When I read the jokey title of “Grow a Pear,” one of the songs on Ke$ha’s new EP, Cannibal, I laughed out loud—and then instantly felt like a hypocrite. After all, I’d admonished Katy Perry for similar swipes at would-be suitors’ masculinity. Then, after hearing the song’s utterly ridiculous lyrics, I realized the difference: Perry sheepishly, some might say cynically, skirts outright offensiveness by thinly veiling her homophobia and misogyny in more palatable, PG-rated portions, serving them with a vapid pout and her tits pushed up to her chin. Perry is a good Christian girl trying to make a buck (or a whore pretending to be a good Christian girl—but whatever); Ke$ha, on the other hand, is authentic, unapologetic trash (sometimes literally: She wore a trashbag to the VMAs). Also, she uses the word “mangina.”
Of course, Ke$ha Ro$e $ebert isn’t any more talented than Katy Hudson Brand, and her songs aren’t any catchier. Most of the tracks on Cannibal are “sung” atop a similar video-game synth with all the precision of a malfunctioning GPS system. And though “Sleazy” was produced by Bangladesh (Lil Wayne’s “A Milli”) and co-written by Teddybears’s Klaus Ahlund (the man behind most of Robyn’s Body Talk project), Ke$ha doesn’t branch out in any significant way here, so it’s unlikely to do for her what the similarly packaged The Fame Monster did for Lady Gaga. That said, her bona fides on the infectious lead single “We R Who We R,” a purported response to the recent gay teen suicides she calls an anthem for “weirdos,” and the stuttery club track “Blow” are undeniable.
Putting a dollar sign in your name is a great way to guarantee that you’ll probably never be taken seriously, but everyone knows that the girl who does the most body shots at the party, who goes down on the most guys under the bleachers, is usually the one crying the hardest the next morning. “I have a heart, I swear I do,” Ke$ha rap-sings on “Cannibal,” a song about a guy who’s “up [her] anus,” but based on most of the singles from her debut, you’d never know she had a brain, let alone a circulatory system. One of the non-singles with “heart” is the title track from Animal, which is reprised here as “Animal (Billboard Remix)” (no, not a reference to Ke$ha’s dominance on the Hot 100 this year, but the name of the producer); in both its original and remixed form, the final song on both the LP and the EP is the promise of something deeper, something beyond Dr. Luke’s latest recycled formula. So if Katy Perry is the cocktease who leaves you with a peck on the cheek at the end of the night, Ke$ha at least gives you a happy ending.