of the pop charts? No, you wouldn't."
Ke$ha overcame doubters then — and she plans to do it again.
"People will start to respect me as a writer," she said. "Look at the charts, honey. ... As annoying as you think I am, I'm not going anywhere, so you might as well get used to it."
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