Hear Me Out: Ke$ha Demonstrates Staying Power On 'Warrior'

By Chris Azzopardi

Ke$ha, 'Warrior'

She's tweetedpic of her dildo "boyfriend" and written songs about getting drunk, stripping naked and getting hit on by old dudes. But Ke$ha's 15 minutes aren't over. With 12 songs that stretch her once-limited scope of dance music - both her debut and its follow-up, the "Cannibal" EP, underwent so much post-production vocal manipulation she was more robotic than a robot - "Warrior" is a game-changer for the polarizing party girl. Now, her voice is raw - and she's using it to reveal more than late-night binge drinking. "Die Young" is the kind of celebratory live-before-you-can't-anymore song that gave her a name, but even then, there's an unassuming maturity: She's young but not blind to her own mortality. It's a recurring theme. Self-empowering reckless abandon runs through "Crazy Kids" like it wants to lure Gaga's Little Monsters. The whistling is definitely in Ke$ha's favor. "Love into the Light" has "for the gays" written all over it. It's a dear-diary song until the chorus, when it surges from dark-alley confessional into an '80s power ballad that asks us to "forget about the hate." That chorus is one of the best things I've heard all year. Hell, the entire album is, from The Strokes cameo on "Only Wanna Dance With You" to demystifying the fairy-tale life on "Wonderland." "Warrior" is pop crack for a generation of rebels, wallflowers and the people who don't understand them. Grade: A-

Alicia Keys, 'Girl on Fire'

It's called "Girl on Fire," but when does Alicia Keys' new album ignite? When do these sparks become flames? It just takes a while. Keys' first disc since 2009's "The Element of Freedom" opens with her moment of emancipation and self-actualization on the piano lifter "Brand New Me" - from what, who knows, since it could be citing motherhood, label changes ... or that cute new hairdo. Whatever she's referencing, it's sung with a seething passion that has her blazing with emotion. You can practically see the fire in her face. These Alicia-at-the-piano moments - of which there are many on "Girl on Fire" - tend not to cast Keys as "brand new;" instead, they're subtle reinventions that tweak the soul-sister style she's been honing since "Songs in A Minor" was released 11 years ago. Some of it's easy to write off: "New Day" has the beat but could've been written by anyone who likes to string party cliches together, and let's just say reggae - where she takes "Limitedless" - ain't her thing. The slight but vocally powerful "That's When I Knew" refreshingly tries on some lo-fi acoustics, while electro drums swash the John Legend-scribed "Listen to Your Heart." But it's no surprise that she's best when she holds tight to her roots: "Tears Always Win" is an old-school heartbreaker that's got everything but a pint of Ben & Jerry's. If you let it, the rest of "Girl on Fire" will burn inside your soul, too. Grade: B

Also Out

Rihanna, 'Unapologetic'

Another year, another Rihanna album. Coming off the dreadfully DOA "Talk That Talk," she falls back into the darkness of her biggest commercial flop - but my personal favorite - "Rated R." On "Diamonds," RiRi just can't tap into the emotional tide of a song that requires so much more than she gives. It doesn't help that Sia's songwriting here is almost juvenile. Love's complications are better probed during "Lost in Paradise," so good it could've been on "Rated R." "Jump" pulsates into a glorious sexy-time song, but it's the ballads that really surprise: Just piano accompanies her during the touching "Stay." "Unapologetic" is Rihanna's most complicated outing - accepting the bad with the good, giving in when she knows she shouldn't. This is love in a hopeless place.

Lana Del Rey, 'Paradise'

When Lana Del Rey took her prime-time debut on "SNL" as seriously as a fifth grade talent show, people wondered: What the hell? Her authenticity was questioned like it mattered (because every pop star is all real, you know), but Del Rey - fake or not - had an alluring magnetism in that Marilyn Monroe sultriness and the pop noir of her phenomenal debut, "Born to Die." Whoever she was, it was fascinating. That same mystique on "Paradise," an eight-song EP, is still relatively potent - with its night-drive vibe, "Ride" works best - but it also reveals her stagnating artistry. Just about all the songs lilt and wisp and have deceivingly pretty strings flowing through them like they should accompany a "Fatal Attraction" sequel. A fake career can survive; a lifeless one cannot.

Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at http://www.chris-azzopardi.com.

MI Marriage Trial

Michigan Same Sex Couples Demand Respect And Equal Treatment

Michigan Leaders React To Feds Recognition Of Marriages

MI Marriage: Schuette Asks For Full Appeals Court Review

The Stay Delayed Allows 315 Couples To Wed In State

Gay Marriage Defines Schuette's Reelection Campaign

Snyder Says Schuette Going Against Trend

Sixth Circuit Continues Stay

Michigan Marriage Ban Struck Down

Michigan Makes History With First Marriages

Elected Officials, Advocates Petition Schuette To Drop Marriage Aappeal

Pictures from Ingham County - Getting Married

Pictures from Oakland County Clerk's Office - Part 1

Pictures from the Oakland County Clerk's office - Part 2

Pictures from the Oakland County Clerk's Office - Part 3

Pictures from Washtenaw County

White Nationalist Group Files Brief Supporting AG's Appeal In Marriage Ruling

Discredited Witness Part Of Right-Wing Cabal

Schauer Celebrates Overturn Of Michigan Marriage Ban

Equality Michigan Circulating Petition to Drop Appeal

Why Are Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette Wasting Michigan Taxpayer Dollars On A Costly Appeal?

Michigan Marriage Ban Co-Author Goes 'Moral'

BTL's Wedding Expo: Like Pride in April

Snyder Says Marriages Invalid

Elected Officials, Advocates Petition Schuette To Drop Marriage Appeal

Request To Remove Stay Based On Process And Substance

Schuette Lies To Satisfy Political Base

DOCUMENTS: The decision, the stay, and more

BREAKING: Holder Asked To Recognize Michigan Marriages

Michigan Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

BREAKING: Sixth Circuit Court Of Appeals Issues Temporary Stay On Michigan Case

BREAKING: Same-Sex Couples Across Michigan Get Hitched

BREAKING: Judge Friedman Declares Michigan's Same-Sex Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Judge Could Rule Late Today In Mich. Marriage Ban

Michigan Marriage Trial: And Now We Wait

Editor's Viewpoint: Our Long Journey To Justice

Federal Marriage Case Decisions Outside Michigan In Circuit Court of Appeals

Peers Distance Themselves As Regnerus Takes The Stand

Marriage Supporters, Protestors Brave Cold At Courthouse

Highlights From Michigan Same-Sex Marriage Hearing

Brown Says Schuette Instructed Clerks To Defy Court

Michigan Marriage Equality Trial Begins Second Week

Marriage Equality Trial Opens : Science v. Fear

Michigan Marriage Center Prepares State For The Possibility!

Michigan Marriage Case Begins

A Trial Full of Experts: Incredible and Not So Credible, In Hazel Park Case

like us on facebook follow us on twitter follow us on google+