Kesha performing live in 2011.
Background information
Birth name Kesha Rose Sebert
Born March 1, 1987 (1987-03-01) (age 24)
Los Angeles, California
Origin Nashville, Tennessee,
United States
Genres Dance-pop, electropop
Occupations Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals, piano, guitar
Years active 2005–present
Labels RCA, Kemosabe

Kesha Rose Sebert (born March 1, 1987), better known mononymously as Kesha (pronunciation: /ˈkɛʃə/ kesh, stylized Ke$ha), is an American singer-songwriter and rapper. In 2005, at 18, Kesha was signed to Dr. Luke's record label, Kemosabe Entertainment, and publishing company. Although an active musician since then, singing background vocals and writing songs for other artists, her breakthrough only came in early 2009 after appearing on Flo Rida's number one single, "Right Round." Her debut album, Animal and its re-release, Cannibal, were released in 2010. Kesha's irreverent music and image propelled her to immediate commercial success, with Animal debuting as the US's number-one album and producing two number-one singles, "Tik Tok" and "We R Who We R", and a string of top ten hits as well. At the same time, she continued to write songs for other artists, including co-writing "Till the World Ends" for Britney Spears.


Life and career

1987–2004: Childhood and youth

Kesha was born in Los Angeles, California on March 1, 1987. Her mother, 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. Pebe, a single mother, struggled financially while supporting herself, Kesha and her older brother, Lagan, at the time. They had to rely on welfare payments and food stamps to get by.[1] When Kesha was an infant, Pebe would often have to look after her onstage while performing.[2] Kesha says she has no knowledge of her father's identity.[1] Two of her maternal great grandparents were immigrants from Szentes, Hungary while her other maternal great grandmother was originally from Poland.[3] Pebe moved the family to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1991 after securing a new publishing deal for her songwriting. Kesha's younger brother Louis was born shortly after. She said that she did not fit-in in school in the Brentwood suburb of Nashville which she called the "Bible Belt", explaining that her unconventional dress sense including homemade purple velvet pants and purple hair did not warm her to other students.[4] The Seberts were featured in an episode of The Simple Life as the host family to Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in 2005.[5] Kesha attended Franklin High School and Brentwood High School.[6] 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.[7][8]

Pebe frequently brought Kesha and her brothers along to recording studios and encouraged Kesha to sing when she noticed Kesha's vocal talent.[1] In addition to taking songwriting classes,[9] Kesha was also taught how to write songs by Pebe, and they would often write together when she returned home from high school.[1][8] Kesha began recording demos which Pebe would give to people she knew.[9] Kesha was also in a band with Lagan.[10][11] 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.[11] 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.[12] Luke and Martin had received one of Kesha's demo 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 "[w]hen you're listening to 100 CDs, that kind of bravado and chutzpah stand out."[13]

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.[14]

Kesha explaining the dollar sign in her stage name.

In 2005, at 18, Kesha was signed to Dr. Luke's label, Kemosabe Entertainment, and his music publishing company, Prescription Songs.[13] Kesha later sang background vocals for Paris Hilton's single, "Nothing in This World".[15] Dr. Luke became preoccupied with other incoming projects, having enjoyed success writing and producing for 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.[16] She worked with several writers and producers while at the company and ended up co-writing The Veronicas' single, "This Love" alongside Toby Gad.[13][17] While furthering her career in studio, Kesha earned her living as a waitress.[1] She adopted the dollar sign in her name while struggling to get by as an ironic gesture.[14]

Kesha appeared in the video for 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.[18] DAS soon attracted the attention of 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.[13][16] Kesha gained exposure in the mainstream media in early 2009 after appearing on Flo Rida's number one single, "Right Round".[19] The collaboration happened by accident; she had walked into a recording session for the song with Flo Rida and Dr. Luke.[20] 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.[21] However, she is not credited for her feature on the US release of "Right Round" and did not collect any money for the part.[13][19] She also refused to appear in the video, explaining to Esquire that she wanted to make a name for herself on her own terms.[18]

2009–2011: Animal and Cannibal

Kesha performing live on tour in 2010.

