Born March 1st 1987, Kesha Rose Sebert, the artist who would one day be known under the stylized version of her name, is the second child of Pebe Sebert. Pebe, the grand-daughter of Hungarian and Polish immigrants, was a struggling single mother at the time, a singer/songwriter whose claim to fame was having co-written Joe Sun’s 1978 single Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You. By the time Kesha was born, however, Pebe’s glory days in the music industry were over and she was struggling to make ends meet. Kesha’s mother was even forced to accept welfare payments and food stamps from the government in order to provide for her children.
Much like her daughter would two decades later, Pebe fought to accomplish her dream of having sustained work in the music industry, and this drive would land her family in Nashville, Tennessee in 1991. She had secured a publishing deal for her music and decided this move was what was best for her family. Kesha would grow up in Nashville, though her eventual fame did not automatically make her the most popular kid in school. In fact, she had difficulty making friends in the part of America she dubbed “The Bible Belt.” Kesha had grown up in a household which prided itself on being free-spirited, and this free-spiritedness found its way into her behavior and even her fashion sense. What would eventually be considered trendy and even cool was, before her fame, shunned by much of the community, which preferred its children a bit tamer than Kesha was willing to provide. This is not to say she was not a hard working student. While in high school she learned how to play the trumpet and the saxophone and describes herself as a diligent student.
It is difficult to say whether Kesha’s interest in music was a product of her environment or whether the environment simply aided her on her way to pursuing her dream of working in music, but it either way, living in Nashville had the effect of at the very least allowing her to work and grow musically. Pebe would often take her children with her to recording sessions and, once she heard Kesha’s talent as a singer, encouraged her often to hone her skills as a singer. This practice and immersion into the music culture of Nashville only intensified Kesha’s desire to grow as a musician, and Pebe, recognizing her natural gifts, began teaching Kesha how to write songs.
Before long, Kesha was writing every day with her mother after school. Influenced by the music she heard around her, she began to forge her own identity in her music, creating something that was uniquely her own. She took advantage of her mother’s contacts within the music industry, recording in the same recording studios in which her mother worked. Pebe would then take the demo CDs Kesha would produce and hand them out to people she knew in the hopes of getting noticed by an executive. Eventually she did receive the attention she desired, and, after careful consideration and advice from none other than Max Martin and Dr. Luke (who worked with such stars as Britney Spears) she dropped out of school at the age of 17 to pursue a career in music. It is worth noting, however, that Kesha did eventually earn her GED, knowing the importance of having received an education.
What may have seemed like a poor decision to educators and other parents at the time was exactly the right decision for Kesha, and she needed little encouragement to do what she thought was best for her. After moving to Los Angeles for professional reasons, she was quickly signed by Dr. Luke’s label, Kemosabe Entertainment. Dr. Luke, however, would soon become too involved with other projects to give Kesha the attention she needed to gain the recognition she felt she deserved. She soon signed with DAS Communications, a management company run by David Sonenberg, who agreed to a deal which guaranteed them 20 percent of Kesha’s music income if they found a major label for her within a year. Kesha could break from them if they did not meet their obligation in this regard. She was not living the glamorous life she would eventually lead, though. At this time in her career, even as she wrote songs for The Veronicas, she earned her living in much the same way as many people her age. Kesha was a waitress. It was during this time that she began using the dollar sign in her name, as she thought the gesture was ironic.
Even as she was working in the food service industry, Kesha was finding ways to, at the very least, share the spotlight. She would appear in the music video for Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” and sang background vocals for none other than Britney Spears just a few years after she had moved to LA. Kesha’s drive, determination, and talent would eventually attract the attention of Warner Bros. Records. The label wanted to sign Kesha to a deal, but could not due to the fact that Kesha was still under contract with Dr. Luke. Seeing more promise in her than he had when she first arrived in LA, Dr. Luke made Kesha a priority and, with his help, she was able to appear in Flo Rida’s single “Right Round.” Not unlike many stories in Hollywood, the collaboration seemed to be a matter of fate. One day, Kesha walked into a session Flo Rida was having with Dr. Luke at the exact moment Flo Rida determined he needed a female voice for the track. Dr. Luke, knowing Kesha’s talent, suggested Kesha take the role in the song. Flo Rida liked the sound so much that he collaborated twice more with Kesha on the album, though there is no acknowledgment of the collaboration on the US release of the CD. In fact, even though she eventually appeared in the music video for the song, Kesha did not make a single dollar off her work with Flo Rida.
Though she did not make any financial gain directly off the collaboration, Kesha was noticed by major record labels. Not long after Flo Rida’s release, RCA Records signed Kesha to a record deal. As Kesha had always imagined a day in which she would be working on an album to be released by a major label, she already had six years worth of work ready. She immediately began refining her work, rather than starting from scratch, a refinement that meant she could release the album earlier than most newly signed artists. Over the previous six years, Kesha had written over 200 songs, and this large selection ensured the songs which made it on her CD, which could only carry 14 songs, were the best she could create. Kesha’s style of music was something of a break from Dr. Luke’s previous releases, as he was used to working with more traditional pop-rock artists such as Kelly Clarkson. According to Dr. Luke, Kesha insisted that not a single guitar be used on the album, wanting to make absolute certain the album bearing her name would contain a sound that was distinctly her own. It was vitally important to Kesha that the album be a celebration of youth, about partying and having a good time, and not giving into the pressures of the more mainstream styles of constructing music.
The album, entitled Animal, debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200. It marked a gigantic shift from traditional to modern, knocking off Susan Boyle’s album. While Boyle’s album, which appealed to a much older audience who preferred their music on CD, over 75 percent of the sales of Animal were entirely digital. 9 months later, the album had sold over 2 million albums throughout the world, and this was despite a mixed reaction from critics. Many critics found the album to be obnoxious, reacting as much to the subject matter as the music. What few could deny, however, was that the music was catchy. They could argue all they wanted about the musical merits of Kesha’s album, but what they could not deny was sales.
Nor could they deny popularity. The first single off the album was Tik Tok, a song was the top tune in 11 different countries and spent a remarkable 9 weeks at the top of the Billboard 100. The single was so remarkable, in fact, that only Debby Boone, whose debut song “You Light Up My Life,” spent the same amount of time at number 1, had been able to stay at that spot more than 4 decades prior. Every subsequent single from that album was received with the same enthusiasm from Kesha fans.
Not content to simply be another pop star in the music industry, Kesha has continued to grow as a person as well as a musician. She used her newfound fame to bring attention to one of her greatest passions, the protection of animals. In 2010, she achieved a remarkable title in her efforts to protect wildlife. She became the Humane Society’s global ambassador for animals. This is no small thing, and certainly not a figurehead title meant for uncaring celebrities. The position did not exist before the Humane Society noticed the work Kesha was doing on her own, and they decided a relationship with the artist would be mutually beneficial. One of the things Kesha did which gained the attention of the Humane Society was donating 1,000 pounds of dog food to an animal shelter for abandoned pets in Nashville. It became Kesha’s responsibility to raise awareness for the Humane Society about cosmetics testing on animals and about shark finning.
Eventually, Kesha’s work with the Humane Society got the attention of another influential animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA had a campaign going raising the awareness of people about the sanctioned clubbing of baby seals in Canada.
Kesha is one of the most famous, controversial, and influential stars currently on the music scene. Though not always received well by critics, her electro-pop style appeals to a demographic of young people who are as likely as any other to purchase music. In fact, with the availability of music at an all-time high, this generation may be more likely than ever to purchase music. Because of this, it is very likely that Kesha is going to be around for some time to come, which is a good thing for both her fans and animals in need.