Ke$ha is back, and there's still nothing pedestrian about this party princess.
This feature originally appeared in Complex's December 2010/January 2011 issue.
Ask your girlfriend what she thinks about Ke$ha. Go on, do it. She'll probably give you one of those responses usually reserved for that chick she couldn't stand in high school. Maybe it's: "I don't get why she's popular!" Or it could be: "What do people see in her, anyway?" It's easy to resent what you don't understand, and we have to admit that the 23-year-old pop star who scored 1500 on her SATs isn't the easiest person to dissect. Before the hits, Ke$ha came up hard—like struggling-rapper hard. She cycled through welfare stamps, stole toys when she was young, and at one point had to sleep in her car when she was 17. That's a far cry from the glitter-sprinkled life she lives now. The budding pop star, who signed to Dr. Luke's label at age 18, has already seen her debut album, Animal, go certified platinum, and her frat-house party starter "Tik Tok" chart at #1 in 11 different countries. She's blown chunks in Paris Hilton's closet, snuck into Prince's house, is a huge Beastie Boys fan, and rolls with an entourage that consists of seven drop-dead gorgeous girls—all bullet points that make her resumé just a bit realer than other chart-topping pop stars (who may or may not wear steaks over their vaginas). Taking a break from cooking up more songs the whole world will sing—her new EP Cannibal was just released, featuring eight new tracks that are destined to burrow their way into your brain—we spoke to Ke$ha about bizarre turn-ons, pop-star comparisons, and her thoughts on being with a woman. Yup, your girlfriend's still gonna be mad…
My hot friends would come over and we'd drink wine and play music until the sun came up. One morning I woke up surrounded by all these beautiful young girls.
You've said that you're not aggressive but you're a pervert. What exactly did you mean by that?
It's totally true. Except I guess I'm a total perv in every way. Like everyone else, I have bizarre things that turn me on.
What turns you on that people would find bizarre?
Yeah, like a bag full of quarters.
So a guy holding a bag full of quarters could potentially turn you on?
Like a big bearded guy with a bag of quarters. I think it's some weird pirate fantasy that was unfulfilled in a past lifetime.
Is there a specific type of beard that you're into?
I like the rugged, mountain-man beard, personally. I won't discriminate, but my favorite kind of beard is one that could potentially be a homeless beard. Like, you actually have to discover if they're un-groomed for a reason. I like a really unkempt beard.
So you're saying to have a shot with you, I would need a homeless beard and something to do with a bag of quarters?
You would also have to have a big dick, and I don't really know anything about that. Then you're probably good to go.
Well, I'll work on the beard and quarters. Rihanna recently said that she "didn't want the generic pop record that Ke$ha or Lady Gaga or Katy Perry could do."
I haven't even read that. I'm so used to the media flipping my words around that I'm sure she meant absolutely no offense to me or Katy or Gaga—Rihanna and me are totally cool, we were just on tour together, and I know that she and Katy are good friends. I don't take any offense because I'm sure it's bullshit anyway.
They're all known, at least in part, for their left-of-center outfits. You just wore garbage bags to an award show—is there a subconscious crazy-outfit competition going on among you guys?
I was trying to look super-hot. I like to poke fun at when people make fun of me, because I don't take myself that seriously. People say I'm "garbage chic," so I thought I'd take it to the next level and make a garbage bag super fucking chic—and I succeeded!
Are you tired of the comparisons people draw between you, Gaga, and Katy Perry?
I actually think that's cool. Out of that group of chicks, I'm the new bitch on the block, so I'm still getting used to being compared to some of the biggest pop stars in the world, but I don't take any offense to it. That just means people know my records.
I'm the female incarnate of Kenny Powers... He definitely gives me a lady-boner.
When you came up, people were comparing you to Uffie, saying you channeled her style—but seeing how your career took off and hers didn't, do you feel vindicated?
Are you being sarcastic?
Nope. Who is she? I'll Google her.
[Laughs.] OK, then. In "Tik Tok," you reference waking up feeling like P. Diddy. What exactly is that like?
I used to live in this wicked, debaucherous house. It used to be a squatter house, and before that the Eagles recorded there; it was right next to the Jim Morrison house, and it just has this wicked energy. I used to have these epic jam sessions—my hot friends would come and we would drink wine and play music until the sun came up. One morning I woke up surrounded by all these beautiful, young talented girls who are like my best friends—that's where the line came from. Who else wakes up surrounded by seven hot girls? P. Diddy was the only person I could think of.
How tough was it to get him on the song?
I swear to God this story is true—I'm in the studio with Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco, writing the song, and Diddy called Luke up like, "Hey, I want to work with you." Luke was like, "You're never going to believe this—we've got a line on Ke$ha's first single talking about how great it is to feel like you. Would you mind coming in and doing an ad-lib?" So he came in and did it in one take and that was it.
So it was just a coincidence?
Yeah, it was one of those moments when you know shit happens for a reason.
Now you're working with Bangladesh, who produced "A Milli" for Lil Wayne.
