Three years after launching the world’s flashiest pop career—no, really, she bathes in glitter before concerts—Ke$ha is back with a new album (Warrior, out Dec. 4) and memoir (My Crazy Beautiful Life, out Nov. 20). Here, the 25-year-old singer-songwriter lets loose with TIME.
TIME: First off, I’ve been blasting your album in my office for the last hour. Thank you for letting me call that work.
Ke$ha: Thanks, I love that.
So Ke$ha—it’s Keh-sha, right? Dollar sign is silent?
It’s been almost three years since your last full-length album. Why wait so long?
Has it been three years?
Since your debut album, Animal, yeah. I know Cannibal came out in late 2010, but that was a shorter EP.
Okay, so Cannibal—I was on the road and took, like, literally three weeks off to make Cannibal, which was totally insane. And then I went on the Get Sleazy tour, and that sold out in like, minutes. So then I went on another tour, because I felt like I was gypping my fans. And then I took a little bit of time off and I went on what I like to call my spirit journey.
Your spirit journey?
I went to the Galapagos. I wanted to go diving with sharks, so I went diving with, at some points, massive amounts of sharks, circling me, and it was just the most amazing thing ever.
Were you by yourself?
Well, I was traveling by myself. But I had to swim with a dive master, so I wouldn’t get eaten.
Then I went to an island in the middle of nowhere, where I was living on a boat and swimming with whales every day. It was really amazing. Then, in South Africa, I volunteered to help rehabilitate baby lions, and it was just the most amazing, rewarding experience of my life. I really feel the most spiritual when I’m helping an animal. I don’t know why.
(MORE: Seven Things Adults Can Love About One Direction)
So how did that all inform this album?
I think there’s definitely an element of my inner hippie. Not to like, a patchouli-wearing extent. Kind of like, 15% hippie.
When I was writing my first record, it was never really my intention to help other people. I didn’t even know anybody was going to like the record. But then I had multiple people tell they were going to commit suicide, and songs off of Animal and Cannibal [like “We R Who We R”] helped them realize they should be proud of who they are, especially because of their sexuality. I have a lot of gay and lesbian fans who say they get bullied. So on this record, I just really wanted to make sure there was an underlying, really positive message of acceptance of love of each other. It’s still ballsy. But I think you can be edgy and ballsy without being negative.
I still have my bitchy moments of shit-talking, though. Don’t worry.
You also have a duet with Iggy Pop, of all people. Who reached out to whom?
I approached him, ’cause I’m obsessed with Iggy Pop. I’ve been pretty much on a strict diet of the Stooges for the past couple of months.
Oh, I thought maybe he just really liked “TiK ToK.”
I mean, maybe he does! But I was definitely the pursuer. I was the stalker; he was the stalkee. But he was really cool, and really into collaborating, which is amazing.
There’s another song, “Supernatural,” which you’ve said is about a time you had “an intimate experience” with a ghost.
(MORE: Maroon 5 Ties Carly Rae Jepsen for Most Weeks at #1)
What was that like?
Like that one scene in Ghost?
Well no, I definitely lived in a house that had a ghost in it. And there was sexual energy in the air. That’s real talk.
So where was the house? And who was the ghost?
In Laurel Canyon. I don’t know who the ghost was, but it was at Laurel Canyon in this house that I lived in—it was kind of like a flophouse, all the people that lived there. I moved in when I was pretty broke, and there was just this weird energy there that I was drawn to.
Let’s talk about the music video for your lead single, “Die Young.” What’s with all the pagan symbols and flashing triangles?
Oh, let me tell you.
Because Twitter is all over it.
I’ve definitely seen that. I love symbolism. I like taking universally recognized images and kind of subverting them and playing with them. So I do use a lot of symbolism in my video. But it’s because these are all really simple symbols, and they’re also subjective. They’re up for interpretation.
A few bloggers are convinced it’s subliminal messaging for the Illuminati. That must be true, right?
Oh, it must be true.
So just general symbolism?
I’m fascinated by it. I’ve always been fascinated by symbolism. I mean, there’s a dollar sign in my name.
What does that symbolize?
That was ironic. It was like an ironic statement of the fact that actual money was not gonna ever stop me, because my ambition wasn’t gonna stop just because I was broke. I wasn’t gonna let that make me feel inadequate.
You’ve got a pretty open relationship with your fans. What’s the craziest display of devotion you’ve experienced?
I think probably the craziest—it’s not that crazy to me, but people seem to find it crazy—is that my fans have sent me their teeth.
Yeah, my fans have sent me about over a thousand human teeth, that I’m making different accessories and clothing out of.
Are they pulling them out?
I think most of them are just teeth that have naturally fallen out, but a couple of them have given me bloody teeth. It’s a little sketchy, but I love it.
Did you solicit them?
Well, I tweeted about it. I said, gimme your teeth if you have any extras, ’cause I want to make a headdress out of it. I’ve gotten so many that now I’ve made, like, necklaces and earrings and a headdress and a bra.
Sounds like the beginnings of a clothing line.
How much glitter do you go through in the average month?
Well, a month on tour or a month at home?
A month at home is like—I still use more glitter than the average human, probably. But on tour, I think I go through like, a couple hundred gallons of glitter.
Can you break that down?
On my rider there’s a bathtub full of glitter, cause that’s how I get ready for my show. I cover my body in baby oil and sit in a bathtub full of glitter, cause it’s just the easiest way to get it all over your body.
Then I blast it at the end of “Tik Tok.” Then during “Blow,” I blast glitter, and I have it falling from the ceiling, and everybody in my band is covered in glitter. There’s an entire semi truck that’s just a glitter semi. And I have a roadie, like a tech roadie, and he’s just the glitter roadie.
That’s his actual job? Glitter roadie?
Yeah, he’s amazing. He knows everything about glitter. He’s very well informed. Almost as well informed as I am.
(MORE: What Are the Best Songs for Seduction? The Results Will Surprise You)
Speaking of which, is it true you got a 1500 [out of 1600] on your SATs?
Yeah. I was all set out for, like, a life of academia.
And now you’re a pop star.
I chose instead to drop out of high school like a month away from graduation and do this. I’ve never looked back, though.
You’ve got a new memoir out, My Crazy Beautiful Life, that promises to reveal “a more complete picture” of your life. What’s the public missing from that picture right now?
It’s fun to write a wild pop song about crazy nights. But there’s another half of the story, which is the hard work and the shows, the super super highs and the lows, and baby pictures, and waiting tables before I made it, and how much I put into everything, including this new album. That may be sometimes overlooked because I sing wild pop songs. But behind the wild, there is a heart and soul. I wanted to show people that.