Published April 14, 2010
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Ke$ha doesn’t just speak in italics, with the emphasis always hers—she lives her life that way. Born Kesha Rose Sebert in California’s San Fernando Valley, the 23-year-old singer first earned notice last year as the hook girl on rapper Flo Rida’s hit “Right Round.” But she exploded in her own right with her debut solo single, the postmodern electro-pop time bomb “TiK ToK,” which became the first monster song of the new decade, reaching the top of the charts in nine countries. In fact, not even Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie’s remake of “We Are the World,” which debuted at number two, could overtake “TiK ToK”—quite an accomplishment for a song in which the narrator opines about brushing her teeth “with a bottle of Jack” and “boys trying to touch my junk.”
Before recording her debut album, Animal (RCA Records/Kemosabe Entertainment), which was released in January, Ke$ha did time as a backup singer, performing on Britney Spears’s “Lace and Leather,” and Paris Hilton’s “Nothing in This World.” (The latter stint resulted in an episode that culminated with Ke$ha vomiting in Hilton’s shoe closet.) Though Ke$ha was born in California, she grew up in -Nashville. (In an interesting side note, Ke$ha and her family hosted Hilton and Nicole Richie during the third season of The Simple Life.) Upon moving back to the Los Angeles area, she broke into Prince’s -Beverly Hills mansion to leave him a demo of her songs. (She promptly fled the premises.) In addition to Prince, she is quick to name-check artists like the Beastie Boys and Bob Dylan as influences, and, in a piece of prime 21st-century solipsism, claims that the dollar sign in her name, like the golden glitter she likes to wear, is ironic—though not really. But, here, we’ll let her explain it all for herself. . . .
MATT DIEHL: I was listening to your album, Animal, and this lyric from the title track stuck out: “I am starstruck with every part of this whole story.” It seems like you’re saying that, on some level, you feel like you were predestined to become famous.
KE$HA: Totally. That whole song is about how, with all of its imperfections, life is still amazing. The fact that we’re even here is just incredible. Right now I’m reading a book on the universe by Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything. It says the probability of life ever evolving on Earth was slim to none. It’s insane that we’re all walking around and talking.
DIEHL: And can wear glitter while doing so.
KE$HA: Glitter! Glitter is my makeup of choice. Tying into the whole animal theme, I am a diver, and this barracuda tried to eat me once. I realized it was because I was wearing a gold bikini, a lot of piercings, and was covered in glitter. Apparently most animals are instinctively very attracted to glittery things—our brains are just drawn to them. So I figured, Why not smear it all over my face?
DIEHL: Has becoming famous been what you expected?
KE$HA: I don’t even think of myself as a quote, unquote star—that’s really douchey. I think of myself as just like . . . a dance commander.
DIEHL: What are the responsibilities of a dance commander?
KE$HA: You have to have dance parties all day and night, and you always have to be excited about having a dance party. You have to have a dance party in Milan one day, and then wake up and have a dance party at, like, four in the morning on national television in L.A. the next day. The hours are insane. [laughs] What I’m bringing to the pop table is that I’m not pretentious. I’m fighting this war against all that because pop music, in my opinion, should be fun. One of the most important things in the world is having the ability to turn someone’s mood from mediocre to excellent in three minutes. It’s like a fucking magic trick.
DIEHL: Your musical influences are somewhat unexpected.
KE$HA: I wrote my album a little bit in homage to the Beastie Boys’ Licensed to Ill . That record is so fun and youthful, but it’s dangerous at the same time and just makes you want to get crazy in, like, the funnest possible way. But I love The Velvet Underground, too. I love country music, blues, and punk, and one day I might make those kinds of records. Nashville Skyline  by Bob Dylan is definitely my favorite album of all time.
I’m pretty sure that I was JFK in my past life.Ke$ha
DIEHL: Courtney Love posted some advice for you on Twitter. She said, “Ke$ha is in dire need of a vibe that matches her . . . shes being moulded [sic] into something not her that will fail. I want to save her . . . f**k Ke$ha I need to school her. Ke$ha I will save you . . . sweetheart you make me go all maternal, I want to save you from the jaws of impermanence and soul death.”
KE$HA: Okay, um, that was just scary. Courtney Love is cool, but thank you, I think my soul is fine. DIEHL: I’ve heard that you and your mom are close. Is it true that you’ll call her sometimes and say things like, “Oh, my god, I gave this guy a blow job last night,” and she’ll say, “Kesha, you slut!”?