How did you know that?!
I did my research! I'm not going to come in here and not know what's going on.
That was supposed to be top secret! He's one of my favorite producers in the entire world.
What rappers are you a fan of?
I grew up in the South and I was lucky enough to work on a track with Three 6 Mafia ages ago, and I've gotten to be friends with Paul and Juicy J. Sometimes we'll just show up to these crazy parties and take it to the next level. Flo Rida, obviously. I've worked with him on a few songs, he was really cool. I think Andre 3000 is my absolute favorite. The Beastie Boys…
I read that you're a huge fan of theirs…
Oh my god, Licensed to Ill. Being a woman is a little bit different, but you can hear how Animal was influenced by Licensed to Ill. It kind of made me feel that I'm a silly white girl but I can still rap. I like to explore that side of music, especially my voice and what I have to say, so I feel like I owe a lot of my success to the Beastie Boys.
You'd been dating drummer Alex Carapetis—are you guys still together?
Not so much. [Laughs.]
He has that grungy look going.
He had a Keith Richards vibe to him, but then he started acting like a woman, and I just can't handle that.
He's toeing that hipster line. I like to think of myself as being between a hipster and a hip-hopper—or what we refer to around these parts as a "hopster."
That's what you are? It's not the sexiest word. There's got to be a sexier word to describe the lifestyle.
You've also said that you're not opposed to a relationship with a woman.
An interesting person is the most attractive thing, not necessarily a man or a woman. I've had my fair share of…
I can kick it with dudes, but I roll with my girls—and when you travel with hot girls, you can really conquer the world.
.... Experiences with women?[Laughs.] I've had a few experiences in life, enough to know that I'm not only attracted to men. If I fell in love with a woman, then I'd see what happens. I just haven't yet.
It seems like Perez Hilton has a love/hate relationship with you. Does the stuff he says about your music have something to do with him jocking Lady Gaga so much?
That guy needs to live his life. I don't have time to go online to read what people say about me; I'm traveling the world and killing it.
He blew up that scandalous photo of you. I don't think you've ever addressed it…
I don't even know which one. There are so many pictures of me out there. Is it, like, some naked picture?
Yeah, it was a naked picture. With some...other stuff in it.
I'm not even lying when I tell you I don't look at his site. I go online to check email—aside from that, if I'm reading something, it's a book.
It's clichéd for girls to be like, "I'm just one of the guys," but it really seems like you are one of the guys.
I don't think so. I can kick it with dudes, like I can roll with Dirt Nasty and Andre Legacy, but I roll with my girls predominantly—and when you travel with seven hot girls, you can conquer the world.
Everyone knows you love glitter. What's the weirdest place you've put glitter?
You name it, there's been glitter there. Let's just leave it at that.
What's a tame night for you?
It's not like every night I'm out getting crazy fucked up. When I said the party doesn't start until I walk, that just means that I can have a fucking fantastic time no matter where I am or how much money I have. Sometimes we just watch Eastbound & Down and drink wine.
That's awesome. Are you a fan?
Are you kidding me? I'm the female incarnate of Kenny Powers. [Laughs.] Not quite, but I find it thoroughly amusing.
And he has a beard! Are you attracted to him?
Oh my god, he's so hot! He definitely gives me a lady-boner.
You got a 1500 on your SATs. Would you say that you have a strong brain game?
A brain game? What the hell does that mean?
Are you still as...sharp as you were?
I think I utilize my brain in different ways now.
I'm trying to remember how to say "thank you very much" in Japanese, or lyrics, or people's names. Things that have to do with my current life, not my algebra class when I was 17.
Except picking up on our double entrendres, I guess.
WATCH KE$HA'S BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO:
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (STYLING) Kelly McCabe. (HAIR) Ramsell Martinez. (MAKEUP) Sarai Faszel. (PROP STYLIST) Eddie Walker. COVER, SECOND, SIXTH, SEVENTH, AND EIGHTH IMAGES: Bodysuit by Norma Kamali / shirt by MadeMe / socks by Falke / rings, from top to bottom: Gara Danielle and Shayan Afshar / bangles by Shayan Afshar, Soho Hearts and Flutter by Jill Golden / earrings by Balenciaga / glasses by Ksubi. FIRST IMAGE: Sunglasses by Ray-Ban / vintage rock shirt by American Rag / bangles by Shayan Afshar, Soho Hearts, and Flutter by Hill Golden / rings, from top to bottom: Gara Danielle and Shayan Afshar / earrings by Balenciaga / sneakers by Converse. THIRD AND NINTH IMAGES: Swimsuit by Alessandro Dell'Aqua / tank top by Obey / necklace by Verve Jewelry / bangles by Shayan Afshar, Soho Hearts, and Flutter by Jill Golden / rings, from top to bottom: Gara Danielle and Shayan Afshar / earrings by Balenciaga / sneakers by Converse. FIFTH IMAGE: Sunglasses by Ray-Ban / rings, from top to bottom: Gara Danielle and Shayan Afshar / necklace by Verve.