Touted as the next Lady Gaga, Ke$ha has been burning up the pop charts ever since guesting on Right Round with Flo Rida in August 2009.
The exposure given to her by the collaboration, combined with her spot-on pop sensibility, lead to her toppling the Lady herself in Australia -- knocking Bad Romance off the number-one spot with her solo debut, Tik Tok, and now it's top of the US charts.
As I wait to speak to her in a hotel room, PRs and hotel staff bustle back and forth, whispering "do you think she'd prefer diet or regular Coke"-- trying to perfectly arrange a stack of fresh fruit, while keeping an eye on the door. In walks a tall, barefoot blonde wearing raggedy jean-shorts and an entire disco's worth of glitter. I was expecting a pampered diva. Instead, Ke$ha is a bona fide pop star, and as real as they get.
"Do I have a boyfriend at the moment? Hell no. HELLLLL NO. Guys are a pain in the ass. I did have a boyfriend back in LA, but he cheated on me. All I want is a little respect. But, you know what, it's funny. I think a pop song is the perfect revenge. I definitely wrote about this douchebag on this record." Curled up on a sofa, the 22-year-old is sipping a green tea and dissing those who've done her wrong.
A past boyfriend? He becomes a track on her new album, Animal. She bursts into song, eagerly reaching across for my dictaphone -- "I'm going to sing you the verse because it's funny -- 'Listen to yourself, you're a hot mess/ You st-st-stutter through your words breaking a sweat/What it's going to take to confess/ What we both know/I was out of town last weekend/ You were feeling like a pimp round your lame friends/Now we both know where it's gonna end/So here we go/Baby you shouldn't kiss and tell'. Because then he told his friends, and they told me!"
Based mainly on her own life experiences, it's a record about love, dancing and having a good time. Ke$ha co-wrote every track and feels that it's almost like a diary of her time living in LA and of the people that she met. "My record is so autobiographical. It's 100 per cent real. My friends don't mind -- they just don't cross me. People that piss me off, there's probably a song on my record about them. Backstabber, that character Jeanie is a real person. She heard the song, she was pissed."
But enough of the present, let's go to the past and find out exactly how Ke$ha got to where she is now.
"Singing is all I can do. I can't do anything else. When I was little, I was just screaming and annoying everyone. I was a total nightmare until I was like 17, and then it became lucrative." Born Kesha Rose Sebert to a single parent in LA, Ke$ha moved to Nashville as a young child. Then, aged 17, things suddenly changed. Ke$ha has a history of giving her demos to anyone and everyone -- her most famous escapade involves her breaking into Prince's house to personally deliver one of her CDs.
One of her demos found its way to Swedish hitmakers Max Martin (Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys) and Dr Luke ( Katy Perry, Missy Elliot) and the rest, as they say, is history. Ke$ha still can't really believe how things turned out. "Dude, Dr Luke and Max Martin called me! They got my demo through a friend of a friend, and they called me from Sweden. I've been to Sweden three times to work with Max, and he's a really close friend. Luke is, like, my brother. They're so immensely talented. When they called me, I was, like, 'what?'"
She moved back to LA and began to write songs for other artists as well as herself -- including Miley Cyrus and The Veronicas -- waiting tables in between songwriting gigs (apparently, "it sucked so bad. waiting tables -- I did it for years, I had to. I'm so happy that people like my songs enough that I don't have to wait tables anymore. I did a little bit of telemarketing for like a second. But I'm so bad at doing anything that's not music.")
Although she was writing with the hottest producers in pop, it was a difficult time -- personally and professionally.
She sits up, reminiscing. "It was just a long process. If anybody thinks that it's going to happen without putting in some serious hard work, they're totally wrong."
The most difficult thing she had to face was keeping hold of who she was and who she wanted to be. She slumps again, pauses and continues. "I think the hardest thing was not losing track of exactly what you're doing. LA is a weird city, filled with weird people. The music business is full of haters and a lot of 'Nos'. Like, everyone's going to tell you 'no, you're too this, you're too that'. You've got to keep touch with who you are and know who you are. It takes a strong person to do this kind of stuff, because people can be so cruel."
Despondent? Self-indulgent? That's not our girl. She reflects, and then shrugs the haters off. "I've been thinking about it recently, because of what I do, and people just like to hate on stuff. I've been trying really hard not to be like that. It's all about making music, it's not brain surgery."
Lively as a lion cub, when asked which artist she would most want to be like, she answers, in all seriousness, " Keith Richards. And anyone else who was a singer, and then turned into a pirate. Oh! Gwen Stefani too. She's dope."
Her appeal lies in how LA and fame haven't -- and won't ever -- changed who she is. During a recent European press tour, she was bombarded by paparazzi. Her response? "I was, like, why do you want a picture of me so bad? I'm not that interesting. I'm literally sitting in a van. The headline would be 'Ke$ha in van. Sitting'."
While shooting the video for Tik Tok, stylists didn't interest her. "Those are all my clothes in the video. They were like, 'do you wanna wear this?' and I was, like, 'no, I want to wear shorts and a T-shirt'. That's all I want to wear. It's totally not contrived. I look like a bum all the time."
This hippy-dippy good karma schtick could grate if her enthusiasm wasn't so infectious. All she wants is happiness, music and perhaps a JD and Coke at the bar.
Amid all the chat of faux-celebrities and fame whores, she calls a time out and explains: "This girl came up to me last night and said that her boyfriend died and the only thing that makes her happy right now is my song [Tik Tok]. I want to make people happy. That's what I'm in it for. But there are a lot of people who can't write, and they can sing. As long as it's positive energy out in the universe, whatever you're doing is fine by me." The next Gaga? Not particularly. The first Ke$ha? Definitely.