Listen: Ke$ha’s Drag Queen Anthem is Just Right

Ke$ha in American flag face makeup

Ke$ha serves Betsy Ross realness

I know Lady Gaga is the queen of gay-friendly pop music, but this week, the crown belongs to Kesha.

Her new song “Pretty Lady,” which leaked last Friday, is a foot-stomping ode to drag queens, celebrating their false eyelashes and their sex appeal.

(UPDATE: Despite my earlier assumptions, this song has not been “officially” leaked. It appeared on Perez Hilton’s website, but apparently without the consent of Ke$ha’s record label. )

And you know what? The track’s pretty great. Like all Ke$ha songs, it’s trashier than a Def Leppard tank top, but this time, there’s something raw and exciting about the sleaze. Unlike the clunky come-ons in “Take It Off” or the overproduced rebellion in “Blow,” the raunch in “Pretty Lady” sounds effortless and improvised. You can imagine Ke$ha and her producers cutting loose and having fun, with half-eaten Slim Jims and empty Coors cans littering the studio floor. And that makes it easier to have fun yourself. If the host is having a good time, then the guests can, too.

But at the same time, this song is obviously contrived. I mean, could there be a savvier business move for a pop diva than praising the drag community? And unlike Gaga or  Gay President Obama, Ke$ha isn’t celebrating a drag queen’s humanity or courage. She’s praising fake boobs and fake butts and fake faces.

That contradiction—a relaxed, believable song about being phony—suits Ke$ha just fine. Because more than any other pop star, she is openly fake. Even Lady Gaga keeps telling us that her costumes and attitude are just a shield for insecurity. Ke$ha, on the other hand, sticks to her persona as a constantly-puking party girl. She serves exactly one dimension, exactly one attitude, and she doesn’t apologize for it.

But in a weird way, that’s kind of sincere, you know? She’s like, “Look, I make trashy party music. Deal with it.”

And like I said before, “Pretty Lady” feels as tossed off and relaxed as Ke$ha’s persona. It’s not trying to be a fancy dance track or a tender ballad. It’s a gutter-butt, sweaty-basement rock song. It finds honest fun in putting on a show…

kind of like a drag queen. Not all drag queens, of course. Some of them let us see the person behind the paint. But there are plenty of queens who just work the stage, collect their tips, and go home. And for that kind of  ladyboi, Ke$ha and “Pretty Lady” are great companions.

 Previously: Let’s celebrate the lost classics of Nelly Furtado

Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBlankenship. He never thought he’d like a Ke$ha song this much.



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