Warrior is the second studio album by American recording artist Kesha, released on November 30, 2012 by Kemosabe Records and RCA Records. Its music spans the electropop, technopop, pop rock, and hip hop genres; Kesha described the album as more personal than her previous material in addition to her attempt at reviving the rock genre, calling it a "cock pop" record. Its theme is said to be magic.
Writing for Warrior began in late 2011 and ended in early 2012, with recording taking place from January through August 2012. Kesha wrote the majority of the album while touring internationally and during her spiritual journey. Contributions to the album's production came from longtime collaborators Dr. Luke (who was also the executive producer of the project), Max Martin, Shellback, Ammo and Benny Blanco. It features guest vocals from American rock singer Iggy Pop, who has been cited as a major influence on the album, as well as writing contributions from Nate Ruess from American indie rock trio Fun, American rapper will.i.am, singer-songwriter Bonnie McKee, The Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney, American rock bands The Strokes and The Flaming Lips and Kesha's own mother, Pebe Sebert. Upon its release, Warrior received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who commended its rock-influenced material, lyrical content, and collaborations whilst others criticized its use of Auto Tune and formulaic content. The album reached number 6 on the U.S. Billboard 200, also charting within Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Japan and others.
The album's lead single "Die Young" achieved commercial success, peaking at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and charting in multiple countries worldwide. "C'mon" initially served as a promotional single, and peaked at number 27 after its release as the second single. An acoustic extended play (EP) Deconstructed was exclusively released through her website to promote the fan edition of the album, and features re-record tracks from her previous releases and a cover of "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You" by American country recording artist Dolly Parton, which was co-written by Kesha's mother, Pebe Sebert. "Crazy Kids" was released as the third and final single from Warrior. In total, the album has spawned three Top 40 hits in USA, Canada, and Australia.
In June 2010, Kesha discussed her second studio album with MTV News. During the interview she revealed that she was already beginning to think about her second album and explained that it was going differ from her first record, specifically commenting that it would reflect her growth: "There's definitely going to be a difference. I'm always changing and evolving and because I write all of my own music it will be reflective of the record. It'll still stay fun and young and irreverent." After the release of her first album Kesha embarked on her first worldwide tour, the Get Sleazy Tour throughout 2011. While touring she began writing songs for her second album but recording and other work on the album was not commenced until she had completed the tour.
In 2011, the singer took a hiatus from music to embark on other ventures. She was hired by the Humane Society and became their first global ambassador, which consumed her time as she made a documentary for National Geographic that revolved around "animals being abused and how to stop that, or animals that are going extinct and how to help those animals." The album includes a variety of different musical participants, which was explained by the singer: "The range of artists I want to work with is so vast it’s bizarre. If someone is a real artist, you can’t confine them to a particular genre. It’s my mission to make it all make sense somehow." Along with expanding her collaborations, the singer expanded her musical repertoire, as she began playing the guitar significantly more with the plans of incorporating it into her new material. In February 2012, while being interviewed by Glamour, Kesha stated that while she was currently in the process of writing songs for her album, she was also taking a variety of instrument lessons, emphasizing specifically that she was taking guitar lessons.
In March 2011, Kesha revealed in an interview with Beatweek Magazine that she had already chosen the title for the record, naming it Spandex on the Distant Horizon. However, in a publication in May 2012, Billboard stated that the project was untitled. The album's underlying theme stems around embracing a person's inner warrior, which the singer elaborated on: "I’ve seen how many people my music can reach, and I’ve realized that I have somewhat of a social responsibility to make sure everything I say is positive. The underlying theme of this next record is warrior, with the positive message being that everyone has a warrior inside." On September 18, 2012, via her Twitter and Instagram accounts, Kesha began announcing letters, believed to be from the title of the album, alluding to the name of the album title, "Warrior". This was later confirmed when she tweeted the release date of the album.
Kesha worked with Lukasz Gottwald and Max Martin on a variety of tracks. She also expressed interest in enlisting the production duo, the Dust Brothers, who are known for producing tracks for the Rolling Stones, the Beastie Boys and Beck, however no recording dates were ever penned. Her friend Paul Nicholls, a DJ, was also named as a potential participant in construction of the album. However, no recording dates with him have been recorded either. According to MTV, Kesha entered the studio with Luke in January 2012. Both Kesha and Luke had been working on material for the upcoming project but had yet to start studio sessions prior to January. Kesha reported via Twitter in March 2012 she was recording the album with Luke and Benny Blanco. In the recording studio together they created a track described by the singer as a "cock-pop" influenced song. This track was revealed to be "Thinking of You".
Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips first expressed interest in working with Kesha in January 2012. Coyne said he knew she was a fan of his work and felt that a collaboration between the two would be a "perfect match." The duo reportedly collaborated at the Lips' studio in January 2012. A track called "2012" was created during a February recording session in Nashville and was released on the Lips' album, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. In March 2012, Coyne told Rolling Stone that he was in the development stages of talking to Kesha about working with her on her new material. Along with "2012", Wayne and Kesha's first collaboration created three other songs, all of which belonged to Kesha. Coyne was later asked if he still intended to contribute to her album he responded, stating: "I'm trying to. I think we're getting together right before Easter. We've already done three songs-- they're hers". According to Twitter messages by Coyne, recording between the duo continued in April 2012 and a track that discussed "futuristic sex toys" was created. Coyne and Kesha revealed via Twitter that a song titled "You Control My Heart" was created. Coyne announced that he was in the process of mixing the song. "Past Lives", a track described by Coyne as a "stellar track" was confirmed to be another collaboration between the pair. Altogether, Coyne and Kesha's collaboration yielded between six and seven tracks.
In mid April 2012, Billboard published an article claiming that Scottish producer Calvin Harris had contributed several tracks to the upcoming album. Their specific recording date was unknown. In May 2012, Kesha continued to record with Dr. Luke, and artist Sia Furler, although this track did not make the final track listing. Rock singer Iggy Pop was also revealed as a collaborator, when the singer tweeted a picture in May 2012 saying that the singer would feature on the record. Billboard later confirmed Iggy Pop would feature on "Dirty Love", produced by Dr. Luke. Kesha continued to work with Dr Luke and Benny Blanco, and with new collaborators Henry Walter and Fun. lead singer Nate Ruess – the four created a track described by Blanco as "old hippie rock". That track was later revealed as "Die Young". Kesha revealed that she and Dr Luke had created 17 incomplete songs, including "Last Goodbye", "Die Young" and "Supernatural". She commented on the sound, "I want it to be a mix of what works on the radio and what I listen to in my spare time," she says. "I'm on a steady diet of T. Rex and Iggy Pop."
In contrast to her debut album Animal (2010), Kesha has said her second album will also incorporate rock genres, inspired from the music of the 1970s. She has stated her love for rock music will be incorporate it into this album. 1970s rock singers Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Iggy Pop's album, The Idiot, were cited as musical inspirations for the next record. She wants the album to explore different sounds and Kesha has said the record will be more experimental than her first. She wants to incorporate elements of blues music, saying, "I definitely want the next record to be experimental and I would love to play with all the different sounds of the music I listen to. I really want some dirty guitar and I wouldn't mind if there were elements of blues." On her first record Kesha imposed a restriction on her producers limiting their use of guitars. In order to encompass visceral energy on the record she lifted this restriction and instead has chosen to focus on the inclusion of guitars to try and capture the sound of the 70s and 80s. Kesha has commented on the sound of the record, stating that it will remain a pop album, but that it will also branch away from her previous "white-girl rap": "Some people will be shocked. Some will also be excited to know that I don’t just do silly white-girl rap. I'm from the South, I have a lot of soul. But trust me—it's not going to be some avant-garde jazz record. I innately write pop songs. That's just what I do."
Kesha began recording the album in 2011, after traveling the world; she went on a spiritual journey. Recalling experiences of feeding baby lions and swimming with great white sharks, Kesha said, "I got hypnotized, and I just really wanted this record to be really positive, really raw, really vulnerable and about the magic of life." "Supernatural" contains dubstep elements and explores erotic experiences Kesha encountered with ghosts. The track "Dirty Love" was inspired by Iggy Pop's music and draws from garage rock and punk rock. "Wonderland" is a country-rock song that explores Kesha's past with her broke friends. The tracks "Wherever You Are," "Die Young," "C'Mon" all contain elements of technopop, whereas tracks like "Only Wanna Dance With You" and "Gold Trans Am" draw from electronic rock. "C'Mon" and "Crazy Kids" are electronic rap songs. Overall, Kesha said the theme of Warrior is magic. She further explained the main inspiration behind the album's change of sound:
"I feel like I don't necessarily agree, but people say that rock and roll is dead, and it is my mission and my goal to resurrect it in the form of my pop music, [...] that's the goal. We'll see what happens. That's a very ambitious and lofty goal, but that's my goal."
