Top 10 Kesha Songs
In celebration of her 25th birthday (March 1), we're counting down the Top 10 Kesha Songs. It's hard to believe that Kesha's debut LP, 'Animal,' was released in 2010, since it seems like the glitter-obsessed pop tart has been in the game for longer than just two short years. But with just one album and one EP under her belt, Kesha's got enough dance floor bangers in her catalogue to keep us dancing all night, whether or not we have tears in our eyes. Check out our rundown of the 10 best Kesha songs.
‘Take It Off’
Grimy, slimy, dubby and grubby, the fourth single from Kesha's platinum-selling debut 'Animal' was 'Take It Off,' a highly auto-tuned romp that describes “a place downtown where the freaks all come around.” In an interview, she said the song was inspired by a visit to “a drag show, and how really turned on I was by these transvestite men taking clothes off,” and the song tells that story expertly, casting an ominous darkness over this lurid scene. With her highly processed vocals, it's hard to tell whether she's really turned on, but the propulsive house beat and catchy melody still make it an ideal song for any sweaty dancefloor.
‘Dancing With Tears in My Eyes’
Kesha didn't have any true ballads on her debut, 'Animal,' but she comes close with the muscular midtempo 'Dancing With Tears in My Eyes.' Strummed guitars and an insistent beat lead up to a monster chorus: “I'm dancing with tears in my eyes / Just fighting to get through the night / I'm losing it / With every move I die.” Packed with electro-sad video game blips and squeals, the marching tempo evokes a feeling of inevitability — if most of Kesha's music is about having fun at the club, 'Dancing With Tears in My Eyes' is about the loneliness of being the last one to leave at the end of the night.
Kicking off with a weird laugh and a command — “Dance!” — the beat in 'Blow,' No. 8 on our Top 10 Kesha Songs countdown, is stutter-pop brilliance, a futuristic thunderstorm of sleaze and swagger. “It's time to kill the lights and shut the DJ down / Tonight we're taking over, no one's getting out,” K$ intones over the pulsating electro beat, with a simple one-line chorus, repeated ad infinitum: “This place about to blow.” But the song's simple lyrics belie the sonic sophistication at work in the track, with the layered vocals and instrumental crescendo building to a spectacular finish: a big, robotic club anthem with a massive payoff.
Many people wouldn't describe Kesha's music as avant-garde, but 'Cannibal' has a refreshingly experimental edge to it that makes it one of the most intriguing songs from her EP of the same name. Over an electro-tribal beat, Kesha paints herself as a maneater — literally”: “I eat boys up / Breakfast and lunch / Then when I'm thirsty / I drink their blood,” she explains. It gets stranger as the chorus kicks in, since it consists of Kesha crying “I am cannibal!” over and over against the backdrop of a trippy synth beat, overlaid with yodeling snippets. It's a tongue-in-cheek take on the theme of monstrosity that's hugely popular in dance music, but with a decidedly innovative twist.
Kesha titled her debut album after this song, a delicate and swirly midtempo track with a robust chorus that actually makes use of her lovely vocals, which are so frequently overshadowed by the liberal use of auto-tune. Produced by Greg Kurstin, famed for his work with Lily Allen and Kelly Clarkson, the song's message of liberation and the sparkly production make it a surefire standout and No. 6 on our Top 10 Kesha Songs list. “The night is fading, heart is racing / Now just come and love me like we're gonna die,” she calls in the chorus, a message of endearing sincerity amidst so many party anthems.
Kesha is often credited with delivering a new kind of girl-rapping to pop music, but rarely has she spat rhymes with the fury and ferocity that she delivers on 'Sleazy,' her collaboration with Lil Wayne's go-to producer Bangladesh that's a masterpiece of ironic swagger. A skittering hip-hop backbeat and thumping drums allow Kesha's wit to shine as she skewers an arrogant admirer at the club: “I don't need you and your brand new Benz / Or your bougie friends.” But as always, she keeps it real: “Me and my girls, we don't buy bottles, we bring 'em / We take the drinks from the tables when you get up and leave 'em.” An unlikely girl empowerment anthem for the hard-partying, tawdry set.
Kesha's breakout single 'Tik Tok' made her an immediate household name and a controversial figure, given the song's lyrics about brushing your teeth with Jack Daniels and nonstop partying — but the haters can stay mad, since the song went quintuple platinum, ended up as the best-selling single of 2010 and landed on our list of the best Kesha songs. “Don't stop / Make it pop / DJ blow my speakers up,” Kesha sings in the song's spunky pop chorus. Fun, carefree, and summery, the song dominated airwaves all through 2010. Though its infectious beats have been duplicated, no one can top the original, a likably bratty track that earned Kesha a place among the industry's top female artists.
‘The Harold Song’
'The Harold Song' wasn't released as an official single, though both Kesha and fans lobbied for its release, and with good reason: It's a dramatic shift from her expected sound, and one that takes her to a place of stirring vulnerability and honesty while showing off her impressive songwriting and emotive vocals. Gone are the lyrics about drunken antics and dancing the night away — instead, stripped-back production allows for the sadness and loneliness to shine through: “I miss your soft lips / I miss your white sheets / I miss the scratch of your unshaven face on my cheek,” followed by a final admission of regret, “I would give it all to not be sleeping alone.”
‘Your Love Is My Drug’
Blending her usual dancefloor beats with some tropical flair and '80s synths, 'Your Love Is My Drug' was a super-smash due to its instantaneous melody and tongue-in-cheek lyrics comparing a relationship to addiction in a cleverly extended metaphor. After all, nobody but Kesha could get away with lyrics like, “My friends think I've gone crazy / My judgment's getting kinda hazy / My steeze is gonna be affected / If I keep it up like a lovesick crackhead.” And her final, giggly call-out of “I like your beard“? 'Your Love Is My Drug' works so well because it shows off the best parts of Kesha's personality — quirky, offbeat humor and a knack for big pop melodies.
‘We R Who We R’
It's hard to resist a song like 'We R Who We R,' which amassed massive critical and commercial success immediately upon its release, debuting at No. 1 on the Hot 100 and earning Kesha a whole new swath of fans. Even if the song didn't break new ground sonically, following the same pattern of her many other big dance-pop hits, its message is powerful and inspirational in a rare way. Penned by Kesha as a response to the rash of gay teen suicides, the lyrics encourage self-acceptance and releasing inhibitions, making it a valuable entry into the crowded field of “It Gets Better”-pop. Euphoric production, soaring vocals, and a socially conscious message make 'We R Who We R' the best Kesha song yet.