Ke$ha has been the subject of plenty of debate chez Flavorpill over the last couple of years — some of us love her, some of us regard her with deep suspicion, some of us are broadly indifferent and rather wish she’d just go away. But whatever our take on her schtick, we were united in bewilderment at the statement she released via Twitter yesterday about her song “Die Young” being “inappropriate” in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre. TMZ reports that the singer claimed — in a tweet that now appears to have been deleted — that “I had my very own issues with “die young” for this reason. I did NOT want to sing those lyrics and I was FORCED TO.” Um… Ke$ha, what the hell?
There are so many layers of wrongness here that it’s hard to know where to begin. First, there’s the tired trope that a song can be related to the actions of a murderous lunatic, a trope that Ke$ha is indirectly reinforcing with her statement that her song has somehow become “inappropriate” overnight. We thought that perhaps we might have moved on from the days of blaming Judas Priest for suicides and Marilyn Manson for Columbine, but no, apparently not — it appears that there are still people out there who think the appropriate response to events like Sandy Hook is not examining our insane gun culture and/or lack of mental health support services, but pulling songs off radio. Bravo, America.
Second, there’s the fact that whatever your view on the point above, the lyrics to “Die Young” have absolutely nothing to do with anything remotely related to Sandy Hook. The chorus goes, “Let’s make the most of the night/ Like we’re gonna die young,” which is basically another way of repeating the cliché that you should live each day as if it’s your last — an idea that’s only offensive in its abiding cheesiness. It’s not exactly a revolutionary piece of lyricism, but neither is it in any way advocating murder, suicide, or any other form of untimely death.
All of which makes us ask: what in god’s name is with Ke$ha’s “I did not want to sing those lyrics and I was forced to” statement? Could it possibly be true?
For a start, we’d rather hope anyone who puts a piece of art — and let’s not split hairs, Ke$ha makes art as much as anyone else who stands up on a stage and starts singing — with their name on it out into the public domain would, y’know, stand by it. This is particularly true in a case where that art has nothing to do with the controversy in which it’s being somehow implicated. Ke$ha would have been well within her rights to tell anyone quibbling with “Die Young” in the wake of Sandy Hook to go and fuck themselves, and we’re thoroughly disappointed she declined to do so. It’s both pusillanimous and hypocritical to sell the idea of self-expression and being “weird” to kids, and then at the first sign of trouble turn around and say, “Oh, no, it was all an act and these nasty men in suits MADE me do it.”
Now that the statement has been made public, even if it was subsequently deleted, there’s really no way that Ke$ha comes out of this well. As far as we can see, there are three possibilities here, none of which reflect well on her:
a) The statement is true, and Ke$ha thus lacks ultimate control over the music that’s put out under her name;
b) The statement is false, and Ke$ha’s pretending not to have been OK with the lyrics and performance for the sake of her career; or
c) The statement is false, and Ke$ha’s managers/record company execs/etc. are now panicking and trying to separate her from a “crisis” that had nothing to do with her in the first place.
It’s a case of pick your poison, really. If we go with a), then it’s hard to know why anyone should care about Ke$ha and her views on anything, because clearly we can’t trust her any more than she trusts herself. If a) is true, she’s effectively the face of a brand, not an artist, which makes statements like this (“Favorite mantra/quote/piece of advice? ‘Be yourself. Unapologetically. Fucking always.'”) depressingly ironic. (And before you get all cynical, remember that kids really do care what pop stars have to say.)
If it’s b), then this statement is a move that’s both cynical in the extreme and also remarkably inept, for the reasons set out above.
And if it’s c), well, see a), really — if Ke$ha won’t stand behind her work, then why should her fans do any different?