"Sometimes I need to remind myself that 'TiK ToK' only went to No. 1 in January," Ke$ha says of her party-hearty electro-pop jam. "Because it kind of feels like it was 17 years ago."
Doesn't it, though? As far as new artists go, 2010 more or less belonged to this 23-year-old Nashville native, who released her hit debut, "Animal," in January, then followed it up last month with a nine-track mini-album, "Cannibal."
With three songs on Billboard's year-end Hot 100, and 1.1 million copies sold of "Animal," according to Nielsen SoundScan, Ke$ha is the Hot 100 artist of the year, as well as the top new artist.
"You can never completely predict what's going to be a hit," says her producer, Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald. "But I can't say I'm surprised by Ke$ha's success." The secret behind her rise? RCA/Jive Label Group chairman/CEO Barry Weiss says, "She's an artist with a point of view-which is more than you can say about 95% of the acts out there."
Billboard: How different is your life right now versus this time a year ago?
Ke$ha: Are you kidding me? I pretty much feel like I've been reborn into this completely different existence. My entire life has become making music and playing shows, and I love it. I've accepted the fact that my fans are now my family, and I won't be having boyfriends. I'll just be having a really amazing relationship with the radio.
Were you prepared for that transformation?
I wasn't clueless. It's just not at all what I expected it to be like. It's really intense-more intense than I ever thought it would be. I remember pulling up to the [MTV Video Music Awards in September] with Dr. Luke in a DeLorean wearing a garbage-bag dress with the paparazzi chasing me. I was having an anxiety attack, like, "I just wrote some pop songs, man!"
Has Luke advised you on how to navigate the twists and turns of stardom?
Oh, absolutely. He's been one of the most influential people in my life; he's been like a big brother. We're very much tangled up in each other. He's always given me the best advice and has always been very honest with me in a business where sometimes honesty is not the first word that comes to mind.
"TiK ToK" introduced you to most people. Looking back, do you feel like that was the best possible launch?
I don't know. We didn't really know which song to come out with first. It was kind of a debate, because I didn't initially come out as a rapper; I've always been a singer. So having my first single classified as kind of a rap song felt bizarre to me. But now it's become something of a trademark. And it's becoming more legitimate: I've talked to some of my favorite rap artists over the past year-artists who are idols-and they've given me mad props.
Do you think timing had anything to do with the song's success?
In terms of the state of America, with the recession? Definitely. It's a celebratory song, but it's not about bottles of champagne in the club and my brand-name clothes. It's just me talking about being somewhat of a bum and having a great time in Los Angeles.
How will the Ke$ha persona change, now that you're not really a bum any more?
Have you seen me? Yes, I am! All you have to do is look at "Cannibal" to see that you can still celebrate life in a non-douche bag way. Money really doesn't affect me when it comes to my happiness or deciding who I'm going to date, and that's something I want to hold on to. You can be really happy and you can look like a badass and be a total baller, but it doesn't necessarily have to be in a financial sense.
Opening for Rihanna this summer, you went for an almost willfully low-rent vibe.
My live show is definitely a bit of a paradox. Sometimes I have opportunities to play massive arenas like Staples Center or Wembley, but I still like to duct-tape my instruments back together, you know? I grew up going to house parties and watching punk bands destroy their instruments, so there's a did-it-myself vibe to my live show. I'm not just one thing, which may be hard to grasp. I want to show that you can be funny and hot; you can drink and read. People are still getting used to what I am.
A lot of people didn't know what to make of your April appearance on "Saturday Night Live."
I was thinking about that this morning, actually. I recently watched it back because I'm my own worst critic; I hate most of the things I've done when I see them again. But I fucking like "SNL," and I stand behind that. I'd only been around for a few months; before that I'd been playing in scummy Nashville bars, doing crap-ass punk covers with my brother and a friend of ours who was playing on a child's drum set. So "SNL" was me knowing that I wanted to take over the world but not really knowing what I was doing. A lot of people hated on it, yeah. All I know is that I sounded just as good as anybody else on "SNL." And I like glow-in-the-dark body paint.
So that wasn't an embarrassing 2010 moment for you. Any that were?
To be honest with you, I pretty much just do shit and then move on. I don't look back and regret much of anything. There's no real point. I haven't done anything that was too embarrassing, unless I'm just forgetting something. Which is totally possible.