Kesha has said the songs are inspired by her experiences during her tours. In contrast to her first record which featured music described by the singer as "very brash and very sassy and very unapologetic and irreverent", she says the second album makes a lyrical departure and explores a more vulnerable side in its lyrics. She explained: "I have learned over the past three years of doing this that being vulnerable doesn't mean you're weak. I very much want to be seen as a strong woman, but I realize that vulnerability can also be a strength. So on my next record, you are going to hear probably a little more of that." Kesha commented, in an interview with Rolling Stone, "The first two records talked more about partying, which is a great, magical part of life, but some songs on the new record are more personal and vulnerable. And you can hear more of the music I listen to when I'm lying in my bed. I'm not claiming that it's a rock record – but as long as it's fucking good, you can call it whatever you want." Co-written by her mother, Pebe Sebert, the song titled "Gold Trans Am" doubles as a metaphor for her vagina and alludes to her actual automobile. Of the song, Kesha said: "It began as a song about my car, which is a gold Trans Am, and it works about 40 per cent of the time. I don't have another car because I love that one so much. But then like all great pop it became a metaphor for something else - my pussy."
"C'Mon", the second single, serves as one of the album's many pop rap songs. In it, Kesha raps: "Saw you leaning against that old record machine/ Saw the name of your band written on the marquee/ It's a full moon tonight so we gettin' rowdy/ Yeah, we gettin' rowdy, get-get-gettin' rowdy." Billboard called "C'Mon" a YOLO dance jam about taking hookups from the dance floor to the bedroom," adding that the lyrics were on par with Kesha's "Your Love is My Drug" fecklessly juvenile attitude. A ballad, "Love Into the Light", depicts Kesha at her most vulnerable, beginning with a string of confessions and culminating in a hopeful anti-bullying anthem. Billboard praised the song for contrasting Kesha's trademark "glitter and Auto-Tune" persona, before highlighting "Past Lives" as the album's best track lyrically. "Last Goodbye" tributes Neil Young's "For the Turnstiles", while "Only Wanna Dance With You" is a parody of The Strokes' music.
The album was tentatively due to be released in May 2012, but was later announced with an official release date of 4 December 2012. It was originally expected to be released near the end of 2011 but the delay between albums was because Kesha wanted to try to make an album that could shift the sound of pop music into a more rock direction. While being interviewed by the Calgary Herald she explained the delay and elaborated on this, stating: "I want to take enough time to make sure it's the reinvention of pop music. That's the ultimate goal, to reinvent pop music. So I'm planning on taking as much time as I need, but May sounds about right."
In the summer of 2013, Kesha embarked on a co-headlined tour with Pitbull. The tour, North American Tour 2013, travelled across North America, hitting venues in the United States and Canada. Since the joint tour did not cover any places outside of the US and Canada, Kesha decided to extend her tour and add more dates in other countries. The Warrior Tour covers many places in Europe, venues throughout the US, and select places in Asia. Many of the dates are parts of festivals and fairs such as Live at the Marquee Festival in Cork, Ireland, the Wireless Festival in London, England, and the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, Illinois. Before the main tour, Ke$ha performed many promotional tour dates throughout late 2012 and early 2013. Those dates include stadium and TV concerts in Europe, America, Australia, and Asia in August, October, and November 2012, music festival performances in America in December 2012, more TV concerts, special music festival performances, and normal concerts in January, and February 2013 in Asia and America.Promotional Tour Dates
The album's lead single, "Die Young" was released on September 25, 2012. The track was soon uploaded to Kesha's BMI following the Kesha's announcement of the single, and was co-written by Fun. lead singer Nate Ruess. Co-producer Benny Blanco described the track as "old hippie rock", while Kesha described the track as "her favourite of the album". A 35-second music video teaser was uploaded on September 12, 2012 onto her YouTube page. A second 29-second snippet, featuring Kesha's vocals, was uploaded on 17 September 2012. The same day, Kesha published the single's artwork onto her Twitter. The song premiered and impacted US radio on 25 September 2012. It was released in Europe on November 18, 2012 and the United Kingdom on November 25, 2012, debuting in the UK at 10.
"C'Mon", which was previously released as the album's first promotional single, was also released as the official second single from the album. It officially impacted U.S. mainstream radio in January 2013 and peaked at 27 on the US Billboard Hot 100, ultimately ending Kesha's string of consecutive top 10 hits. It was further released in the United Kingdom on March 3, 2013 and peaked at number 70 on the UK Singles Chart. The official lyric video was released on December 7, 2012.
