Queen of the Lizards

In the Valley of the 14-Year-Old Hookers

Queen of the Lizards

"I’ll usually go out, have one fucking insane night, come home half-drunk, stumbling, and write down a few words. The next morning, I’ll wake up and be like, ‘Whoa, this story needs to be told.’” —Ke$ha, on her songwriting process, to Esquire magazine, August 2009

YouTube is home to a small but ardent group of conspiracy theorists who spend their spare time manipulating poor-quality video in order to “discover” which celebrities are actually lizard people in disguise. According to the teachings of 9/11 Truther and all-around world-class conspiracy nut job David Icke, an army of lizards that are wearing complex human-looking skin suits are controlling the course of human history. One can only detect their clever ruse by investigating grainy video footage and employing different filter effects until a brief flash of light originating from the pupil signifies the lizard pretender.

Icke-informed videos are named things like “Top 100 REPTILIAN SHAPESHIFTERS,” “UNDENIABLE PROOF OF REAL REPTILIAN!!!” and “Reptilians Exposed—You absolutely MUST watch! No.2.” You can lose entire afternoons by following links. In the comments of one such video that “outs” Vanilla Ice and Stranger editorial director Dan Savage, a commenter writes: “Watch Kesha’s video for ‘take it off’ watch it in 480p and look at her eyes around 25 seconds when she says, ‘The animal turns wild.’”

Here it is:

So. Based on the overwhelming evidence of a glimmer of light in the pupil of a person who is being filmed by a professional camera crew, as viewed on low-quality video, do I think that Ke$ha is secretly an evil sentient lizard being? Sure. Yeah. I do. I mean, why not? Right? She’s pretty, but her face is eminently forgettable: Give me a lineup of blond women in identical clothing, and I don’t think I could spot Ke$ha unless I was holding a photograph of Ke$ha in my hand. That’s kind of spooky, I guess. And she says things like this, in an April 2010 interview with Interview magazine, about her belief system:

None of it’s fabricated. Like, I have a belief that if I wear my placenta in a necklace, there’s a possibility of me gaining second sight—like being psychic. I would be wearing it whether or not I was in the public eye. I’m just honest about the things I believe in. For instance, I went yesterday to a past-life regressionist, and he told me that in my past life I was assassinated. I’m pretty sure that I was JFK in my past life.

Those are clearly the words of someone who wants to subvert the current Judeo-Christian paradigm to allow a pantheistic lizard mythology to take root. And so, with this evidence in hand, I expected to be surrounded by lizard people at Showbox Sodo on the night of the Ke$ha concert. But the bar is notably low-key. This is not some Belltown meat market. There are a few men walking around who look like exquisitely carved hunks of meat, smacking into people with their broad shoulders, turning, saying a confrontational “My bad,” and then strutting onward, making wide, frustrated circles around the perimeter of the room. But there’s no other angry or inhuman behavior to be seen.

There are two kinds of rooms you’ll find yourself in at these kinds of popular, sold-out pop-music events: a tit room and a leg room. A tit room is one in which the majority of women have preened and tended to their cleavage with gallons of moisturizer and hundreds of dollars of high-tech brassiere technology, and their clothing is less about modesty and more about providing a gilt frame for the breasts, pushing them forward into the crowd for homage and genuflection. Tit rooms are mean and nasty and overtly cruel.

Thankfully, Ke$ha has drawn a leg room, which is less aggressive and more polite than the mammary option. The women are all wearing expensive, pre-torn fishnets or glittery tights or patterned pantyhose, clomping to and fro on impractical shoes like drugged gazelles. The men are less prone to doing something stupid in front of a woman (and, therefore, her breasts) in a tit room; in a leg room, they’re more likely to wait, respectfully, for her to pass by and then stare quietly as she walks away. Several heavy-drinking females are wearing just underpants and very tall boots. A woman wearing fishnets and a tiny dress asks me to take a picture of her and her friend. Just before I snap the picture, she leans into her friend and says, “Look slutty!” I guess they succeed.

Ke$ha in Entertainment Weekly, January 2010, on people thinking that she runs around with the likes of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie: “Oh, gross! I’m from the opposite of that. Do you think that those girls dig through the garbage for their clothes? That’s what I’m saying. And, you know, would they live in a house with 10 people that they’ve never met, you know? And would they be OK if they never came home for four days and just went to Vegas on a whim? Like, would they never wear high heels when they go out so they can run from the cops? Very different.”

