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November Artist Of The Month: KE$HA

Kesha Rose Sebert (born March 1, 1987), known professionally as Kesha, is an American singer-songwriter and rapper. In 2005, at age 18, Kesha was signed to producer Dr. Luke's record label, Kemosabe Entertainment, and publishing company. Although an active musician since then, singing background vocals and writing songs for other artists, her breakthrough came in early 2009 after appearing on rapper Flo Rida's number-one single, "Right Round." Her debut album, Animal and her first extended play, Cannibal, were released in 2010. Kesha's irreverent music and image propelled her to immediate commercial success, with Animal debuting as the number-one album in the US. She also achieved two number-one singles, "Tik Tok" and "We R Who We R", and a string of top ten hits from the album and its re-release. At the same time, she continued to write songs for other artists, including "Till the World Ends" for pop singer Britney Spears. Warrior, her second studio album slated for a December 2012 release, spawned Kesha's eighth top-ten hit with "Die Young".

Influenced by various genres and artists, Kesha primarily draws inspiration from music of the 1980s; Madonna, and Beck have been cited as instrumental to her artistry. After experimenting with country, pop rock, and electronic music, Kesha stuck with the latter. Her "talky" rap technique, yodelling, and excessive auto-tune have become her trademark, and all three have led to scrutiny regarding her vocal talent. Thematically, her music generally revolves around party antics and binge drinking, although some tracks have been noted as odes to individuality. Philanthropically, Kesha has been involved with animal rights and LGBT activism. Since her debut, Kesha has been nominated for over 40 awards, winning upwards of 10. Among these awards, she won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best New Act in 2010 and several Billboard Awards.

Kesha was born in Los Angeles, California on March 1,1987. Her mother, Pebe Sebert, is a singer-songwriter who co-wrote the 1978 single "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You" with Hugh Moffatt for Joe Sun. Pebe, a single mother, struggled financially while supporting herself, Kesha, and her older brother Lagan; they relied on welfare payments and food stamps to get by. When Kesha was an infant, Pebe would often have to look after her onstage while performing. Kesha says she has no knowledge of her father's identity. However, a man who called himself her father approached Star Magazine in 2011 with pictures and letters, claiming them as proof that they had been in regular contact as father and daughter before she turned 19. Two of her maternal great grandparents were immigrants from Szentes, Hungary while her other maternal great grandmother was originally from Poland. Pebe moved the family to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1991 after securing a new publishing deal for her songwriting. Kesha's younger brother Louis was born shortly after. Pebe frequently brought Kesha and her brothers along to recording studios and encouraged Kesha to sing when she noticed Kesha's vocal talent. Kesha claimed that she did not fit in at school in the Brentwood suburb of Nashville which she called the "Bible Belt", explaining that her unconventional dress sense including homemade purple velvet pants and purple hair did not endear her to other students. She played the trumpet and later the saxophone in the marching band in school and described herself in an interview with NPR as being a diligent student.

Kesha attended Franklin High School and Brentwood High School. In addition to taking songwriting classes, Kesha was also taught how to write songs by Pebe, and they would often write together when she returned home from high school. Kesha began recording demos which Pebe would give to people she knew. Kesha was also in a band with Lagan. Kesha and Pebe co-wrote the song "Stephen" together when Kesha was 16, Kesha then tracked down David Gamson, a producer that she admired, from Scritti Politti who agreed to produce the song. She dropped out of school at 17, after being convinced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin to return to Los Angeles to pursue a music career, and earned her GED after. Around this time, Pebe answered an ad by reality series, The Simple Life, looking for an "eccentric" family to host Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. The episode aired in 2005. Luke and Martin had received one of Kesha's demo from Samantha Cox, senior director of writer/publisher relations at Broadcast Music Incorporated, and were impressed. Two of the demos were described in a cover story for Billboard, the first "a gorgeously sung, self-penned country ballad" and the second "a gobsmackingly awful trip-hop track" where Kesha raps ad lib for a minute when she runs out of lyrics near the end. Dr. Luke stated in an interview for the story that it was the latter track that caught his attention, saying "when you're listening to 100 CDs, that kind of bravado and chutzpah stand out."

"I was so happy being broke. And I’m happy not being broke. It doesn’t really affect me either way. I care about taking care of people that have taken care of me – that’s important to me. But to be honest, I’m kind of repulsed by the gluttony and excesses of a lot of people in the limelight." - Kesha explaining the dollar sign in her stage name.

