“Tik Tok”: The Blues Version

Last week, Fenzel wrote a thoughtful analysis of the song “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha. In the resulting discussion in the comments, OTI reader “Brimstone” had this to say about how the song furthers Ke$ha’s image as a “skank”:

I don’t listen to much modern pop but I’ve been a rock fan for ages, and male fans ‘glamorizing self-destructive behavior’ goes back as far as the blues, if beyond. The author of this piece is right – she’s doing the rock star persona thing, which ties into the Mick Jagger line. And that’s cool! Guys have been writing songs like this for decades… Nothing wrong with a girl doing it.

Brilliant observation, Brimstone. And to further illustrate your point, I’ve taken the liberty of re-recording a bit of “Tik Tok”…

as a Muddy Waters-esque old school blues song.

→Download Tik Tok (The Blues Version) [MP3, 2.6 MB]

Try listening to it. Thematically, it makes sense (well, except for the pedicure part) and isn’t nearly as weird as the picture above suggests.

More tellingly, the sum total isn’t that far removed from a Muddy Waters tune along the lines of “Hootchie Coochie Man”…

…or B. B. King’s “Let The Good Times Roll”:

Readers: what do you think of this unholy combination? Have you gained a new appreciation for Ke$ha? Or did I only succeed in sending Muddy Waters spinning in his grave? Sound off in the comments!

Update: Love the song? Digg it here.

16 Comments on ““Tik Tok”: The Blues Version”

  1. Dan #

    If you don’t take the apostrophe out of “further’s” in the first paragraph, I will never respect you people again.

     
  2. Daniel #

    oh my god, possibly the best article you’ve ever written. I love that reinterpretation of the song, (especially as a blue fan myself) and you definitely need to make this a regular feature: Mark Lee reinterprets music into different genres it would better fit into, and then sings the result! (although you can name it something a tad less prolix if you like)

    To address the question: This actually does give me more respect for Ke$ha (although that’s not exactly hard) because she is part of a musical tradition. I suppose the question is really how many other things can we tie back to origins like that?

    Is Ice Cube rapping about gang life a direct descendant of, say, Beowulf? (epics about the life the hero leads, his masculinity, his personal strength, the spoils of war, but also the terrible personal cost of it all (and damage to others))

    Is fiddy really a modern day version of minstrels praising the works of a king? (After all, he’s not the one writing them, he’s just the subject matter and the face of it all; and they’re all about how great and how rich he is)

    Where do Lady Gaga’s roots lay?

    food for thought.

     
  3. Hazbaz #

    @Daniel
    Lady GaGa is clearly influenced by David Bowie, who is himself influenced by Commedia dell’Arte (Didn’t he dress up as a Pierrot for one of his videos?) And I believe the roots of Commedia dell’Arte can be traced back to Ancient Greek theatre.
    Perhaps “Poker Face” is a modern re-telling of “Lysistrata”

     
  4. stokes #

    @Hazbaz: The pierrot video is Ashes to Ashes, I think.

    @Daniel: I’ve heard it suggested that a lot of the “gangster” images in rap can be traced back through the blues, to Africa, and eventually all the way back to classical (pre-Islamic) Arabic poetry. Mind you, the suggestion came from someone who spent most of their time studying classical Arabic poetry, so it might just be a question of everything looking like a nail, you know what I mean? That said, I’ve read a *little* of the stuff, and I did notice the following themes in some of the poems

    1: I am the most dangerous guy around. I kill the most dudes, I steal the most livestock. It’s pretty awesome.
    2: I am the sexiest guy around. I have sex with all kinds of women. It’s pretty awesome.
    3: I am the best poet around. I mean, clearly. Have you been LISTENING to me? Anyway, it’s pretty awesome.

    with a sort of subliminal sense that all of these facts confirm and support eachother. And whether there’s a direct historical connection or not, that’s pretty gangster.

     
  5. Matthew Wrather #

    Readers! What’s the Arabic for “gangster”?

     
  6. Sylvia #

    Mark Lee, thank you for making my day better.

     
  7. Sean Nixon #

    The full song would be way to long at that pace.

     
  8. Erdee #

    O my. Daniel is absolutely right on target, this needs to come back. Often.

     
  9. lee #

    @Sean: I estimate it would have clocked in at around 7 minutes, 8 if you include obligatory pompous guitar solo.

    Not that I’m opposed to 8 minute blues jams with pompous guitar solos.

     
  10. mlawski #

    (Being Underthinking It)

    Mark: I just got around to listening and it is awesome!!!! Exclamation points!

    In other news, I, too, am unopposed to 8 minute blues jams with pompous guitar solos.

