Ke$ha’s built a career on being as uncensored and metaphorical balls-to-the-wall blatant as possible, but she isn’t exactly an open book. We know she likes glitter, face paint, and more glitter. We might know she wrote songs for pop stars like The Veronicas and Britney Spears before releasing everyone’s favorite/least favorite earworm, “Tik Tok.” We’re not sure if she actually brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack, but we’re pretty sure she’s tried. She is, in other words, the perfect subject for an MTV reality show.
Since just the phrase “MTV reality show” has became such a horrifying concept, I should clarify that I don’t necessarily mean that as a bad thing here. Yes, Ke$ha sings about getting trashed and stupid, she uses more autotune than Glee, and her day-to-day uniform is glitter and ripped fishnet tights. And yes, "Ke$ha" looks more like a password retrieval code than a human name. But what makes her just a little more intriguing than the average pop star is that at the end of the day, she knows exactly what she is.
With very few exceptions, Ke$ha makes music for crashing around with a bottle of something strong, grabbing someone for the night, and not giving a single shit what anyone looking might think. Her music video for “Blow” is one of the most fun in recent memory, not just for featuring “James Van Der Douche” as himself before Don’t Trust the B got him, but for Ke$ha’s pitch-perfect self-parody. (Come for the meta, stay for the firefight with rainbow laser guns around unicorns in suits!) It was refreshing to get even a glimpse at a savvy pop star who has an easy sense of humor about herself barely a year into her career, and for someone whose go-to late night talk show story is about going to “the bonezone” with her friendly neighborhood ghost, self-awareness is no small thing. So really, Ke$ha’s particular blend of unapologetic partying and self-awareness should make for an interesting show... and yet My Beautiful Crazy Life is stupid crazy boring.
The good news is that it’s not all Ke$ha’s fault. She’s perfectly compelling the few times My Beautiful Crazy Life gives her more than 30 consecutive seconds on camera, like after the first concert when we see her panting on the ground backstage, chugging a water bottle, and earnestly asking her brother through piles of sequins, “Was it good?”
The bad news is that everything else is a disorganized, weirdly paced mess. It opens with her brother Lagan narrating over home video footage of Ke$ha (née “Kesha”), talking about how she pursued her dreams before she was done with high school. He tells us he was concerned, but that he was wrong, so he decided to follow her around with a camera during her first big headlining tour. So far, fair enough. As far as I could tell, framing the show around her brother's footage was a thin conceit to get us backstage, because while it’s not farfetched her brother’s narration would be a launching point to get there, it sure doesn't last long. That's the last we hear from good ol’ Lagan. Then, right after we’re promised a look at this landmark headline tour, they montage through city after city and screaming fan after screaming fan until Ke$ha herself takes over the narration in a bored monotone and announces, “the first leg of my tour has been intense.” Oh, okay. Cool documentary, Lagan!
From there we’re on to Los Angeles and Act Two: The Real Ke$ha. She collapses onto her bed and tells us in voiceover that her first love, Harold, still lives in LA, and with another woman. She met him when she was eighteen on Venice Beach, they had a whirlwind romance, and those summer dreams ripped at the seams (oh, those summer nights!) still inspire her songwriting today. Since Ke$ha actually gets a little room to talk, this is one of the more interesting parts of the episode. Then again, the most substantial part is spent in Ke$ha’s car as they drive around Venice looking for Harold, Lagan’s Blair Witch lens shaking all the way. Again, Ke$ha knows how ridiculous she’s being (“I’m literally going to throw up on myself. I’m such a stalker”), but compelling television this is not.
It’s not that Ke$ha needs to party to be interesting. The footage from the LA concert post-Harold stalking is gripping. It might surprise some that the aggressively autotuned Ke$ha is in her element on stage, but there it is. Covered in glitter, sweat, face paint, and fake(?) blood, fighting sobs, Ke$ha and her “Animals” wail a ballad together as if it’s the last one they’ll ever get. For a moment, she’s electrifying.
But we’ve only got half an hour and MTV is apparently determined to show us as much as it possibly can. So then it’s Act Three: Bullying Hurts, starring Perez Hilton as Ke$ha’s longtime tormenter. It’s far from a stretch to call Perez Hilton a bully (because he is), but we barely get any time to process Ke$ha’s discomfort with him before she’s introducing us to her best friend, getting on a plane, doing interviews, getting on another plane, and prepping for a concert. It’s not quite the literal montage from before, but it might as well be for all the impact these anecdotes have. The exception is her meeting with a young British fan. He hands her a note about how her music saved his life, and he cries, and she cries, and she understands but doesn’t know what to say, and it’s heartbreaking. When she sings his favorite song at the concert, her primordial stage presence is again the most gripping part. At the very least, it allows her some actual time to win us over instead of rushing us on to the next thing. The entire half hour feels like we’re lurching through a checklist of popstar clichés that don’t fit Ke$ha’s actual personality. She’s not Katy Perry, whose documentary was a 3D spectacular celebrating her candy-striped empire, and she’s not Beyonce, who filled her HBO special with heartfelt confessionals and heart-to-hearts with Oprah. Ke$ha’s loud, she’s brash, and while she’s passionate, she’s the first to take herself less than seriously. It’s a shame the show doesn’t follow her lead.
- When Ke$ha first brought up Harold, I was convinced the reveal would be that she was talking about a dog. Not sure what that says about me; don’t care to find out.
- I’m also not as offended by “Ke$ha” than I am by “Lagan.” Not going to examine that one, either.
- If I were getting updates on Perez Hilton’s tweets about me, I’d be swigging from a bottle of wine, too.
- One scene that lived up to the show’s promise was Ke$ha feeding her nephew while taking her first, lackluster New York Times review in stride: "They say it's not sexy… fair."
- "You know they're really Scottish if they're not wearing anything under their kilt." "Oh, ladyboner. That’s awesome.”