Kesha Rose Sebert (born March 1, 1987), known mononymously as Kesha (formerly stylized as Ke$ha), is an American singer, songwriter, and rapper. In 2005, at age 18, Kesha was signed to producer Dr. Luke’s label Kemosabe Records. Her breakthrough came in early 2009 after appearing on rapper Flo Rida’s number-one single “Right Round”. Her debut album, Animal, and her first extended play, Cannibal, were released in 2010. Kesha’s music and image propelled her to immediate commercial success, with Animal debuting as the number-one album in the United States. She also achieved two number-one singles, “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R”, and a string of top-ten hits singles from the album and its re-release. At the same time, she continued to write songs for other artists, including “Till the World Ends” for Britney Spears. Warrior, her second studio album, was released in December 2012, spawning Kesha’s eighth top-ten single with “Die Young”. “Tik Tok” is among the best-selling digital singles in history, selling over 14 million units internationally.
Influenced by various genres and artists, Kesha primarily draws inspiration from music of the 1980s; Madonna, Queen, and Beck have been cited as instrumental to her artistry. After experimenting with country, pop rock, and electronic music, Kesha stuck with the latter. Thematically, her music generally revolves around escapism, partying, individuality, supernatural moments, rebellion, and grief. Kesha has been involved with animal rights and LGBT activism. Since her debut, Kesha has been nominated for over 60 awards, winning more than 13. Among these awards, she won the MTV Europe Music Award for Best New Act in 2010. As of February 2016, she has reportedly sold over 33 million records (albums, tracks, and ringtones) in the United States and 60 million records worldwide.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Life and career
- 2.1 2005–09: Career beginnings
- 2.2 2009–11: Animal and Cannibal
- 2.3 2012–13: Warrior and Dr. Luke controversy
- 2.4 2014–15: Personal struggles and lawsuit
- 2.5 2016: Trial verdict and aftermath
- 2.5.1 Notable reactions
- 3 Artistry
- 3.1 Musical style and image
- 3.2 Influences
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Discography
- 6 Tours
- 7 Biography
- 8 Filmography
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Kesha was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother, Patricia Rose “Pebe” Sebert, is a singer-songwriter who co-wrote the 1978 single “Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You” with Hugh Moffatt for Joe Sun, made popular by country music legend Dolly Parton on her 1980 album Dolly, Dolly, Dolly. Pebe, a single mother, struggled financially while supporting herself, Kesha, and Kesha’s older brother Lagan; they relied on welfare payments and food stamps to get by. When Kesha was an infant, Pebe would often have to look after her onstage while performing. Kesha says she has no knowledge of her father’s identity. However, a man named Bob Chamberlain who called himself her father approached Star magazine in 2011 with pictures and letters, claiming them as proof that they had been in regular contact as father and daughter before she turned 19. Her mother is of German and Hungarian (from Szentes) descent. One of Kesha’s great-grandfathers was Polish. She is also possibly of English and Romani descent.
Pebe moved the family to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1991 after securing a new publishing deal for her songwriting. Pebe frequently brought Kesha and her brothers along to recording studios and encouraged Kesha to sing when she noticed Kesha’s vocal talent. Kesha attended Franklin High School and Brentwood High School, but claimed that she did not fit in, explaining that her unconventional style (e.g., homemade purple velvet pants and purple hair) did not endear her to other students. She played the trumpet and later the saxophone in the marching band in school, and described herself in an interview with NPR as being a diligent student. After attaining a near-perfect score on her SATs, she was offered a full scholarship at Barnard College, but instead chose to drop out before graduation to pursue her music career.
In addition to taking songwriting classes, Kesha was also taught how to write songs by Pebe, and they would often write together when she returned home from high school. Kesha began recording demos which Pebe would give to people she knew. Kesha was also in a band with Lagan. Kesha and Pebe co-wrote the song “Stephen” together when Kesha was 16, Kesha then tracked down David Gamson, a producer that she admired, from Scritti Politti who agreed to produce the song. She dropped out of school at 17, after being convinced by Dr. Luke and Max Martin to return to Los Angeles to pursue a music career, and earned her GED after. Around this time, Pebe answered an ad by reality series The Simple Life, looking for an “eccentric” family to host Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. The episode aired in 2005. Luke and Martin had received one of Kesha’s demos from Samantha Cox, senior director of writer/publisher relations at Broadcast Music Incorporated, and were impressed. Two of the demos were described in a cover story for Billboard, the first “a gorgeously sung, self-penned country ballad” and the second “a gobsmackingly awful trip-hop track” where Kesha raps ad lib for a minute when she runs out of lyrics near the end. Dr. Luke stated in an interview for the story that it was the latter track that caught his attention, saying “when you’re listening to 100 CDs, that kind of bravado and chutzpah stand out.”
Life and career
2005–09: Career beginnings
“I was so happy being broke. And I’m happy not being broke. It doesn’t really affect me either way. I care about taking care of people that have taken care of me – that’s important to me. But to be honest, I’m kind of repulsed by the gluttony and excesses of a lot of people in the limelight.”
In 2005, at 18, Kesha was signed to Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Entertainment, and his music publishing company, Prescription Songs. Kemosabe Records is owned by Sony Music Entertainment and is located in Los Angeles, California. Sony Music Entertainment partnered with Dr. Luke to create Kemosabe Records. Some artists that have signed with Kemosabe Records are Juicy J, Rock City, Zara Larsson, Lil Bibby and many others. Kesha later sang background vocals for Paris Hilton’s single, “Nothing in This World”. Dr. Luke became preoccupied with other incoming projects, having enjoyed success writing and producing for pop star Kelly Clarkson’s album, Breakaway. Kesha then signed with David Sonenberg’s management company, DAS Communications Inc., in 2006, hardly interacting with Dr. Luke after that. DAS was tasked with obtaining a major label record deal for Kesha in a year’s time in exchange for 20 percent of her music income, with her having the option of ending the relationship if they failed. She worked with several writers and producers while at the company and ended up co-writing Australian pop group The Veronicas’ single, “This Love” with producer Toby Gad. While furthering her career in studio, Kesha earned her living as a waitress. While struggling to get by, she began stylizing her name as Ke$ha, explaining the dollar sign as an ironic gesture.
