It’s one of the most iconic opening lines of any hit song: “Wake up in the morning feelin’ like P. Diddy.” When Kesha first came up with it back in 2009, the comparison seemed “harmless” enough. After all, women (especially white women) wanting to be as “badass” as men was a particular motif of the 2000s. That “Tik Tok” would be released just before the decade closed out was telling of how much it ultimately belonged in that time frame. Particularly after the revelations about Diddy (formerly P. Diddy, formerly Puff Daddy) and, among other things, the sex trafficking operation he’s cultivated over the years. 

The entire dam was initially opened when Diddy’s ex-girlfriend, Cassie, sued him for sexual assault in late 2023. At that time, in fact, Kesha opted to change the lyric while performing it live during the Only Love Tour. Her quick fix?: “Wake up in the morning feelin’ just like me.” After all, how could someone like Kesha not stand in solidarity with a fellow victim of abuse? And yes, “sexual assault” seems like far too general (and gentle) a term for some of the things he did to Cassie, which included forcing her to have sex with other women (specifically, sex workers) in different cities while he filmed it and masturbated.

Similar claims subsequently came from producer Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones, who has recently filed his own lawsuit against the disgraced rapper for coercing him into having sex with sex workers, in addition to being at risk of “constant unsolicited and unauthorized groping” by Diddy. Among other allegations laid out in the lawsuit are the mention of parties—which were, of course, attended by underage girls—where Diddy would lace alcohol with drugs for his sinister purposes and sexual power plays. So yeah, maybe waking up in the morning and feeling like P. Diddy isn’t the greatest look (or lyric) anymore. Because what kind of person wants to feel like such a piece of shit after what they did the previous night? Then again, what makes a true piece of shit is that they feel no remorse for their actions at all. 

As the meme momentum gathers about Kesha and her now illustrious “Tik Tok” lyric (this includes the monkey meme positioned as a reaction to that particular line), one wonders if Kesha herself, as someone who suffered through her own abuser (who need not be named at this point), might soon feel inclined to make an official amendment to the song by re-recording it. But something squeaky clean that still rhymes (e.g., “Wake up in the morning feelin’ like so pretty”) inarguably alters the entire tone of the track, which is one of the peak examples of what is now more than somewhat vexingly referred to as sleazecore. Thus, on the one hand, leaving the P. Diddy mention is a careful preservation of 00s heritage. A way to maintain the reminder that there are many things about that decade that aren’t worth getting wistful over, or nostalgic about. That, while it was easy to romanticize abusive men (and abusive male behavior in general) then, it is no longer so easy to do so now. 

For Kesha to have envisioned “being a G” after a night of partying to equate with being like P. Diddy is also a reflection of women’s attitudes and more pronounced internalized misogyny during that period. Another prime example being Marina and the Diamonds’ (before she became simply MARINA) “Girls,” first released in 2009 (just as “Tik Tok” was) and featured on her 2010 debut, The Family Jewels. It only took about a year for MARINA to look back on it and realize how misogynistic it might come across. A rallying cry against “basic” (read: hot and looks-obsessed) women that was liable to brand her as a “pick me” in future years (the same way Pink would be for 2006’s “Stupid Girls”). 

Indeed, even after she first mentioned it being problematic in 2011, she brought it up during a 2021 interview when asked about the songs she would likely never perform again live, calling “Girls” just “very 2009” in its misogynistic sentiments, including, “Look like a girl, but I think like a guy/Not ladylike to behave like a slime/Easy to be sleazy when you’ve got a filthy mind” and “Girls, they never befriend me/‘Cause I fall asleep when they speak/Of all the calories they eat/All they say is, ‘Na-na-na-na-na.’”

One can’t imagine that Kesha would ever do that (i.e., cease performing it) with “Tik Tok,” knowing full well that it’s one of her fans’ favorites (along with other Dr. Luke-era fare such as “Blow,” “Your Love Is My Drug,” “We R Who We R” and “Die Young”). Which again brings up the question of whether or not, as the R. Kelly-esque scandals in Diddy’s closet continue to come out, Kesha will buckle under the pressure and alter the lyrics in a more official capacity as a means to “not trigger anyone” going forward. 

Obviously, “Tik Tok” isn’t the first song in recent years to be given a retroactive “ick factor” after a public figure was effectively canceled. And at least 1) Kesha herself isn’t the reason for its cancellation and 2) the single had more longevity before certain “unmaskings” occurred—far more years of guilt-free airplay/streaming than, say, “Pink” by Lizzo, which features prominently in the opening scene of Barbie. But it’s not like that song slapped nearly as hard as “Tik Tok,” so it didn’t feel like any big loss. With this, however, it just goes to show that referencing “lotharios” (read: predatory assholes) in music is not without its unique set of risks. 

Genna Rivieccio

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