There aren’t that many people up in the bar; this is an all-ages show, and almost everyone is on the floor, packed up tight against the stage. Down there, the demographic seems to be 14, female, and dressed as a prostitute from the 1980s (less Pretty Woman and more background character from Night Court). A small contingent of young gay men outdoes the teenage girls in the glitter department. A handful of young parents have brought children, ranging in age from about 3 to 12. This is a roomful of children. They mill about before the show, looking serious in their scant clothing and impractical footwear, the way children do at a birthday party before they realize that the euphoric, rapturous sensation that books promise them “fun” will feel like is really a lie.

This is a show for children.

The opening act, a grown man who calls himself Beardo, is for all intents and purposes a birthday party clown. He looks like a pedophile, with an exaggerated 1980s hairstyle (permy mullet with the sides shaved away, Kid ’N Play style, and a porny mustache) and a muscle T-shirt. He plays guitar over prerecorded backing tracks, and he says things like “Are you ready to rock?” with so many ironic quotation marks flapping around his words that it’s a miracle he’s even intelligible. He plays guitar with the overstated mien of a 6-year-old. He’s something to laugh at and forget, an insult comic eating himself to death for a crowd that’s too young to get the joke.

And then, Ke$ha.

Oh, boy, Ke$ha.

First, there’s a lot of smoke. A lot of smoke: Thick whorls tentacling out everywhere in the darkness. And then she appears, wearing glasses that are made entirely out of lights, in the darkness. All you can see is her eyes, buried inside those glowing frames, and the flap of her glossy lips and then a smear of glitter floating somewhere underneath it. People always wonder if Ke$ha is as stupid as she sounds in interviews, but I think this is proof that she’s not. If she’s so stupid, why does she begin her show by doing an impression of the cover of The Great Gatsby?

If Beardo was a perverted clown at a child’s birthday party, then Ke$ha is performing an elementary-school Christmas pageant of the damned. All the costumes and stage elements are meant to look like they were dragged out of a Dumpster a few moments before they appear onstage; when not in use, Ke$ha’s microphone rests in the hand of a female-mannequin arm propped up in the center of the stage. Her backup dancers are dressed like B-movie extras from a 1984 film about a postapocalyptic society, with tall, pointy Mohawks and leather bracelets and fake-punk couture. For much of the show, they’re all just chasing each other around the stage like a low-rent Hard Day’s Night. For “Dinosaur,” a song about being hit on by a creepy old man, one of the dancers puts on a giant plastic dinosaur head and Ke$ha batters the dinosaur with several blunt instruments, running around and laughing and smacking into the few people onstage who are actually playing musical instruments. In keeping with the retirement-home theme, there’s a brief dance sequence involving walkers and mimed anal sex.

I just like playing with makeup and clothes—so I really don’t feel like there are rules, and if there are rules, then I think it’s up to you to break them. That’s why I’m wearing blue lipstick right now, because most people would probably say it’s not a good color for your lips, but I’m here to show them that it is.
—Ke$ha to Seventeen magazine on her personal style, October 2010.

Ke$ha keeps disappearing and returning in puffs of smoke, like she’s Batman. Her costume changes are few. She wears a velvet swimsuit with a glittery skeleton glued onto it, but spends most of the show covered up in a grimy white T-shirt with a large American flag emblazoned on the front. The junky aesthetic prevails. For one of the party songs—who can keep track of which song is which when 90 percent of the songs are about parties?—someone brings out a ratty rolling cooler that has been covered with stickers and filth. During “Grow a Pear,” a man in a pear costume dances around with a man in a penis costume. “Mr. Penis!” Ke$ha chirps, and hugs the eight-foot schlong as the children roar with approval. “I think I need more glitter on my tits, don’t you?” she says near the end of the show, and her dancers surround her and bukkake her with silver glitter until you can practically hear the grit on the stage. A ratty Santa with a razor-blade-gargling voice spends the latter half of the show being the master of ceremonies.

