Ke$ha Confounds Slut-Shamers With “Dirty Love”

In the age of the selfie, "Dirty Love" exudes a thrilling, down-to-earth sex appeal.

|
Jan 3 2014, 7:15pm

If Ke$ha were less pure of heart, she'd probably be pretty fucking pissed off at how badly she was ignored in 2013. Her vision of party music—a regular-ass, something-at-stake reaction to the pimped-by-the-mainstream platonic vision of nightlife where everything works out perfectly all the time—became the default mood of pop, and it ignored her even though she kind of invented this shit. Would we have syrup-soaked, YOLO-crying hip-hop, the Disney-grotesque sexy shtickiness of Miley Cyrus, and EDM hard-partiers like Krewella without Ke$ha? As I told y'all over at Thump, the mood and tenor of dance music is getting dour. It turns out Ke$ha's the precedent for a whole lot of this stuff.

Rather than turn hater, Ke$ha ended 2013 by releasing a self-directed video for "Dirty Love," beating the musicians cribbing her warts-and-all moves at their own game. The video features Ke$ha in a divebar that looks like a mix between the surreal strip club from the end of Buffalo 66, and the set of Rupaul's Drag Race, and focuses on her energetic, at times gleefully amateurish striptease. She's improvising, stumbling a few times, awkwardly kicking her clothes out of the way, and in one telling moment, failing to rip her T-shirt off properly. By the end, she's on the floor, looking thrilled, in a daze, and smeared with confetti. Complicating the heterosexual dude appeal of the video, she introduces two bearded men in lingerie during the video's second half.

Even without that hetero-normative troll job though, "Dirty Love" functions as a clever corrective to rock n' roll's strip club videos (rap's stripper videos even at their most garish tend to afford the dancers more agency and allow a great variance of body types). Namely, Ke$ha knocks something like Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls" (directed by Wayne Isham) back down to earth by overstuffing it with as much grit as glamour. And her grimy aesthetic here (hand-held camerawork, VHS aesthetics, jagged editing) mocks the self-serious and male gaze moralizing of a stripper video like Metallica's "Turn The Page" (directed by Jonas Akerlund), which uses "realism" to make a cloying point about exploitation. Ke$ha aims for sex-positive realism.

Rihanna's "Pour It Up" (directed by Vince Haycock and Rihanna herself) comes to mind while watching "Dirty Love," and there are echoes of Beyoncé's witty "Why Don't You Love Me" (directed by Melina Matouskas), as well. Ke$ha is also mining the same themes as the Beyoncé video cycle, refusing to isolate brash sexuality from agency and tenderness (plenty of moments during her striptease feels more like she's goofing off and making faces with friends in a photobooth). The end of "Dirty Love" features an old fashioned moralizer interrupting the video to talk about the prevalence of "smut" in our culture. It's a comment on how we've barely evolved at all since the 1950s and an expression of solidarity with Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé, and others pop stars who get an earful from slut-shaming mouth breathers.

But most importantly: Unless you're an insane person raised on antiseptic hardcore pornography and airbrushed pseudo-classy beat-off mags like GQ, "Dirty Love" should exude a thrilling, down to earth sex appeal. "Dirty Love" is ideal for 2013, the year of Instagram thirst and "selfie"-mania, which despite what most of those over 30 years of age would have you believe, seems much more healthy and sexually mature than relying on media-manufactured images to get our rocks off.

Brandon Soderberg is a writer and dog owner living in Baltimore. He's on Twitter - @notrivia