The Exile: Kesha, Interrupted

“TiK ToK,” she told me, was written to be more nuanced and more definitively ironic at first. But her producers and co-writers on the song, Dr. Luke and Benny Blanco, had to keep her image in mind. She says of Dr. Luke: “I remember specifically him saying: ‘Make it more dumb. Make it more stupid. Make it more simple, just dumb.’ ” She tried, joking around with some lyrics she found silly. “I was like, O.K., ‘Boys try to touch my junk. Going to get crunk. Everybody getting drunk,’ or whatever, and he was like, ‘Perfect.’ ”

The problem was, she said, there was no balance. Every song was a song about partying, and yes, that was who she was, Kesha says that was definitely who she was, but she’s a real person having a complete human experience, and she wanted her album to reflect that. “To this day, I’ve never released a single that’s a true ballad, and I feel like those are the songs that balance out the perception of you, because you can be a fun girl. You can go and have a crazy night out, but you also, as a human being, have vulnerable emotions. You have love.”

When the album was released, Kesha says, she was surprised that people criticized her for singing about the same things that her heroes, Bob Dylan and the Beastie Boys and Iggy Pop and Fugazi and Johnny Cash, had always been celebrated for. She thinks of the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)” as the soul sister of “TiK ToK.” “You know, when I first came out, I was saying I want to even the playing field. I’m a superfeminist. I am an ultra-till-the-day-I-die feminist, and I am allowed to do, and say, and participate in all the activities that men can do, and they get celebrated for it. And women get chastised for it.” It soon became clear that people thought she was something she truly wasn’t. They didn’t get that the dollar sign in her name was ironic — that it was not an image, but a kind of comment on image.