Soon after, Kesha signed a multi-album deal with RCA Records through Dr. Luke's imprint, after negotiations with Lava Records and Flo Rida's record label, Atlantic Records as well.[13] Having spent the previous six years working on material for her debut album,[22] she began putting finishing touches to the album with Luke and Max Martin. She had accumulated over 200 songs which forced her to increase the tracklisting from the intended twelve songs to fourteen.[22] The album was executive produced by Luke, who produced the majority of the songs with combinations of Martin, Benny Blanco and Ammo. The album is primarily of the electropop genere with beats and synths, marking a shift in sound for Luke from then on from his signature pop-rock productions, which he attributed to Kesha who was adamant that there be no guitars used on the record.[23] She described the record as "honest and fun," calling it "a celebration of youth and life and going out and getting crazy." She explained that she was "[all] about non-pretentious irreverence and f**k off good fun!"[24] Animal debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 when it was released in January 2010, usurping Susan Boyle's album which had spent five consecutive weeks at the top, receiving three quarters of its sales from digital sales.[25] It was certified platinum in the US and had sold two million albums worldwide by September.[26] Animal received mixed reviews from music critics;[27] Rolling Stone summed the album up as "repulsive, obnoxious and ridiculously catchy."[8] First single, "Tik Tok" topped the charts in eleven countries and set the weekly record for the most digital downloads of a female artist and became the second best-selling single in a week in the US, after "Right Round", by shifting 610,000 copies.[28] Spending nine weeks at the summit of the Billboard Hot 100, "Tik Tok" 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.[29] "Blah Blah Blah", "Your Love Is My Drug" and "Take It Off" were released as the album's second, third and fourth singles, respectively. All three songs achieved similar commercial success each reaching the top ten in Australia, Canada, and the US.[30] Kesha's deliberately unpolished aesthetic and juvenile stage persona,[10][31] which she described as her own personality "times ten",[32] quickly made her a deeply polarizing figure.[10][31] Some of her critics found her output to be unsophisticated,[10] while others felt that she was manufactured and lacked credibility.[33][34][35]

Kesha performing on her first headlining tour in 2011.

Kesha also featured on two top ten singles by Taio Cruz and 3OH!3, through recommendations by Dr. Luke, in May.[36] 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.[16] Kesha launched her own lawsuit in October, citing the Talent Agencies Act, 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.[37] 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.[38] She raised close to $70,000 from the event.[7] 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.[39][40] Animal was re-released with a companion extended play, Cannibal, in November.[41] Seven months later, the set was certified gold by the RIAA.[42] The new collection of songs was released because of Kesha's desire to have enough songs to extend her one hour sets to two hours.[43] Lead single, "We R Who We R" became only the 17th song to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, three weeks before the album's release.[44] 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.[45] "Blow" charted in the top ten on the Hot 100 in early 2011. As of June 2011, she has accumulated almost 21 million digital single downloads in the US alone.[46] Kesha embarked on her first headlining world tour, Get Sleazy, in the spring,[47] telling Billboard that she would be demonstrating a different side to her musicianship, playing multiple instruments.[48][49] The tour was expanded with a summer leg due to the first leg selling out and spanned three continents.[50] Kesha co-wrote Britney Spears' top three single, "Till the World Ends" and was featured on the official remix along with Nicki Minaj.

Kesha was named Humane Society's first global ambassador for animals for which she is expected to bring attention to such practices as cosmetics testing on animals and shark finning.[51] She had earlier donated 1,000 pounds (450 kg) of dog food to a Nashville animal shelter for pets abandoned in the May 2010 flood in addition to raising money for people.[52] She had also appeared alongside Iggy Pop in a campaign for PETA, protesting the clubbing of baby seals in Canada and later wrote on behalf of the organization to MacDonald's over the conditions of their slaughterhouses.[53][54] After meeting Kesha at the 2010 Grammy Awards and guesting at a number of her concerts, Alice Cooper asked her to play the role of the devil on the song "What Baby Wants", for which she also co-wrote the lyrics.[55]

2011–present: Second studio album

Kesha began writing for her second studio album while on tour.[56] She intends to make a "cock rock" album inspired by 1970s rock and describing her experiences touring the world,[57] a departure from her first two electropop albums where there were few guitars to be found in the production.[58] She explained the rationale to MTV, "I just want to capture some of the true essence of what rock and roll is, and that's just irreverence and sexiness and fun and not giving a f---."[56] While her album will still feature productions from her main collaborators Dr. Luke and Max Martin, she said in an interview that she also wanted to work with other producers and was reaching out to the Dust Brothers.[58]

