"We tend to think of pop hit makers as technicians of pleasure, Wonka-like shaman-confectioners spinning up cotton candy," says Jonah Weiner in Slate. "But some are masters of darker, crueler arts." Just consider the sadly unforgettable words: "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini." Expert songwriters have repeatedly proven that the most enduring tunes often combine a catchy melody with an "element of torture — of pain meted out to a precise degree" that gradually reduces us to agony, as the song replays in our minds. And few, writes Weiner, have embraced "irritation" as a "strategy for attaining pop dominance" more overtly than Ke$ha. Here, an excerpt:
On the list of pop-songwriting priorities, getting a goddamned song into as many heads as possible is tops. And while some songs sneak in and catch us unawares, others harangue their way down our ear canals, clawing and scraping as they go. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Kokomo," "Never Gonna Give You Up," and "My Humps" are among those that take this second route, and so is every hit released thus far by 23-year-old Kesha Sebert. ... The chorus to her single "Take It Off" is built around the needling, snake-charmer melody of "There's a Place in France," but that's just the beginning of her catchy-annoying offensive. Ke$ha is a deeply polarizing figure and, at least according to the old show-biz rule that it's better to be abhorred than ignored, she's doing everything right: Most pop hopefuls would kill for half of her haters.