But there’s evidence of real money being spent, too. Ke$ha and two dancers fire cannonsful of golden glitter at the audience on several occasions (I will find traces of golden glitter in strange places three or four days after the concert). The biggest production number occurs during “Cannibal.” Ke$ha crucifies a male backup dancer on a giant V in the center of the stage, cuts out his heart, and dines on it, dribbling blood down her face as the 14-year-old hookers scream for more. Then the backup dancers spin the crucified man around in a circle, nibbling at his flesh until there’s nothing left but a skeleton. (During “Cannibal,” a man is carrying a young blond woman around the crowd by her armpits. Her placid smile and dull, watery eyes indicate she’s on something: Her legs are rubbery, flopping around like they don’t have any bones in them. The pair passes in front of me, and he nearly drops her. She looks at me, smiles, reaches out, and digs her fingernails into my chest on the left side. My heart doesn’t prove as easily detached as the man onstage, and so she gives me a Buddha smile and then collapses to the concrete floor. Bouncers immediately guide her away.)

The music is terrible, of course. You’ve heard Ke$ha. It’s one step above humming to yourself in terms of complexity: da-da-da-DA-da, da-da-DA-da-DA-da-DA for four minutes before everyone’s attention span collapses and some other simple beat is necessary. But that’s all this crowd needs. You’d think they’d never been to a concert before; come to think of it, considering the median age, many of them probably haven’t been to a concert before. Ke$ha keeps shouting: “I love you, Seattle!” and “You guys are crazy!” and “Do you want to tear the motherfucking roof off this place?” and the crowd goes berserk at each stale exhortation.

But somewhere around the closing number, “We R Who We R,” where Ke$ha, Mister Rogers–like, tells the audience, “I hope that song inspires you to be yourself, unapologetically, always,” and the two-part encore, where she and the backup dancers sing “TiK ToK” while dressed as enormous tropical birds, and she bashes a piñata full of condoms into the audience during a cover of “Fight for the Right (to Party)” while wearing the Washington State flag as a superhero cape, it occurs to me: This woman is going to rule a media empire one day. She must be a lizard-alien beast; I could parse the symbols and themes out of this show for decades and still not get to the real meaning of it all. It’s like a coded alien manifesto, with too much density for human brains to understand.

In the men’s room after the show, one of the meat men is walking around in tight circles, punching stall doors and walls. He’s rapping freestyle about how he wants to kill faggots. His brain has been broken by Ke$ha. He walks out of the men’s room, kicks the door open again, and then walks away. An old mustachioed man shakes his head and says, “That guy’s going to be sucking a lot of dick before the night is through.” Outside, hordes of teenagers dressed as TV prostitutes walk down First Avenue, raving about the trashy princess they’ve just seen. If they walk all the way downtown, they’ll pass the flotilla of empty storefronts that make up Pioneer Square and the homeless people sleeping under abandoned overpasses. They’re the first generation of Americans who are almost guaranteed to do worse than the generation before. recommended


Comments (40) RSS

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laterite 1
This is a pretty amazing review of such a banal pop 'phenomenon'. Thanks, Paul.
Posted by laterite on February 23, 2011 at 4:32 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 2
You're just jealous.

Look, it's not your scene. Nothing wrong with admitting that, but if you have a fondness for autotuned voiced cali girl drug/surf lyrics and have ever been a Burner, you get what she's doing.

A lot more understandable than Kanye is most days, even if he's also ten times as creative as she is.
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 23, 2011 at 4:51 PM · Report this
seandr 3
Thank god for party girls, I love them, and I always will.
Posted by seandr on February 23, 2011 at 4:58 PM · Report this
polar_moose 4
if this is real, what the fuck.
Posted by polar_moose on February 23, 2011 at 5:04 PM · Report this
@2 - It's nobody's scene.

I'm old and male, but I can appreciate an artist who's emphatically not performing for the benefit of my market segment, like, say, Gaga. Gaga is commercial, but she has musical talent and appears to be genuinely a little bizarre and sincere in what she's putting out. Don't love her music, but I appreciate what she's doing.

Ke$ha, on the other hand, is untalented and unoriginal. She can't sing or even dance (did you see the Saturday Night Live performance - yikes on both counts). When she opens her mouth, she makes Britney Spears sound like [insert name of someone much smarter than Britney Spears here].

Whenever I see or hear Ke$ha, I imagine a record executive woke up one morning and asked his people to find a non-descript blond woman who was highly suggestible and not so talented or beautiful as to revolt against him the way Christina Aguilera did to Steve Kurtz.