In 2005, at 18, Kesha was signed to Dr. Luke's label, Kemosabe Entertainment, and his music publishing company, Prescription Songs. Kesha later sang background vocals for Paris Hilton's single, "Nothing in This World". Dr. Luke became preoccupied with other incoming projects, having enjoyed success writing and producing for pop star Kelly Clarkson's album, Breakaway. Kesha then signed with David Sonenberg's management company, DAS Communications Inc., in 2006, hardly interacting with Dr. Luke after that. DAS was tasked with obtaining a major label record deal for Kesha in a year’s time in exchange for 20 percent of her music income, with her having the option of ending the relationship if they failed. She worked with several writers and producers while at the company and ended up co-writing Australian pop group The Veronicas' single, "This Love" with producer Toby Gad. While furthering her career in studio, Kesha earned her living as a waitress. She adopted the dollar sign in her name while struggling to get by as an ironic gesture.

Kesha appeared in the video for her friend, pop singer Katy Perry's single "I Kissed a Girl", and sang background vocals for the Dr. Luke-produced song, "Lace and Leather" by pop singer Britney Spears in 2008. DAS soon attracted the attention of songwriter and A&R Kara DioGuardi, who wanted to sign Kesha to Warner Bros. Records. The deal fell through due to her existing contract with Dr. Luke's label. In September, she terminated her contract with DAS, reuniting with Dr. Luke. Kesha gained exposure in the mainstream media in early 2009 after appearing on rapper Flo Rida's number one single, "Right Round". The collaboration happened by accident; she had walked into a recording session for the song with Flo Rida and Dr. Luke. Flo Rida wanted a female voice for the song; Dr. Luke then suggested Kesha for the part. Flo Rida liked the end result so much that they did two more tracks. However, she is not credited for her feature on the US release of "Right Round" and did not collect any money for the part. She also refused to appear in the video, explaining to men's magazine Esquire that she wanted to make a name for herself on her own terms.

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After failing to negotiate with Lava Records and Atlantic Records in 2009, Kesha signed a multi-album deal with RCA Records through Dr. Luke's imprint. Having spent the previous six years working on material for her debut album, she began putting finishing touches to the album with Luke and Max Martin. For the album, she wrote 200 songs. Due to indecision about which tracks to include, she ended up extending the tracklisting from the intended twelve songs to fourteen, to add songs she did not want to exclude. The album was executive produced by Luke, who produced the majority of the songs with Martin, and producers Benny Blanco and Ammo. The album is primarily of the electropop genre with beats and synths, marking a shift in sound for Luke from then on from his signature pop-rock productions, which he attributed to Kesha who was adamant that there be no guitars used on the record. She described the record as "honest and fun," calling it "a celebration of youth and life and going out and getting crazy." She explained that she was "[all] about non-pretentious irreverence and f**k off good fun!" Animal debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 when it was released in January 2010, usurping British singer Susan Boyle's album which had spent five consecutive weeks at the top, receiving three quarters of its sales from digital sales. It was certified platinum in the US and had sold two million albums worldwide by September. Animal received mixed reviews from music critics; music magazine Rolling Stone summed the album up as "repulsive, obnoxious and ridiculously catchy." On the week ending December 27, 2009, "Tik Tok" broke the record in the United States for the highest single week sales, selling 610,000 digital downloads, the highest ever by a female artist since tracking began in 2003 and second highest overall, behind "Right Round" which sold 636,000 copies on the chart dated February 28, 2009. The record would later be surpassed by Taylor Swift's single "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" when it sold 623,000 digital copies in its debut week in the week ending September 1, 2012. Spending nine weeks at the summit of the Billboard Hot 100, "Tik Tok" became the longest running number one by a female artist on her debut single since Debby Boone and "You Light Up My Life" in 1977."Blah Blah Blah", "Your Love Is My Drug" and "Take It Off" were released as the album's second, third and fourth singles, respectively. All three songs achieved similar commercial success each reaching the top ten in Australia, Canada, and the US. Kesha's deliberately unpolished aesthetic and juvenile stage persona, which she described as her own personality "times ten", quickly made her a deeply polarizing figure. Some of her critics found her output to be unsophisticated, while others felt that she was manufactured and lacked credibility.

Kesha also featured on two top ten singles by musician Taio Cruz and electro-pop duo 3OH!3, through recommendations by Dr. Luke, in May. Kesha's former managers from DAS Communications Inc. filed a lawsuit later that month, seeking $14 million from Kesha and $12 million from Luke for commissions on her RCA Records deal, alleging that she had extended the deadline for them to get her a major record label contract and squeezed them out of her career under pressure from Dr. Luke. Kesha launched her own lawsuit in October, citing the California-exclusive Talent Agencies Act and asking the California Labor Commissioner to declare her contract with DAS void because it had acted as an unlicensed talent agent while procuring work for her in California, where only licensed agents can do so. Kesha held a benefit concert on June 16, 2010 where all proceeds went to aid victims of the May 2010 Tennessee floods from her hometown Nashville. She raised close to $70,000 from the event. She was a supporting act on the summer North American leg of pop star Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth Tour and was awarded Best New Act at the 2010 MTV Europe Music Awards in November. Animal was re-released with a companion extended play, Cannibal, in November. Seven months later, the set was certified gold by the RIAA. The new collection of songs was released because of Kesha's desire to have enough songs to extend her one hour sets to two hours. Lead single, "We R Who We R" became only the 17th song to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, three weeks before the album's release. With two number ones and four top ten hits, Kesha was named Hot 100 Artist of 2010 by Billboard, with "Tik Tok" topping the year-end chart."Blow" charted in the top ten on the Hot 100 in early 2011. As of June 2011, she has accumulated almost 21 million digital single downloads in the US alone. Kesha embarked on her first headlining world tour, Get Sleazy, in the spring, telling Billboard that she would be demonstrating a different side to her musicianship, playing multiple instruments. The tour was expanded with a summer leg due to the first leg selling out and spanned three continents. Kesha co-wrote Britney Spears' top three single, "Till the World Ends" and was featured on the official remix along with rapper Nicki Minaj.

