Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ke$ha Does "Take It Off" Again (And Better)

When Animal was first released I found “Take It Off” to be an instant favorite on the album, and not surprisingly a potential single. Lo and behold, it not only became the album's fourth single, it became the fourth single from Ke$ha's debut album to hit the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 8. Considering that when an artist actually gets to release four songs from one album as singles, the final one typically serves at most as a placeholder while the artist puts the finishing touches on his/her/its/their next project, keeping the artist fresh in the public's mind but with just enough down time to ride the novelty wave upon their imminent return. It's not uncommon for the music video accompanying a fourth single to be pointedly low-key (if there is one at all), the kind an artist can shoot in one morning and be back in the studio by afternoon (the typical music video shoot lasts two to three days): Britney Spears' "Radar," the fourth single off comeback album Circus released as the singer began what became a massively successful world tour, is a perfect example.

So, it initially seemed, it would be with "Take It Off." The track production uses voice modulation at its finest for a gritty, glitter-infested pop song with great electro beats. The original video for the single, which takes a suddenly glammed-up Ke$ha (and crew) into a dystopian run-down motel setting which seems to have some continuity from the psychedelic desert location in “Your Love Is My Drug,” the previous single. The climax of the video shows off Ke$ha’s image of primal instinct and neon colors with a hood-rat body-smashing explosion of glitter (what else?) inside an empty pool. If the video didn’t leave you aroused slightly with dilated eyes, then something could be wrong with your whatever type of TV or computer screen you’re viewing Ke$ha...or it could be that the clip was, all told, pretty lackluster. Obviously this didn't preclude the track from making its improbable climb to the single digits anyway, so there was no harm done; and after all, Ke$ha (being primarily an electro-pop singer and producer rather than a live performer or music video visionary) hasn't exactly made waves with her videos, which like with Taylor Swift or John Mayer seem almost to exist out of necessity rather than on their own whims.

However, with a little help from her friends, Ke$ha has unexpectedly outdone herself with an alternate video for "Take It Off." This one, which exceeds the official version in production values, features a glow in the dark alleyway party that more literally exemplifies "where they go hardcore, and there’s glitter on the floor." The video is “channeling some 80s hard,” according to the animal herself in the description on YouTube. Perhaps (most of her audience, us included, weren't around for much more of the '80s than she was, if at all), but of course, no party of any post-Stonewall decade would be complete without a good battle of the queens. A battle of queens at most dance clubs is usually easy to gloss over, but this FX-infused "battle" between Animal Queen (get it?) Ke$ha and "Queen Of The Internet" Jeffree Star is too fabulous. Star, a fuschia-haired gender-bending entertainer, eventually maneuvers a chainsaw to shoot a laser (we're not sure either), Ke$ha deflects with her bracelet, counterattacks with a double-fisted laser blast of her own, and the foe is vanquished (it seems). Ke$ha n’ friends then proceed to "go hardcore" while their faces endure increasingly thorough (and in some cases unsettling) animal transformations as they dance until the very end.

It wasn't until, at the conclusion, when Ke$ha imbibes (her first one! Anyway, she's "not the designated driver") the contents of what looks like a prop from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and with a flash morphs into the same cheetah that appears at the beginning of the clip that I figured out what had been going on with the animal thing; but if one has seen the original video one could hardly blame a guy for assuming it was all just more bizarre purposeless sensory stimulation. This new video is, surprisingly, a breath of a fresh air with Ke$ha's music videos, for the first time actually capturing and alluding to all the elements and themes of Ke$ha's album. Which is why methinks this ostensibly casual remake (see, it's brilliant, because her "me n my friends were bored and... we made this new video" is totally believable if one hasn't or doesn't actually check out the video, and fits in perfectly with the role she's played throughout Animal's release) may well turn out to have something to do with the upcoming but as yet unannounced re-release of Animal as an extended package with up to eight new tracks, a la Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster.

See? Even at the MTV Video Music Awards she was getting started with something!

The video shows her creativity as an artist who suddenly does seem to be somewhat in charge (rather than a deer in the headlights like her previous efforts, not unlike many breakout stars who become far more successful far more quickly than they could ever be prepared for), which also puts me at ease since she is still working with Animal exec producer and hit-recycler of late Dr. Luke, which is a great partnership as long as the artist is involved and aware enough to avoid a Kelly Clarkson-esque blindside. For now we wait, but if it does turn out that there's more to this than meets the eye ("me n my friends were bored..." Yeah, and Robyn and Kelis decided to go on tour one morning over Twitter.) you heard it here first. Remember, Ke$ha is very likely a genius, sez we (hence The Ke$ha Project). A genius who really needs to get rid of that dollar sign for the sake of the few and the proud who actually know/believe that and feel ourselves die just a bit more each time we have to type that awful moniker. Just a thought.

Additional reporting and writing by Vertigo Shtick Contributor Matt Burstyn
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