I'd call it mission accomplished. Now if you'll excluse me, I'm going to go try to blow Tik Tok out of my head with a .357 Magnum.
Posted by Centrists Rule the World today on February 23, 2011 at 5:10 PM · Report this
@4: Yeah, I had to stop and remind myself a couple of times through this that this was an actual thing that actually happened, and not some weird scene from a William Gibson novel or something.
Posted by Ben on February 23, 2011 at 5:24 PM · Report this
Jessica 7
I much prefer her earlier stuff (why yes, I WAS really into Jewel in high school!):…
Posted by Jessica on February 23, 2011 at 5:48 PM · Report this
A Concerned Parent 8
That blonde girl you described sounds exactly like someone I went to highschool with. Always on something.
Posted by A Concerned Parent on February 23, 2011 at 5:49 PM · Report this
seandr 9
@5: Dance moves? Singing? As someone with a tween daughter, I can assure you that you've completely and utterly missed the entire fucking point of Ke$ha.

Ke$ha is the big sister of one of your friends who passes you your first joint, explains what a blow job is and how to give one, takes you to your first rock concert, and teaches you how to look sexy.

She's the cool girl who takes you, the shy girl, under her wing and shows you how to break the rules, let go, and have fun.

She's the friend who get's you into clubs for free, always knows where the party is, and always keeps things interesting.

She embodies this persona better than any other performer I'm aware of. And comparing her to Lady Gaga? That makes about as much sense as comparing her to Led Zeppelin.
Posted by seandr on February 23, 2011 at 6:17 PM · Report this
This is about 5 bazillion times better than the retardo Kesha story written in the Seattle Weekly last week.
Posted by Deep derp derp on February 23, 2011 at 6:18 PM · Report this
biju 11
Great write up Paul!
Posted by biju on February 23, 2011 at 6:53 PM · Report this
@8 you went to high school with a blonde girl who took lots of drugs? weeeeeird.
Posted by olive on February 23, 2011 at 7:55 PM · Report this
@9 - Interesting perspective. I suppose Ke$ha could be that slightly safe version of wild.

Your daughter's just a construct you're using to prove a point, right? She doesn't exist, she's not listening to Ke$ha?

I swear I lose IQ points every time I put that dollar sign in her name.
Posted by Centrists Rule the World today on February 23, 2011 at 8:11 PM · Report this
Fistique 14
The most suspicious thing to me is, she doesn't seem to be able to act wasted convincingly.
Posted by Fistique on February 23, 2011 at 8:58 PM · Report this
wockyjockey 15
I swear I much prefer Ke$ha over Katy Perry. Ke$ha be artistically worthless, but she's at least genuine.
Posted by wockyjockey on February 23, 2011 at 9:18 PM · Report this
a w e s o m e.
Posted by Cold Minnesotan on February 23, 2011 at 9:35 PM · Report this
seandr 17
@13: My actual, real, not-quite-10-years-old daughter came home from a sleep-over birthday party a few weeks ago and was all of the sudden into Ke$ha.

Otherwise, I promise you I wouldn't even know who the fuck she is, nor would I have bothered listening to her to figure out her appeal. I'm a middle-aged man, for Christ's sake.

P.S. Paul, I actually loved this review.

Posted by seandr on February 23, 2011 at 11:04 PM · Report this
dangerousgift 18
beautiful writing. i loved it!
Posted by dangerousgift on February 23, 2011 at 11:47 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 19
Oh, and now I bet you're going to tell me that Dick Cheney isn't a lizard person as well.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on February 24, 2011 at 12:01 AM · Report this
There's a wave of shameless music coming out and I'm not against it.

Beardo is fucking awesome. There's a million mother fuckers out there who AREN'T like him... so let him be that one in a million.

Look at Kesha as FAST FOOD MUSIC. Sometimes you'd rather have something wrapped in paper than served on good china. I don't listen to her music, but I watch it. Unapolagetically.

Posted by Billy the Fridge on February 24, 2011 at 5:29 AM · Report this
Hey Paul. STOP TAKING WRITING TIPS FROM MUDEDE. Ending a review of a pop concert with an economic commentary is pretentious and asinine (i.e. Mudede-ish). Not to mention the fact that this review makes you sound like a cranky old man (i.e. Mudede-ish).
Posted by jambalaya on February 24, 2011 at 9:07 AM · Report this
bearseatbeats 22
Paul, you're my favorite. Fact.
Posted by bearseatbeats on February 24, 2011 at 9:13 AM · Report this
a beautiful piece of writing

really, really loved it
Posted by Thyme on February 24, 2011 at 11:21 AM · Report this
I agree with #20. So much of what's considered good music these days puts me to sleep. I want to listen to something upbeat, fun, and obnoxious. Not Ke$ha, but girl bands with that same trashy punk attitude.

