Three out of five stars
Ke$ha has an out-of-control, impulsive personality, so it fits that she would make an album of the same characteristics.
“Warrior” is Ke$ha’s first album in nearly three years. With 2010’s “Animal,” Ke$ha went from relative obscurity to the top of the charts; “Warrior” is her opportunity to define herself as an established artist. For a musician whose music is driven largely by image and outside opinion, this is Ke$ha’s chance to speak for herself.
Ke$ha takes this opportunity and pushes as far as she possibly can. “Warrior” plays out in three stages, the first of which is Ke$ha doing what she does best: writing outrageous party songs. The first five songs, from the title track through “Crazy Kids,” spend almost all their time in overdrive. “Warrior’s” first two singles come from this section, “Die Young” and “C’Mon,” both of which should put to rest any thoughts that Ke$ha has lost her crazy.
These two are sure to be party staples for a long time, though they present a different type of YOLO attitude from “Tik Tok.” Whereas “Tik Tok” pursued a more toxic end, “Die Young” and “C’Mon” are more of a generic search for fun. It means that both songs aren’t confined to the club like Ke$ha’s past hits.
“C’Mon” is much sunnier and happier than her past singles, meaning it’ll be a lot less awkward to see preteens singing that than “Tik Tok.” The opening section is a wonder, something any fan of party music can’t afford to miss.
The first section proves that Ke$ha has a strong handle on up-tempo pop, but the second section tries to make a case for her being a rocker as well. Unfortunately, this move is a clumsy one. Tracks “Dirty Love,” “Wonderland,” and “Only Wanna Dance With You” all feature rock icons: first Iggy Pop, then drummer Patrick Carney from The Black Keys and finally The Strokes.
Two things are interesting about these collaborations: their musical product, and that they exist at all. All three collaborators have their own trademark styles, any of which could fit with Ke$ha’s party pop. The problem is, none of the songs sound anything like their bands.
“Dirty Love,” features a guest verse by Iggy Pop that has the once fearsome singer sounding more like Weird Al. “Only Wanna Dance With You” sounds more like Jet than the Strokes, which makes one wonder why The Strokes ever wanted to be associated with the song. The complete lack of musical influence the guests had on the songs they contributed to makes them come off like grabs for street cred more than choices made with the music in mind.
Parts of “Warrior” is Ke$ha in songwriter mode, placing the importance on lyrics, not energy. Ke$ha’s lyrics and mid tempo singing aren’t strong enough to carry a song, so the album ends in a sense of limbo. The ending is especially weird considering album closer “Love Into the Light” copies Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” drum solo.
Ke$ha attempts to do three radically different things on “Warrior:” pop party queen, rock revivalist and inspiring songwriter. She doesn’t succeed at all of these, but the opening five songs make “Warrior” worth the hype. They are bold, exciting and surprisingly original.
The final two-thirds may be duds, but Ke$ha has accomplished one thing: no one can write a party track quite like her.
Contact Jack Knetemann at firstname.lastname@example.org.