By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pop star Ke$ha made a name for herself with infectious dance-pop hits but the singer-songwriter is stepping out of her Auto-Tune comfort zone on "Warrior", out this week.
Ke$ha, 25, stormed the charts with hit songs about drinking, partying and having a good time, such as "TiK ToK" and "Your Love is my Drug" from her 2010 platinum-selling album "Animal".
Ke$ha talked with Reuters about the pressures of following up the success of her first album and responding to her critics.
Q: Did you feel additional pressure while working on this album after the success of your debut, "Animal"?
A: "Everybody keeps asking me about pressure, and I think a lot of other people maybe are feeling pressure about this record, but I just want to make a good record. If I sat around trying to make a number one record, I'd just be too consumed with that. I just want to make an awesome, kick-ass record that I love and that my fans love."
Q: Was there anything that you weren't happy with on the first album and that you wanted to change for the second?
A: "I just wanted to make sure my entire personality was presented more accurately. I feel like people really got to know the super-wild side of me but then sometimes a more vulnerable side. I didn't really feel comfortable expressing it. So this time I kind of forced myself to express a little bit more vulnerability, less Auto-Tune, less vocal trickery. It's a little more raw."
Q: You received a lot of criticism for your use of Auto-Tune, masking your true singing voice. Was that a valid criticism for you, when many others use it?
A: "I remember having this conversation with my producer, and him saying, 'We're using a lot of vocal tricks,' and I said, 'People will get to know me as my career goes on, I just want it to sound really weird and cool and clubby right now, and super electronic.' I made a conscious decision to use Auto-Tune for effect, as ear candy, and vocoders and chop up my words.
"This time around, I have heard so many different people say I can't sing, it's quite frankly irritating, so I ... made a five-song acoustic EP ('Deconstructed', out on December 4) that's kind of like my middle finger to all those people that said I couldn't sing, and there's more of my voice on this record. You know, haters are going to hate, you just have to do what you want to do."
Q: Talk us through some of the collaborations on "Warrior". There's quite a variety, such as with Iggy Pop and Ben Folds.
A: "Ben Folds is a friend of mine. He gave me a giant glitter grand piano that's in my house, so that one was natural. The Flaming Lips was probably surprising for a lot of people because we're two super-different genres of music but we had the most fun and we made so many songs, it was super insane. We're like best friends, we text everyday now, so that kind of came naturally. The one that I really have been working on for years was a collaboration with Iggy Pop. He's one of my favorite musicians and artists of all time, so that was super exciting for me, because I respect him so much."
Q: You've written tracks for Kelly Clarkson and Britney Spears, and you've written all the songs for "Warrior". What did you want to bring out in your lyrics this time round?
A: "I definitely wanted to maintain the irreverence, because that's why my fans like me. It's because I'm super honest, not always PG rated ... but I didn't want to let the haters somehow cramp my style or get the best of me, so I maintain my irreverence ... I also really wanted to show the other side of my personality, which kind of is more nerve-wracking to show people, being a real person and the vulnerable side of my personality and voice. So there are tracks on this record that are super vulnerable and were hard even to write. I had to force myself to sit down and write these songs."
Q: You've carved a distinctive image and also just launched your latest collaboration with Baby-G watches. How do you want to evolve your career in the future?
A: "I think that with this record, I really wanted to show that there are no rules or boundaries in art, at all, like I sing and I can use crazy Auto-Tune vocoders and I can rap and I can do a song with Iggy Pop. You can do all these things that make sense. You don't have to just be one thing, like, you don't adhere to any sort of stereotype or any boundaries or any rules, so for me it's really fun to break down these boundaries."
Q: You came in at the forefront of the electronic dance music explosion in the pop charts two years ago. Why do you think EDM is doing so well?
A: "Dancing is one of the ways we, as adult human beings, still get to play and it's socially acceptable. Little kids play all the time, but as we grow up, we're supposed to just not play anymore, so our version of that is going out and dancing, and I think it's one way people are still visceral and animal-like."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Dale Hudson)