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Ke$ha: 'Warrior' 

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What the hell to make of Ke$ha? Outwardly, she seems to factor in all the basics of lowest-common-denominator pop: Generic club beats? Bafflingly dumb lyrics? Auto-tuned vocals? Check, check, check. But then there's the other side of her — the 1500 on her SATs, the Flaming Lips collaboration, her surprising songwriting ability — that leaves me convinced that this whole party-whore shtick is some sort of elaborate ruse. So in calling Warrior, her second full-length, a more "raw, personal and venerable" record, there was the chance that the 25-year-old glitter queen might pull back the curtain on this caper once and for all. Spoiler alert: not even close. That "personal" side mostly manifests itself as a collection of bad YOLO mottos that only sound profound if you're on a lot of blow. As for "raw," I guess that's what Linkin-Park-lifted guitars count for in the pop world these days. But once it's accepted that this is another unabashed pop record, Warrior offers some interesting surprises, namely a handful of tracks ("Thinking of You," "Wonderland") that showcase Ke$ha as a capable songwriter, along with a surprisingly listenable Iggy Pop collab. Warrior is miles from the game changer I suspect Ke$ha imagined it to be, but as far as Top 40 goes, we could do a whole lot worse.

★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)

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