KE$HA: Well, my mom and I are very honest with each other, almost to a fault. But that’s just the way I am in life. If you listen to my record, I’m just honest about stupid stuff most normal people wouldn’t put in a pop song.
DIEHL: Your extracurricular activities are already somewhat legendary. You broke into Prince’s house, you vomited in Paris Hilton’s shoes. My favorite, though, is a lesser known story that I heard about you relieving yourself in a sink in a London pub while Lily Allen sang to you.
KE$HA: That’s not exactly true. I was peeing in the sink, and I felt bad for the people who were waiting in line because they could hear me peeing, so I started singing, “Turn around, every now and then I get a little bit lonely . . .” [from Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”]. Lily did help me with the chorus. I don’t care about that stuff, though. It’s not like I’m hurting anybody. I’m not doing drugs. I’m not making sex tapes. I’m pissing. So what? I don’t think I’d have the number one song if I wasn’t working my ass off, too.
DIEHL: So, changing the subject slightly, you recently challenged Susan Boyle to a mud-wrestling match. Has she responded?
KE$HA: No. I totally would do it, though. She looks like she would be a good mud-wrestling partner.
DIEHL: I think something that people appreciate about both you and Lady Gaga is the way you flaunt your eccentricity.
KE$HA: None of it’s fabricated. Like, I have a belief that if I wear my placenta in a necklace, there’s a possibility of me gaining second sight—like being psychic. I would be wearing it whether or not I was in the public eye. I’m just honest about the things I believe in. For instance, I went yesterday to a past-life regressionist, and he told me that in my past life I was assassinated. I’m pretty sure that I was JFK in my past life.
DIEHL: I think it’s a definite possibility.
KE$HA: So did he! He also said that as a Pisces, I’m very psychic, and that anything I can do to nurture that will help. So I wear my placenta necklace. I’m also wearing a massive dream catcher around my neck to catch all the negative energy and keep it away from my soul. I’ll send you a picture of it from my phone, if you want to give me your e-mail.
DIEHL: I also hear you like men with beards.
KE$HA: [gasps] I love beards. Do you have a beard?
DIEHL: I do not.
KE$HA: I’m obsessed with beards. First of all, beards make you look like more of an animal. Second, I kind of like biting beards; it’s a pastime of mine. And when I make out with a dude who has a beard—who are the only kinds of dudes I make out with—then my glitter gets stuck in their beards, and then no other chick will make out with them for at least three days.
DIEHL: It’s like territorial pissing.
KE$HA: Ab-so-lutely! It’s just like peeing on them.
DIEHL: So who’s got the hottest beard?
KE$HA: Well, ZZ Top have some of the most infamous beards of all time, but they’re a little old for me. I’m attracted to old dudes with beards, but there needs to be a limit.
DIEHL: I heard that you’re obsessed with the very hirsute Zach Galifianakis.
KE$HA: I know! I recently reached out to him and sent a really witty e-mail but got no response at all. At this point, I’m more interested in a recent postcard conversation I’ve engaged in with David Spade.
DIEHL: You’ve said that the dollar sign in your name is ironic. Has making money changed you at all?
KE$HA: Not even! I grew up with nothing—I remember sometimes not having shoes. When I moved to L.A., I slept in my car. But I was always happy. I still don’t go shopping really, and I haven’t bought anything excessive. I do plan on buying an island and filling it with baby tigers, though.
DIEHL: Speaking of tigers, I wanted to try this test with you that I found on the Internet. It’s comprised of two questions: One, what’s your favorite wild animal? And two, what’s your favorite domestic animal?
KE$HA: My favorite wild animal is a narwhal—the unicorn of the sea. It’s a whale with a tooth that sticks out of its head that’s almost two-thirds the length of its entire body. As for domestic . . . can I say the jaguar? I don’t know if that’s a domestic animal, but I’d love to have a jaguar one day.
DIEHL: Well, supposedly the wild animal represents what you think others think of you, and the domestic animal is what people really think of you.
KE$HA: So I want people to think that I’m a magical, weird-looking freak of nature, but they really see me as a sexy Amazon jungle cat. That makes sense—I’m a little bit of both, but I definitely lean toward the narwhal side of the equation.
Matt Diehl is a contributing music editor at Interview.