Kesha appeared in the video for her friend Katy Perry’s single “I Kissed a Girl”, and sang background vocals for the Dr. Luke-produced song, “Lace and Leather” by Britney Spears in 2008. DAS soon attracted the attention of songwriter and A&R Kara DioGuardi, who wanted to sign Kesha to Warner Bros. Records. The deal fell through due to her existing contract with Dr. Luke’s label. In September, she terminated her contract with DAS, reuniting with Dr. Luke. Kesha gained exposure in the mainstream media in early 2009 after appearing on rapper Flo Rida’s number one single, “Right Round”. The collaboration happened by accident; she had walked into a recording session for the song with Flo Rida and Dr. Luke. Flo Rida wanted a female voice for the song; Dr. Luke then suggested Kesha for the part. Flo Rida liked the end result so much that they did two more tracks. However, she is not credited for her feature on the United States release of “Right Round” and did not collect any money for the part. She also refused to appear in the video, explaining to men’s magazine Esquire that she wanted to make a name for herself on her own terms.
2009–11: Animal and Cannibal
After failing to negotiate with Lava Records and Atlantic Records in 2009, Kesha signed a multi-album deal with RCA Records through Dr. Luke’s imprint. Having spent the previous six years working on material for her debut album, she began putting finishing touches to the album with Luke and Max Martin. For the album, she wrote 200 songs. The album was executive produced by Luke, who produced the majority of the songs with Martin, and producers Benny Blanco and Ammo. The album is primarily of the electropop genre with beats and synths, marking a shift in sound for Luke from then on from his signature pop-rock productions. Animal debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 when it was released in January 2010. It was certified platinum in the United States and had sold two million albums worldwide by September. The lead single of the album, “Tik Tok”, broke the record in the United States for the highest single week sales, selling 610,000 digital downloads, the highest ever by a female artist since tracking began in 2003. It spent nine weeks at number one and became the longest running number one by a female artist on her debut single since Debby Boone and “You Light Up My Life” in 1977. As of 2015, “Tik Tok” has sold about 15 million copies, becoming the second best-selling single in the digital history – being the most sold single in history by a female solo artist. Subsequent singles from the album, “Blah Blah Blah”, “Your Love Is My Drug” and “Take It Off” achieved similar commercial success each reaching the top ten in Australia, Canada, and the United States. Kesha was also featured on two top ten singles by musician Taio Cruz and electro-pop duo 3OH!3.
Kesha’s deliberately unpolished aesthetic and juvenile stage persona, which she described as her own personality “times ten”, quickly made her a deeply polarizing figure. Some of her critics found her output to be unsophisticated, while others felt that she was manufactured and lacked credibility. Kesha’s former managers from DAS Communications Inc. filed a lawsuit later that month, seeking $14 million from Kesha and $12 million from Luke for commissions on her RCA Records deal, alleging that she had extended the deadline for them to get her a major record label contract and squeezed them out of her career under pressure from Dr. Luke. Kesha launched her own lawsuit in October, citing the California-exclusive Talent Agencies Act and asking the California Labor Commissioner to declare her contract with DAS void because it had acted as an unlicensed talent agent while procuring work for her in California, where only licensed agents can do so. The case was settled in 2012 before the release of her second album. Kesha held a benefit concert on June 16, 2010 where all proceeds went to aid victims of the May 2010 Tennessee floods from her hometown Nashville. She raised close to $70,000 from the event. She was a supporting act on the summer North American leg of Rihanna’s Last Girl on Earth Tour and was awarded Best New Act at the 2010 MTV Europe Music Awards. In November 2010, Animal was re-released with a companion extended play, Cannibal. The lead single taken from Cannibal, “We R Who We R” debuted at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. With two number ones and four top ten hits, Kesha was named Hot 100 Artist of 2010 by Billboard, with “Tik Tok” topping the year-end chart. The follow-up single from Cannibal, “Blow” charted in the top ten on the Hot 100. As of June 2011, she has accumulated almost 21 million digital single downloads in the United States alone. In February 2011, Kesha embarked on her first headlining world tour, Get Sleazy. The tour was expanded with a summer leg due to the first leg selling out and spanned three continents. Kesha also co-wrote the song “Till the World Ends” for American popstar Britney Spears and she was featured on the remix of the song along with rapper Nicki Minaj. After meeting Kesha at the 2010 Grammy Awards and guesting at a number of her concerts, rock singer Alice Cooper asked her to write lyrics for and vocally perform as a devil character for their duet track, “What Baby Wants”, on Cooper’s album, Welcome 2 My Nightmare.
Kesha was named rights group Humane Society of the United States’s first global ambassador for animal rights, for which she is expected to bring attention to such practices as cosmetics testing on animals and shark finning. Kesha received the Wyler Award presented by The Humane Society as a celebrity or public figure who increases awareness of animal issues via the media. She received the award March 23, 2013 at The 2013 Genesis Awards Benefit Gala. She also appeared alongside rock singer Iggy Pop in a campaign for PETA, protesting the clubbing of baby seals in Canada and later wrote on behalf of the organization to fast food chain McDonald’s over the conditions of their slaughterhouses.