Kesha was named rights group Humane Society's first global ambassador for animal rights, for which she is expected to bring attention to such practices as cosmetics testing on animals and shark finning. She had earlier donated 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of dog food to a Nashville animal shelter for pets abandoned in the May 2010 flood in addition to raising money for people. She had also appeared alongside rock singer Iggy Pop, who would influence the musical direction of her next album and feature on one of its songs, in a campaign for PETA, protesting the clubbing of baby seals in Canada and later wrote on behalf of the organization to fast food chain McDonald's over the conditions of their slaughterhouses. After meeting Kesha at the 2010 Grammy Awards and guesting at a number of her concerts, rock singer Alice Cooper asked her to write lyrics for and vocally perform as a devil character for their duet track, "What Baby Wants", on Cooper's album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

Kesha's second full length album, Warrior will be released on December 4, 2012. She began writing for the album while on her own headlining tour in 2011. She intends to make a "cock rock" album inspired by 1970s rock, a departure from her first two electropop albums where there were few guitars to be found in the production. She explained the inspiration behind this direction to MTV, "I just want to capture some of the true essence of what rock and roll is, and that's just irreverence and sexiness and fun and not giving a f---." In an interview with fashion publication V Magazine, Kesha stated that many songs on the album would not contain Auto-tune. Warrior will feature productions from her main collaborators Dr. Luke and Max Martin, as well as a song by Wayne Coyne, the lead singer of the alternative band Flaming Lips. Coyne had reached out to Kesha for a collaboration after hearing that she was a fan of the band. They recorded the song "2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)" for the band's collaboration album, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends and some songs for her album. Along with Neon Indian and Prefuse 73, Kesha provided her blood to the Flaming Lips for a limited edition release of the band's album. They wanted to collect the blood of every artist they collaborated with on the record and douse physical copies of the album in it. The first single from Warrior, "Die Young" was released on September 25, 2012. A lyric video for the track was uploaded to her VEVO account on the same day. "Die Young" was complimented for the genre mashup. Instrumentally, it was compared to Flo Rida's "Good Feeling". Lyrically, it was compared to "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry. Debuting at number 13 on the Hot 100, "Die Young" peaked at number 5 in its third week, crowning it Kesha's eighth top-ten hit since her solo debut on the chart in 2012 with "Tik ToK". Charting across Europe and the Anglosphere, the song reached the top ten in Australia, Canada, and Belgium.

Published and distributed by Touchstone Books, My Crazy Beautiful Life, an illustrated memoir written by Kesha, is set to release on November 20, 2012 In an interview, she said "In less than three years I've gone from being the worst waitress in LA to living out my childhood dreams of singing my songs to people all over the world. Sometimes, it feels as if the last few years have encompassed a few decades. You might have heard my voice on the radio, seen me on stage and on the red carpet, or in a music video, but that's only a part of the story. In these pages, I'm revealing a more complete picture of what my life is really like. It's not all glamorous and it s not all pretty, but it's all real."

Kesha appeared on the cover of Vibe in Autumn of 2012, making her the first caucasian female to appear on the cover by herself.

TRIVIA:

  • Ranked #56 in the 2010 Maxim list of "Hot 100 Women".
  • She doesn't know who her dad is.
  • Her mother Pepe Sebert struggled financially as she brought Kesha and her siblings up. They had to rely on welfare payments and food stamps to get by.
  • Her family was featured on "The Simple Life".
  • She said that she did not fit in at school in the Brentwood suburb of Nashville, which she called the "Bible Belt". Her unconventional dress sense, including homemade purple velvet pants and purple hair, did not warm her to other students.
  • Once vomited in Paris Hilton's closet.
  • Kesha loves and respects animals. She is a vegetarian, only wears fake fur, and is one of Humane Society International's ambassadors.
  • Has a mezzo-soprano vocal range.
  • She has a dog named Bakon.
  • She is allergic to mangos.