Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Youth is wasted


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My Crazy Beautiful Life by Ke$ha; Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, $22.99

Like a box of junk candy to a sugar fiend, the autobiography My Crazy Beautiful Life, by the "Tik Tok," "We R Who We R" award-winning recording artist known as Ke$ha, seeks to satisfy that craving for empty-caloric entertainment in-between newer books and movies that should really captivate our attention, like Alice Munro's new book of stories or The Hobbit. And it does so, not with its haphazard paragraphs, but through the layered, scrapbook-style photography of a singer coming of age.

This illustrated memoir of Los Angeles native Kesha Rose Sebert is a glossy ordeal awash in full-color photographs effectively chronicling her life-so-far, from a toddler in a less-fortunate, animal-loving family with an uncanny attraction to body paint, doting on her siblings Lagan and Louie. Music played a great role in her upbringing; she was raised solely by her singer-musician mother Pebe Sebert, who ricocheted the family from Southern California to Nashville after securing a songwriting contract, then back to LA, where Pebe began distributing her daughter's demo CD. A call from record producer Dr. Luke was all that it took to spark a career that continues to blow up today. Ke$ha's new CD Warrior, greatly influenced by Iggy Pop's 1977 album The Idiot, dropped on Dec. 4.

But as far as this book is concerned, that's about all there is to tell. The book is less of a success than anything she's done musically, and feels more like a slick promotional brochure for the new album. Ke$ha's introduction boasts that "in less than three years, I've gone from being the worst waitress in LA to a multiplatinum-selling artist." This would strike a sensitive reader as compelling if she did indeed continue to glance inward, but what readers get is passages like, "I looked at the blank page and realized that I was right back where it all started, a girl with a crazy dream and a notebook." Meh.

But it is what it is, so buy it for the pictures, which greatly make up for pages of limp writing and awkward phrasing – so surprising, knowing that Ke$ha wrote all of the tracks on both 2010's Animal and Warrior. Pictorially, her memoir details the exhaustive work and the exhilaration that stage life and touring the world can bring a girl who grew up with the understanding that "if we were too broke to go shopping, my mom would take us to Beverly Hills and we would look for discarded treasures on the side of the road."

Snapshots of sweaty, soggy, post-show Ke$ha and those of her reuniting with a family that show-business keeps her too busy to visit, read more authentic than the pics of her flipping off the camera in Europe, of hugging teary, star-struck fans, or of privileged vacations to the Galapagos and South Africa.

But her songwriting (not book-writing) talents are evident throughout the memoir, and it remains to be seen if her music and her message mature as her star continues to soar. If the idea of a young, outspoken pop music performer penning her own "life story" at the ripe old age of 25 makes you want to clutch your hard-won pearls crouched in a darkened room, you're not alone. But for Ke$ha's legion of adolescent followers – a fanbase she calls her "animals," to whom she dedicates the book (they even send her their teeth) – it's a photographic bible of popularity and success, giving them something to finish high school for.

It's the story of a lucky girl's quarter-century, from growing up supported by welfare and food stamps to young adulthood as a glitter-bombed, one-girl hit parade, trampling the music industry's idea of what a pop star should be with a barrage of expletives, precocious attitudes, and some admittedly catchy music that speaks to a me-first generation with just enough pre-party time to "brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack."

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