That was Ke$ha on the cover of Billboard magazine’s year-end issue — smiling broadly, spraying champagne from an open bottle in her right hand.
And she has every reason to celebrate these days. Ke$ha was pop music’s princess of 2010, rivaled only by Lady Gaga. She sold more than 2 million copies of her chart-topping debut album, “Animal,” and the follow-up mini-album “Cannibal.” Her first single, “Tik Tok,” hit No. 1 in 11 countries, and four more Top 10 hits — “Blah Blah Blah,” “Your Love is My Drug,” “Take It Off” and “We R Who We R,” which also reached No. 1 — made her Billboard’s Hot 100 Artist of the Year and Top New Artist.
Now Ke$ha, who opened for Rihanna last year, is on her first headlining excursion, the “Get $leazy” tour, brimming with confidence — and, she says, a bit of surprise.
“I don’t think there’s any way one could prepare for the kind of insanity that was last year,” says Ke$ha, 23, who was born Kesha Rose Sebert in Los Angeles and raised primarily in Nashville. “I feel so incredibly lucky, and at the same time the best word to describe last year would probably be insane — across the board it was insane from the shows and the fans and the experiences and my development as a musician and a writer and a person.
“It was just incredible, and totally insane.”
But, Ke$ha acknowledges, she didn’t stop to take full stock of the impact of her anthemic, dance-floor friendly pop until Nov. 7, when she was named Best New Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards and told fans that, “Hopefully I can inspire you to give your finger to the cynics and ... be yourself.”
“It was fan-voted,” Ke$ha recalls, “and it just really made me realize that all the records I’ve made and the years of writing songs and the living in my car and the dropping out of high school and all the good and the bad and the ugly — all those experiences and the lost sleep were all worth it because I realized that my fans had my back.
“I tried to play it cool,” she recalls, “but the second I got on stage I lost it, because it was such an incredible moment realizing that I make music for people and they like me enough that they voted for me to win an award. That was so validating for me.”
Despite her youth, that validation was a long time coming for Ke$ha. Music is in her DNA; her mother, Pebe, was a singer-songwriter who raised Ke$ha and her older brother Lagan as a single mother on welfare; Ke$ha has claimed she doesn’t know who her biological father is despite a recent claim by a Los Angeles musician and engineer named Bob Chamberlain. Her mother taught Ke$ha to play guitar and write songs and introduced her to a wide variety of music.
“I grew up listening to all sorts of music,” says Ke$ha. “Music is magic. It’s literally magic. You can change people’s mood in three and a half minutes. And performing a song people like to a room full of 2,000 people who are all just there to see you is better than sex. It’s the most exquisite feeling I’m pretty sure that exists. It’s euphoric.”
The Seberts had a brush with fame in 2005, while hosting Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie on a 2005 episode of their TV reality series “The Simple Life.” Though Ke$ha was academically minded — depending on the account, she was either enrolled in or on track to be part of the International Baccalaureate program — she gave it up to move to Los Angeles, working behind the scenes as a background singer for Hilton, Britney Spears and Flo Rida, as well as doing songwriting for others.
That period was also marked by some “shady stuff,” she says, including living out of her car and “stealing canned vegetables from the dollar store.” But, Ke$ha contends, there was a silver lining to those experiences, too.
“I was young and broke and irreverent,” says Ke$ha, who’s embroiled in a $14 million lawsuit with her former management, DAS Communications Inc., which claims she prematurely terminated their contract before signing a deal with RCA Records. “I spent three and a half or four years in periods that were maybe not as financially stable as others, and I think that it really helped me develop as a person and it helped me develop my musical style and it also gave me a really interesting perspective on life. And it helped me write a very cohesive record that was really about a lifestyle.”
What’s reflected in the songs on “Animal,” Ke$ha explains, is someone who, despite her hardships, “would let nothing get in they way between myself and having a good time — even money. I think that’s a common thread throughout my music; I don’t think money should determine your happiness. You don’t have to drive a fancy car or wear name-brand clothing. You can have a great time whether it’s hanging out in your house doing nothing with cool people.”
And, she adds, “I think that probably speaks to society now because we’ve obviously been going through a recession. So I think (the songs) are really relatable. I don’t think that would’ve been my perspective had I not gone through being broke in Los Angeles like I was.”
Now, however, she wants to spread “positive” messages. “I would love to think that I’ve redefined the term ‘party girl,’ because I don’t think that’s necessarily a negative thing,” Ke$ha explains. I’m not irresponsible. I’m not a drunk, and I’m not a whore. It’s more about just celebrating whatever.
“If I inspire people to have a good time, that’s a positive thing.”
And that’s exactly what she’s trying to do with the “Get $leazy” tour, which will keep her on the road for most of 2011.
“It’s gonna be a ridiculously fun dance party,” she promises. “I want people to feel like they’ve come to my house party and they can be the most raw and visceral version of themselves and not be judged. I want my show to be a place you can come and dress like a maniac and wear mental makeup and it’s totally cool.
“That’s the way I approach my life now, so I want to let people have a taste of that and just have a good time with me.”
Ke$ha and Beardo perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Tickets are sold out. Call 313-961-5450 or visit www.livenation.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to