Ke$ha Begins Komeback with OK Track: “Die Young” (Single Review)

A year after serving us her last single (“Blow”), and 3 years after her debut (and still, only) album Animal, Queen Ke$ha is ready for a second round.

Over the past few months, the Reigning Dumpster Diva and Queen of Drunk-Pop has managed to sit upright, find her pants, shuffle across a studio and belch out enough tunes to complete her second LP, Warrior. (This is all said in the most genuinely loving and playful way possible, by the way–never change, K$!)

The only problem? She might have sobered up a bit too much this time around.

“Die Young,” which was co-produced by Benny Blanco, Dr. Luke and Cirkut, suffers from “Starships” syndrome–that is, that nagging “Hey, doesn’t this sound just like…” trend of Reducto-Pop: It looks like a hit, plays like a hit, and sounds exactly like something we’ve already heard done in a dozen different ways already.

With its propulsive, guitar-driven pulse, fists-aloft anthem of a chorus and massive beat breakdowns, the song plays like an all-too-safe blend between Nicki Minaj‘s “Starships,” David Guetta & Flo-Rida‘s “Where Them Girls At,” Flo-Rida’s own “Good Feeling” and Fun.‘s “We Are Young.” (No coincidence on that last one, either–Fun. frontman Nate Ruess co-penned the track.)

The lyrics, too, are fairly ‘of the moment’: Between One Direction‘s “Live While We’re Young,” Godney‘s “Till The World Ends” and Fun.’s “We Are Young” all floating around on the radio (and M.I.A.‘s “Bad Girls,” too!), the “Life fast, dance hard, die young” mantra isn’t exactly uncharted territory.

Of course, K$’s signature sassitude comes through in the speak-sung lyrics (“That magic in your pants is making me blush”), but it’s not nearly as clever as, say, “Be too sweet, and you’ll be a goner/Yep, I’ll pull a Jeffrey Dahmer.”

“Die Young” is an undeniably great song, production-wise–the chorus is an immediate ear-worm and it’s all but impossible not to apply at least a hearty toe-tap to those beat blasts–but it’s certainly not very ambitious.

Songs like “Sleazy” and “Blow” off of 2010’s Animal re-release, Cannibal, felt much more adventurous upon first play, and also helped to pioneer the sound of Top 40 pop for months to come–that is, after all, why Ke$ha remains relevant after 4 years and only one (re-packaged) album. “Die Young” feels more like an exercise in trend-hopping, and for a first impression of the new record, that’s slightly concerning. With any luck, it’s just a breezy taste of what’s to come.

There’s nothing too tempting about a watered down Ke$ha, so the next order better be straight up.