Posted by virginia mason on February 24, 2011 at 11:30 AM · Report this
This review makes me glad I missed KeUSha in favor of PUSAFEST. There's no replacement for real rock music.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on February 24, 2011 at 12:37 PM · Report this
JF 26
Did you hook up with any of the sluts or not?
Posted by JF on February 24, 2011 at 1:16 PM · Report this
procupcake 27
Great review, Paul. I could give two craps about Ke$ha and her genre, but dammit, your review made me wish I'd been sitting in the back of the empty bar, sipping a champagne cocktail, in ear plugs and sunglasses.
Posted by procupcake on February 24, 2011 at 1:49 PM · Report this
kerfuffle 28
Ke$ha makes my sphincter spazm.
Posted by kerfuffle on February 24, 2011 at 3:46 PM · Report this
Paul, great writing. Keep it up.
Posted by Keep it up. on February 24, 2011 at 10:49 PM · Report this
duckgirlie 30
Great review. My little sister (12) is going through a Kesha phase at the moment, and I've had to ban her from playing it except through headphones. Luckily its generally too cold here for her to copy the outfits much.
Posted by duckgirlie on February 25, 2011 at 8:04 AM · Report this
Paul, thank you for this disturbing yet curiously fascinating article. When I was 14, Britney was all the rage, with her innocent songs about lovey-love, she was hardly threatening. She definitely wasn't throwing condoms around to her fans. I like to think of myself as quite open-minded, but encouraging young teens to have sex is not A-okay in my book. Kids these days are not more evolved as their parents like to think they are - they're simply ballsier and have less to lose. They're too eager to "grow up" so what we get is children is adult's bodies, unable to handle the real responsibilities that go with it. Kesha is simply capitalizing on their dreams of what they aren't but wish to be: grown-up, successful, sexually active, and "empowered", because you know, that's what they've read in magazines. Yet, in the process of this faux-empowerment, they are misunderstood and at risk for sexual assault by men who wish to take advantage of their naive trust. It is sad that even now little girls still feel the need to Princessify themselves, parade around as sluts, in order to "prove" themselves as feminine. Ugh. And even more disturbing is the parents who allow this. Since I had no idea who Kesha was, I Googled her, and according to her Wiki, her look is inspired by A Clockwork Orange.

Hmm. Well, at least she reads, right?

Posted by Random Username on February 25, 2011 at 9:21 AM · Report this
Hmm, I think I just figured who's video it was I saw the other day while waiting in line at some mall store. It had a blond girl trying way too hard to be edgy, dumping muck on top of head and spitting/drooling all over herself.
Posted by Emde on February 25, 2011 at 5:11 PM · Report this
Absolutely inspired writing. This is like something out of Revelations.
Posted by Igor on February 26, 2011 at 10:54 AM · Report this
you never said what venuuue
Posted by eh on February 26, 2011 at 3:06 PM · Report this
Knat 35
I can't imagine why that top image is so popular, what with it looking like there's about a dozen men just outside the frame showering her with... glitter.
Posted by Knat on February 27, 2011 at 1:42 AM · Report this
Canadian Nurse 36
Such an incredible review, Paul! You are awesome. Thanks for going so we don't have to.
Posted by Canadian Nurse on February 27, 2011 at 1:54 PM · Report this
Great Review. Super Funny.
Posted by oggydoggydiggydaddy on February 27, 2011 at 2:35 PM · Report this
Fenrox 38
Yeah @5,

I don't think you understand scenes. Even if Ke$ha is exactly as you describe her, she can still be a scene to the people that are like her. Don't forget that you are elitist!
Posted by Fenrox on February 28, 2011 at 12:14 PM · Report this
What a bunch of retarded fucking retards looking up to the head fucking retard. This whole article is fucking retarded. Retards.
Posted by Fucking Retards on March 2, 2011 at 12:24 AM · Report this
Why waste time writing about this when every day excellent musicians are forced out of this city for economic reasons? Cover some local music and play a part in the success of people you pass on the street every day.
Posted by Roma-x-Mankiller on March 3, 2011 at 2:32 AM · Report this

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