Ke$ha - Tik Tok
I don’t wanna call this song “where it all began” partly because that seems like really bad writing, and partly because it’s not fully true, but this was certainly a song that hit the music scene like a cartoon man crashing straight through a wall and leaving a hole shaped like himself in his wake. This is the song that set up Ke$ha as someone who was never not making a joke, but somehow that message didn’t get through to a lot of people, who treated this song as some kind of deeply serious infringement upon good taste and Music. Then again, that’s totally the point, isn’t it, so good job, Kesha. (A good rule of thumb for people who hate Kesha: she is almost definitely smarter than you.)
But with all the talk about brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack and kick them to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger and the party don’t start til I walk in—that is, all the talk about how Kesha beautifully characterizes herself as a very specific kind of larger-than-life sleazy joyful party girl—something got lost in the middle. The middle got lost in the middle. I mean, the bridge of this song—it doesn’t have exactly the same tone, does it? We go from the party don’t stop woah woah oh oh to something a little more wistful, almost sad, not really kidding anymore. Something serious.
And that, I think, is the essence of Kesha: an incredible party shot through with a reminder of pain and confusion and sadness, and the idea that one of those things is happening because of the other.
You build me up / you break me down / my heart it pounds yeah you got me / with my hands up / you got me now / you got that sound / yeah you got me. This is not just about having a good time because life sucks; it’s not even really about escapism, exactly. It’s about how a lot of the most beautiful parts of life were created and loved because of the worst parts of life. It’s about how frivolity exists for a reason, and how empty fun is not empty at all. Nothing is ever really empty.
We are made by the things that happen to us, and at the same time we try to make ourselves. These two things are interlocked, and as much control as we have over who we are and what our lives are like, we cannot always have control. The party don’t start til I walk in, but you build me up, you break me down. There can be pain at the heart of any stupid joy. There can be helplessness at the heart of any steely intention. We are buffeted this way and that by even the things we choose; but at least we chose them. We do what we can. We try to be who we want to be.