It seems like forever ago now, but when Ke$ha first emerged as a solo artist, it looked like she might unfailingly provoke the kind of critical disdain later reserved for the likes of Kreayshawn. And sure, a big part of Ke$ha’s persona has always been a potentially divisive willingness to party as hard as the bad boys, but two years after the release of her debut Animal, the hypercolor electro-pop hedonism of hits like “Your Love Is My Drug” and, yeah, “TiK ToK” only sounds all the more prescient. On the follow-up Cannibal EP, with its single “Sleazy,” she nabbed a rare André 3000 guest verse and suggested she might be a better rapper than her original L’Trimm-Uffie flow could’ve implied. She collaborated with the Flaming Lips. She startlingly covered Bob Dylan. She promised us a fanciful new style of “cock pop” on her follow-up album. We drank the Kool-Aid.
Is this it? Ke$ha’s first single from follow-up album Warrior is out today ahead of the album’s December 5 release, and on early listens it’s disappointingly difficult to find anything here to silence the skeptics. “Die Young” puts choppy guitar strums over a stomping dance beat and neon synths, while Ke$ha reprises her familiar half-rapped, half-sung vocal approach on the verses — we keep waiting for her to say that one thing about boys who look like Mick Jagger. Yeah, we do get “young punks taking shots,” but the usual idiosyncrasy that comes through on even Ke$ha’s slickest pop songs is missing here. “Let’s make the most of the night / Like we’re gonna die young,” she exhorts. Keep on dancing till the world ends, because we’re born to die, and so on. It’s not that Ke$ha needed to change her approach for the new LP, particularly, but this one feels a bit more, well, blah than her previous hits. Here’s hoping the rest of Warrior is a bit more fierce.