Musical style and influences

Kesha co-wrote every song on her first two albums and considers herself a songwriter primarily,[59] writing for artists including Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus.[58] She possesses a "strong, sneering vibrato",[31] with a distinct yodel-like quality to her voice;[60] she employs actual yodelling on the songs, "Tik Tok" and "Cannibal".[61][62] Having previously done country, pop-rock and hard electro,[63] she had a clear idea of the electropop sound that she wanted for her debut album.[23] The genre was popular at the time, with many of her peers releasing similar output as well.[33] Both of her albums are of the genre with catchy hooks and synthesized productions recalling old videogame music,[31][64][65] also incorporating elements from other genres.[64] "Party at a Rich Dude's House" and "C U Next Tuesday" have 1980s derived backing,[64][66] while "Stephen" begins with "Kansas-style vocal harmonies".[67] While her vocals on the albums were heavily processed with Auto-Tune, often to produce rapid stuttering or over-pitch corrected vocal effects, leading to questions on vocal talent,[68] she expressed confidence in her abilities.[69] Kesha also uses a trademark talky "white-girl" rapping style with exaggerated discordant phrasing and enunciation.[31][63] Most of her lyrics chronicle her relationships and partying; the lighthearted subject matter of the latter and her unfiltered language saw many critics criticizing her for releasing frivolous and crass music.[34] Jonah Weiner of Slate, however, stated that her jarring lyrics allowed her songs to become more memorable.[31] In "Blah Blah Blah" and "Boots and Boys" she objectifies men to poke fun at how male fronted rock bands and rappers can get away with objectifying women and not vice versa.[1][14] The title track to her debut, "Animal", is more aspirational and is intended to inspire people to embrace their individuality.[70]

Kesha performing live at the US Naval Academy in 2010. A wide variety of influences inform her output.

Kesha's musical influences consist of hip-hop, punk, 1980s pop and dance music and old country.[71] Her country influences of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash come from her mother's country songwriting, while her older brother exposed her to hip-hop and punk bands, Fugazi, Dinosaur Jr. and the Beastie Boys.[21][72][73] She has additionally cited Beck, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Aaron Neville, Bob Dylan, The Damned, Velvet Underground, Blondie and graffiti artist, Banksy as influences.[32][74][75][76][77] She credits her straightforward story-based lyrics to her love for the honest storytelling style of country music,[73] while the title track from her debut album was created with music from alternative rock bands Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire in mind.[11] She singled out the Beastie Boys as a major influence, telling Newsweek that she had always wanted to be like them and aspired to make "youthful, irreverent anthems" as well.[10] She called her debut album, Animal an homage to the Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill and credited the creation of the rap driven "Tik Tok" to her love for the Beastie Boys' rap music.[63][74] For her first headlining tour, Kesha wanted to emulate the stage theatrics of Iggy Pop's performances.[78] She listed Pop's The Idiot as well as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC as inspirations for her forthcoming second studio album intended to feature 1970s rock inspired music.[58] She draws inspiration from old films as well, her stage makeup is characterized by dramatic glitter makeup at her right eye, inspired by A Clockwork Orange.[79] The video for "Your Love is My Drug" features animated sequences inspired by the Beatles' film, Yellow Submarine,[80] while the Get Sleazy tour was described as having a "post-apocalyptic Mad Max vibe."[78]




  • Get Sleazy Tour (2011)

Opening act

  • Rihanna - Last Girl on Earth Tour (North American dates) (2009)

Awards and nominations

Year Nominated work Event Award Result
2010 Herself American Music Awards[81] Artist of the Year Nominated
Favorite Female Artist Nominated
MTV Europe Music Awards[82] Best New Act Won
Best Push Act Nominated
MTV Video Music Awards[83] Best New Artist Nominated
"Tik Tok" Best Female Video Nominated
Best Pop Video Nominated
"My First Kiss" Best Collaboration Nominated
"Tik Tok" MuchMusic Video Awards[84][85] International Video of the Year – Artist Nominated
UR FAVE: International Video Nominated
Herself People's Choice Awards[86] Favorite Breakout Artist Nominated
Teen Choice Awards[87] Choice Music: Female Artist Nominated
Choice Music: Breakout Artist – Female Nominated
Choice Summer Music Star: Female Nominated
Animal Choice Music: Album – Pop Nominated
"Your Love Is My Drug" Choice Music: Single Nominated
Choice Summer Music: Song Nominated
Herself World Music Awards[88] Best New Artist Nominated
2011 Echo Awards[89] Most Successful Newcomer of the Year, International Nominated
Animal Juno Awards[90] International Album of the Year Nominated
Billboard Music Awards[91] Top Pop Album Nominated
Herself Top New Artist Nominated
Top Female Artist Nominated
Top Pop Artist Nominated
Top Hot 100 Artist Nominated
Top Digital Songs Artist Nominated


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