Ke$ha Breaks Through To The Big Time: A VMA Cheat Sheet!

'Tik Tok' singer/nominee racked up massive digital downloads, opened for Rihanna and survived 'SNL' on road to Video Music Awards.

Ke$ha is, without question, one of the biggest breakout stars of 2010. A slurring, whirling, hard-partying pop oddity (who may also be a genius) with a #1 album and a boatload of hit singles to her name, not to mention more than a few enemies . She even has under her star-spangled belt, her very own, very public WTF debacle in the form of a rather, uh, divisive “Saturday Night Live” performance .

Ever since Ke$ha came stumbling into our lives last year with “Tik Tok” (we named it one of the Best Songs of 2009 , by the way), she’s been nothing if not consistently entertaining, if slightly confounding. She’s always coming back with another massive single or eye-popping video, always saying — or wearing — something outrageous. In the process, she’s made a rather indelible impact on popular culture and, earlier this month, MTV showed its recognition of that fact, rewarding her with multiple Video Music Award nominations , including nods for Best Female Video and Best New Artist.

But how did she go from unknown pop curio to one of the fastest-rising starlets on the planet? Here’s a look back:

In January 2010, “Tik Tok” rose to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, setting a record for digital downloads in the process. That same month, she was named one of three female Artists to Watch , as part of MTV News’ Pop Week 2010. Buoyed by the success of “Tik Tok,” Ke$ha’s debut album, Animal, opened at #1 on the Billboard albums chart, selling more than 152,000 copies and ending “Britain’s Got Talent” phenom Susan Boyle’s six-week run at #1. Ke$h would pay homage to Boyle soon after, declaring to MTV News that the cat-loving singer “knows how to party.”

She followed up “Tik Tok” with “Blah Blah Blah,” another party-ready anthem featuring her pals in 3OH!3 . The song cracked the Top 10 and has sold more than 2 million digital downloads to date.

Ke$ha then took to Twitter, where she flirted with John Mayer and then drew the ire of both Britney Spears and Justin Bieber fans, after she (sorta) swiped at Britney in a demo of an old tune (“Styrofoam”) and called Biebus “a tiny little baby.” In both instances, she apologized … though, not before Perez Hilton weighed in , calling her a “trash-talking train wreck.”

In April, she was announced as the opening act on Rihanna’s Last Girl On Earth Tour , and then got to work on another video, this one for “Your Love Is My Drug.” That month, clad in a bizarre bodysuit (and later, nothing but glow-in-the-dark bodypaint), she performed a pair of songs on “SNL,” a debacle which was described by some as “the worst ['SNL' performance] ever.” Never one to back away from a good brawl, Ke$ha responded thusly: “F— the cynics.”

In May came the premiere of the “Drug” video — a bonanza of beards, boulders, Beatles and bodypaint — and the pop singer quickly followed that up with a cameo on 3OH!3′s “My First Kiss” and yet another Animal video, this one for “Take It Off.”

Later that summer, she hit the road with Rihanna, and described the dynamic duo’s backstage relationship thusly: “We braid each other’s hair … naked.” She then began discussing plans for a follow-up to Animal, saying she could foresee getting into country music but would definitely stay away from jazz . She also began laying the groundwork for her very own headlining tour . Oh, and of course, she revealed she’s planning a fashion line, too, featuring capes and haberdashery made out of “roadkill … and recycled feathers.”

Seems strangely fitting, if you ask us.

The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on September 12 at 9 p.m. ET.