    (/Underthinking)

     
  11. Gab #

    The link between Ke$ha and blues reminds me of something I get sick of hearing, so I’m gonna rant a bit. Maybe I’m a freak, but there is often a pre-disposition for people around me to hate country music on principle. It’s country, thereby it’s sucky and automatically about how a dude is sitting on his porch while his dog sleeps at his feet and he hasn’t seen his old lady in years or something. I’ve never really understood the difference between the storytelling in country music versus every other genre that does it in this way, meaning by portraying an image of a moment or general lifestyle of a person. Folk music does it, blues does it, rap does it- pretty much every genre does it in some way, or at least has songs classified within that genre that do it. I see no difference in premise between a guy singing about how he’s a tough country boy and a guy rapping about how he’s a tough thug. Or a hurt one (in either case). Etc. So, you could just as easily turn Ke$ha’s song into a country ballad as this (made of awesome, btw) blues rendition, or a rap song. So why the hatin’ on the country so often? (Note: general question, not aimed at Lee or anybody in particular.) (And I could answer it, but I don’t want to do *all* the talking if anybody else is interested or has noticed the same thing.)

    @Hazbaz: “Perhaps “Poker Face” is a modern re-telling of “Lysistrata””

    I died. Nice. Now I’m going to spend my evening contemplating who had the *best* “poker face” of the characters and such.

     
  12. Dan #

    Sorry for the punctuation snark. That song is fucking brilliant.

     
  13. BluesLover #

    I think there is a huge difference between the roots of a genre and the similarities in textual content to a different art form. For the Ke$ha song, though the text may possibly have some of the disparaging qualities of a blues songs of Muddy Waters and B.B. King you posted, it’s Ke$ha’s presentation of the material that makes the song not worthwhile. “Tik Tok” is a crap song. I think that is something at least everyone here can agree on. However, that does not make Lee’s cover of it a crap song. Genre and sound are EVERYTHING when it comes to music. If we were to analyze the lyrics of a B.B. King song, for instance “Three O’clock Blues”, we would find a similar lack of real content in the message:

    Well now it’s three o’clock in the morning
    And I can’t even close my eyes
    Three o’clock in the morning baby
    And I can’t even close my eyes
    Can’t find my baby
    And I can’t be satisfied

    I’ve looked around me
    And my baby she can’t be found
    I’ve looked all around me, people
    And my baby she can’t be found
    You know if I don’t find my baby
    I’m going down to the Golden Ground
    That’s where the men hang out

    Goodbye, everybody
    I believe this is the end
    Oh goodbye everybody
    I believe this is the end
    I want you to tell my baby
    Tell her please please forgive me
    Forgive me for my sins

    There is not a lot there. It is a real situation much like in Gab’s description of country music. However, I enjoy listening to it and I’m sure, as evidenced from Lee’s extremely bluesy cover, Lee enjoys listening to it. Why? Because it meets a certain expectation; it has breadth and intent; and it is performed by musicians of caliber. That is my main complaint with Ke$ha: she is not a caliber musician or even a musician at all. Her song may be part of a lyrical tradition based in the blues but I doubt it is ACTUALLY because Ke$ha has heard B.B. King and Muddy Waters. We have to watch when we see a connection between things not to assume the connection is true. Maybe in some far off and impossible to prove way Lady Gaga is connected to Greek literature but it is not right to say it is so. The artist knows what influences them. Looking at the influences of their own influences and so on is only an exercise and gives little insight into the artists because they may not even be aware of that art. It’s like what T.S. Eliot said: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” All true art is based off of some other art and because the artist knows that that’s what makes it art. Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” is not true art because it mocks the blues songs listed while not acknowledging their influence.

     
  14. Jon Eric #

    I’m impressed with the quality of the vocals in this recording. Very well-done. Makes me wish I had thought to cover “Tik Tok” in this style.

     
  15. Brimstone #

    Wow… I’m proud of inspiring that. That’s a great cover!
    and yeah you see lots of ‘big upping’ in classical mythology
    again, i don’t really follow rap but rock and rollers have lots of mythical aspects to them, even if its not as obvious as a Led Zep/Tolkien thing. they’re shamanistic

     
  16. saltobello #

    Wow, this is brilliant! And your example makes it crystal clear. For a long time I’ve thought that (as Nick Tosches put it) “there’s no new thing under the sun.” (I don’t know why when he transformed “nothing new” to “no new thing” it made is sound like he coined it himself.) Every new strain of music, new artist, etc. that’s labeled “revolutionary” tends to have an antecedent that’s pretty clear–and I don’t think there’s anything unusual about that. But as you and Fenzel show, breaking those things down can be enormously entertaining–and they tend to put the newer artist in a better light.

    Thanks! I’m new to this website and it looks like I have a lot of catching up to do!