"Crazy Kids" was released as the third single from Warrior. The song was released in a remixed form and features a guest verse by will.i.am, who is listed as one of the writers on the original solo version of the song. It officially impacted contemporary hit radio on 29 April 2013 and rhythmic/crossover radio on 7 May 2013. Crazy Kids peaked at number 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Number 19 on Mainstream Top 40 becoming her least successful single to date. Crazy Kids also charted within Australia, United Kingdom, Belgium, South Korea, Canada, and others. It was made available for purchase as a Digital download on 30 April 2013. There are also two other official remixes: One featuring rapper Pitbull and one featuring rapper Juicy J. In May 2013, the Juicy J remix reached U.S. rhythmic airplay and became available for purchase through digital venues.
Warrior received mostly positive reviews from music critics. On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 71 based on 18 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly gave it a positive review, graded it with a (B) and said: "Ke$ha's filthy jokes may be what separates her from her peers who practice ghost abstinence." Drowned in Sound rated the album as eight-out-of-ten, called it "a party album on a mission" and mentioned: "Warrior is never dull, always fun, and frequently a thrillingly unpredictable ride." BBC Music reviewer Nick Levine, was also positive on the album and wrote: " Taken as a whole, this is another surprisingly enjoyable album from a pop singer who has managed to broaden her approach without losing her USP."
Slant Magazine gave a mixed review to the album, rated it as three-stars-out-of-five and said: "Most of Warrior sticks to Ke$ha's tried-and-true formula." The Guardian reviewer went more critical on the record, blaming the artist for "decided not to fix what ain't broke", rated it two-stars-out-of-five and said: "auto-Tune, deployed all over the record, turns Kesha's voice into a robo-squawk, and not in a good way." However, Elysa Gardner of USA Today felt that the release was "full of catchy, cannily produced tunes that promote self-indulgence as if it were a civil right, and either shrug off or embrace the risks posed by living in the moment."
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic went deeper to the album and praised the artist for picking up the best direction for her sophomore set, gave it four-stars-out-of-five and said: "It's a wall-to-wall party for the freaks, burnouts, outcasts, and misfits and if you don't get it that's your fault, not hers." New York Times reviewers were also positive on the album and linked the influences to "drinking, sex, swearing, hard nights at the club" and confessed that "furtive surprise at the center of her project is sweetness, as it always was", suggesting that she can be a country star with "an option for her in five years or so, when she turns 30" and described the whole record as: "no revelation here, only strong fun."
Warrior debuted at number six on the Billboard 200, selling 85,000 copies in its first week. The album underwhelmed compared to her debut LP, Animal, which charted at number one on the Billboard 200. As of February 2014, it has sold 349,000 copies domestically. The album debuted at number 66 on the UK Albums Chart, going on to peak at number 60 in that chart.
"Die Young", the album's lead single, was an international hit, peaking at number two on the Hot 100. The single dropped down to number four, suffering massive airplay and sales cuts after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting caused the lyrics to be negatively interpreted by critics. Second single "C'Mon" debuted at number 30 on the Hot 100, peaking at 27 effectively ending Kesha's string of top-ten hits that has accumulated since her debut single "Tik Tok". Crazy Kids was released as the third single off 'Warrior' and it charted in a number of countries including the United States, Australia, United Kingdom, South Korea, and others. Other charted songs include "Thinking of You" and the album's title track, "Warrior", which peaked at 14 and 25 respectively on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart.
Credits adapted from the liner notes of Warrior.Notes
^A signifies a vocal producer
^B signifies an additional producer
"Supernatural" contains a portion of the composition of "Wouldn't It Be Good" written and performed by Nik Kershaw, published by Irving Music (BMI).
Deconstructed is the second extended play (EP) by American recording artist Kesha, which was released as a bonus disc with the fan edition of Warrior available only on her website in the United States. The EP was released digitally on February 5, 2013. Deconstructed contains five songs, four of which are versions of Kesha's songs, and one being a cover of Dolly Parton's "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You", co-written by Kesha's mother, Pebe Sebert.
"Die Young" has been described as a form of relaxed psychedelic-beatless pop, sparking controversy among YouTube, Twitter, and Kesha's website. "The Harold Song" includes relaxed vocals with a sawtooth wave base synthesizer side-chained to a kick drum over a piano synth. Also included is techno-based "Blow", a cover of Dolly Parton's country ballad "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You", and "Supernatural", from Kesha's second album, Warrior. "Supernatural" and "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You" were released through Kesha's promotional scavenger hunt for Warrior on her website on November 30, 2012. Prior to this, "Die Young" was released through Kesha's YouTube account.