Not a cover of The Donnas’ only top 40 hit, sadly…
Anthony Easton: This could have been an Amanda Lear B-Side from 1976, though any place that goes hardcore most likely does not have glitter on the floor.
Al Shipley: I never thought anyone would find a way to force their voice into uglier, more curdled tones via AutoTune than Kanye. But whenever you think pop has hit rock bottom, there’s a white girl standing there with a shovel and a shit-eating grin, ready to dig deeper.
Michaelangelo Matos: Shamelessness is the root of what I like about her. Her voice and music really aren’t. So her leap aboard the robo-bandwagon doesn’t have much to recommend it aside from its shamelessly tour-guide-like lyrics (“It’s a dirty free-for-all”).
Alfred Soto: Every time she reminds the hapless audience about a “place downtown,” I want her to actually describe it instead of exhorting us to take “it” off. She reminds me of the friend who gets hammered at my place before heading to the bar and making a fool of himself. I don’t care if you wind up saving money.
Katherine St Asaph: Oh my God, Ke$ha saved top 40. I know I’d heard this before it was released as a single, and I think I danced to it once or twice (it’s not really the sort of song conducive to remembering how much you danced, or where or how.) You can’t really appreciate “Take It Off,” though, until it wades into the flood of dance muck spewed nonstop into the radio by Usher, Eminem, Enrique and wallops them all with Ke$ha’s bottle o’ Jack. She’s still autotuned to Hades, but all the processing in the world can’t blunt the sheer animal force of her voice (or maybe that’s processing too, but let’s pretend) as she tears through a backing track more propulsive and dangerous than anything in rotation now or for the past few months. It isn’t surprising, per se; every other dance song on the radio’s played through a minor-key haze, just begging to be stripped of its beats and made into a lament. The fundamental difference, though, is that Ke$ha’s clearly trying to sound fucked up, while everything else aims for sexy but instead hits desolate. The biggest surprise is that this is Dr. Luke. Why the hell doesn’t he write them all like this?
Chuck Eddy: Distorted electrobeats, places in France where ladies don’t wear pants (foolproof hook at least since P-Funk days), whiskey-filled water bottles in the handbag, lost minds, lost clothes, schizzy switch-ups, dirty downtown dive that may well be supposed to imply glory holes but ought to remind everybody of somewhere (my wife says the old Siberia bar, in Manhattan). One of my fave tracks when the album came out, and it’s still up there. Better than Chic’s identically named song.
John Seroff: I was kinda hoping I actually heard “now we lookin’ like pubes/in my gold Trans-Am” in “Take It Off”, but that would be actually transgressive and for all her bad girl posing, being genuinely nasty isn’t Ke$ha’s business. It’s an odd feat to autotone down a century old song, but this rendition of “The Streets of Cairo” isn’t half as dirty as the original (Fun Fact Corner: didja know the original lyrics read “Oh the girls in France/Wear their whiskers in their pants/And the things they do/Would kill a Russian Jew”?). Ke$ha may be more fun to listen to once she either gets down to serious hootchie-kootchying or cops to Radio Disney aspirations but this schtick is getting old and Animal is already aging poorly for me.
Kat Stevens: Sometimes you just can’t keep a good tune down. Ke$ha joins a huge club of dudes that have pillaged “The Streets Of Cairo” for any Sphinx/Pyramid scene-setting requirements over the years (attention songwriters: “Streets” only went out of copyright in 2008 so is now RIPE for exploitation!). Ke$ha’s version sounds most like the Egyptian Tribe level in Lemmings 2.