No, that isn’t Texas rap sensation Riff Raff in the new music video “Crazy Kids.” It’s pop’s anti-princess Ke$ha, back with her latest bit of ear candy and provocative video magic. Ke$ha sports grills, braids, and bling, guzzles a 40, and caresses two pitbulls. Welcome to the new mainstream, where even you, yes, you, can be part of the coolest, newest, most dangerous subcultural movement. “Hello, wherever you are / are you dancing on the dance floor, drinking by the bar,” is Ke$ha’s siren call.
But fight the urge with all your might. Ke$ha’s hobo-chic, molly-popping lifestyle might seem alluring and crazy, but it’s little more than an excellent marketing campaign. With three chords and a formulaic song structure, there’s hardly anything artistically crazy about “Crazy Kids.” Like Miley Cyrus and her new hit “We Can't Stop,” Ke$ha is just another piece of packaged pop fluff taking advantage of a new market fueled by Spring Breakers, EDM, and hip-hop-as-pop crossover.
It’s true that pop lost its innocence the minute Elvis Presley started shaking his hips on national television. But current music icons have been upping the trashiness ante as of late, forcing tastelessness into the current pop aesthetic. Not that it’s a bad thing: trashiness as social commentary or lived experience can be potent and incredibly revealing. Take Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, which revealed the deplorable underpinnings of the drug-fueled, YOLO lifestyle. Or Rihanna’s music video of “We Found Love,” which captured lust, entropy, and disaster in four and a half minutes.
But Ke$ha’s “Crazy Kids” is less passionate and less sincere. It’s true that Ke$ha came from a welfare home, but the way she uses the bumping cars and tattoo-covered, trailor-trash residents of the video’s stereotypically lower class neighborhood makes them seem more like props than living parts of culture. The actual things she does in this video — dance by a pool, drink beer, sit on a stoop — are pretty normal, but they’re glorified by the setting and the costuming. So it would seem that Ke$ha’s “crazy” would come not from her actions, but from a surface-level hijacking and reappropriation of subculture into the mainstream. She’s simply drawing a straight connection from “crazy” to “hood.”
This is not to say that the song itself is any worse or more offensive than what she’s done before. In fact, that the song is no different is part of the problem. It’s a three chord stomper that’s bound to become ingrained in your head for the next week; it’s less obnoxious than “TiK ToK” or “Blow,” but still possesses that trademark Ke$ha slur. If she had been more ambitious or experimental with her musical style, the aggressive video would make sense. But while the lyrics profess her to be different, she’s really the same exact pop star musically as she was, resulting in an uncomfortable falseness.
Miley Cyrus, with her new butt-jiggling, spastic video “We Can’t Stop,” is guilty of many of the same charges. However, she can hide under the guise of reaching adulthood and marked artistic change.
There is no such evolution in store for Ke$ha — she’s a false smokescreen of movement who’s actually churning in place to the tune of millions of dollars. Let’s hope the next big pop star who comes along is actually crazy, instead of just claiming to be.