NEW YORK (Billboard) - Sometimes I need to remind myself that 'TiK ToK' only went to No. 1 in January," Ke$ha says of her party-hearty electro-pop jam. "Because it kind of feels like it was 17 years ago."
Doesn't it, though? As far as new artists go, 2010 more or less belonged to this 23-year-old Nashville native, who released her hit debut, "Animal," in January, then followed it up last month with a nine-track mini-album, "Cannibal."
With three songs on Billboard's year-end Hot 100, and 1.1 million copies sold of "Animal," according to Nielsen SoundScan, Ke$ha is the Hot 100 artist of the year, as well as the top new artist.
"You can never completely predict what's going to be a hit," says her producer, Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald. "But I can't say I'm surprised by Ke$ha's success." The secret behind her rise? RCA/Jive Label Group chairman/CEO Barry Weiss says, "She's an artist with a point of view, which is more than you can say about 95 percent of the acts out there."
Billboard: How different is your life right now versus this time a year ago?
Ke$ha: "Are you kidding me? I pretty much feel like I've been reborn into this completely different existence. My entire life has become making music and playing shows, and I love it. I've accepted the fact that my fans are now my family, and I won't be having boyfriends. I'll just be having a really amazing relationship with the radio."
Billboard: Were you prepared for that transformation?
Ke$ha: "I wasn't clueless. It's just not at all what I expected it to be like. It's really intense -- more intense than I ever thought it would be. I remember pulling up to the with Dr. Luke in a DeLorean wearing a garbage-bag dress with the paparazzi chasing me. I was having an anxiety attack, like, 'I just wrote some pop songs, man!'"
Billboard: Has Luke advised you on how to navigate the twists and turns of stardom?
Ke$ha: "Oh, absolutely. He's been one of the most influential people in my life; he's been like a big brother. We're very much tangled up in each other. He's always given me the best advice and has always been very honest with me in a business where sometimes honesty is not the first word that comes to mind."
Billboard: "TiK ToK" introduced you to most people. Looking back, do you feel like that was the best possible launch?
Ke$ha: "I don't know. We didn't really know which song to come out with first. It was kind of a debate, because I didn't initially come out as a rapper; I've always been a singer. So having my first single classified as kind of a rap song felt bizarre to me. But now it's become something of a trademark. And it's becoming more legitimate: I've talked to some of my favorite rap artists over the past year -- artists who are idols -- and they've given me mad props.
Billboard: Do you think timing had anything to do with the song's success?
Ke$ha: "In terms of the state of America, with the recession? Definitely. It's a celebratory song, but it's not about bottles of champagne in the club and my brand-name clothes. It's just me talking about being somewhat of a bum and having a great time in Los Angeles."
Billboard: How will the Ke$ha persona change, now that you're not really a bum any more?
Ke$ha: "Have you seen me? Yes, I am! All you have to do is look at "Cannibal" to see that you can still celebrate life in a non-douche bag way. Money really doesn't affect me when it comes to my happiness or deciding who I'm going to date, and that's something I want to hold on to. You can be really happy and you can look like a badass and be a total baller, but it doesn't necessarily have to be in a financial sense."
Billboard: Opening for Rihanna this summer, you went for an almost willfully low-rent vibe.
Ke$ha: My live show is definitely a bit of a paradox. Sometimes I have opportunities to play massive arenas like Staples Center or Wembley, but I still like to duct-tape my instruments back together, you know? I grew up going to house parties and watching punk bands destroy their instruments, so there's a did-it-myself vibe to my live show. I'm not just one thing, which may be hard to grasp. I want to show that you can be funny and hot; you can drink and read. People are still getting used to what I am."
Billboard: A lot of people didn't know what to make of your April appearance on "Saturday Night Live."
Ke$ha: "I was thinking about that this morning, actually. I recently watched it back because I'm my own worst critic; I hate most of the things I've done when I see them again. But I fucking like "SNL," and I stand behind that. I'd only been around for a few months; before that I'd been playing in scummy Nashville bars, doing crap-ass punk covers with my brother and a friend of ours who was playing on a child's drum set. So "SNL" was me knowing that I wanted to take over the world but not really knowing what I was doing. A lot of people hated on it, yeah. All I know is that I sounded just as good as anybody else on "SNL." And I like glow-in-the-dark body paint."
Billboard: So that wasn't an embarrassing 2010 moment for you. Any that were?
Ke$ha: "To be honest with you, I pretty much just do shit and then move on. I don't look back and regret much of anything. There's no real point. I haven't done anything that was too embarrassing, unless I'm just forgetting something. Which is totally possible."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte