Kesha survives the Dr. Luke ordeal and her former dollar sign name to arrive at the other side of the rainbow.Kemosabe / RCA Records, 2016
8.0 / 10
I think the last time we covered Kesha, she was still Ke$ha. Because dollar signs were the thing. And they’re still the thing if you talk to the A$AP crew. Of course, the reason we haven’t had any new music from Kesha in awhile is because of the whole Dr. Luke drama. He, being her former producer, was allegedly abusing her and making her work environment a living hell. After some courtroom battles with Dr. Luke, Kesha is finally back with a new album, Rainbow. Not surprisingly Kesha hits back at bastards, assholes, haters, you get the idea. You can read all of those as Dr. Luke, or anyone else making Kesha’s life miserable. Then, Kesha also addresses her time in rehab, her potential to go crazy on a lover, and even dating Godzilla. Sound weird? Interesting? Good?
Spoiler alert; it’s really good. While I’ve never had the desire to listen to Kesha before, I couldn’t help but feel some empathy for her situation in wanting to release music during the whole Dr. Luke situation. Also, it seemed like he was creatively holding her back. After all, she was one of the Flaming Lips’ Heady Fwends, so there was more to this Kesha than the song, “Tik Tok”. Without Kesha giving us music, another musician had to fill pop’s bad girl role. That was Miley Cyrus for a long time. Even the Flaming Lips adopted her. Now, even Miley is trying to forget about all of that. With Kesha’s ban lifted, does she reclaim her status as pop’s bad girl?
Most definitely. There’s a parental advisory sticker on the album art (featuring a nude Kesha!) for a reason. Kesha lets the expletives drop like rain. This album isn’t for little kids. But just think that if Kesha fans were at age 10 for her last album; now, they’re teenagers. Mom and dad, they’re saying just as much in the school hallways. And they’ll for sure be singing along with songs like the album’s back-to-back opening pair — “Bastards” and “Let ‘Em Talk”. With “Bastards”, I actually found myself having a moment with a Kesha song, which should tell you how incredibly different this Kesha is from Ke$ha. This empowering song basically tells everyone to hang in and fight back against the haters. Musically, it blossoms from a humble acoustic beginning to something bombastic as you’d expect.
“Let ‘Em Talk” also fights back against haters. But this time she does so with the rock riffs of Eagles of Death Metal. Kesha peppers this song with some frat boy slanguage as she sings things like, “‘Cause life is short and we only got one shot/ So let’s go balls-out, give it everything we got.” And also, “I’ve decided all the haters everywhere can suck my dick.” What’s most colorful about this Rainbow is its language. And its color barely fades for the entire runtime. Four years were taken from Kesha’s life after all, so some venting is understandable. Perhaps less understandable is that Kesha is that on “Praying”, she seems to be praying for Dr. Luke to change his ways. Kesha is being the bigger person when no one would blame her for not doing so.
Songs like “Woman”, “Hymn”, and “Praying” all rise to anthemic levels. Sometimes the songs do it almost naturally; a result of how Kesha emphasizes some of her vocals. Case in point is the beginning of the chorus to “Learn To Let Go”. She sings, “So I think it’s time to practice what I preach,” and she nails “preach” with such force that it hits you like a hard slap. Many of these go the expected musical directions of flashy pop production. Lots of synths and sweeping instrumental flourishes. However, Kesha does take some interesting chances as well with a Nashville country rock sound on “Hunt You Down”. It’d be cringe-worthy if it wasn’t for its playful nature; Kesha promising bad things for a guy that does her wrong.
Later, she teams up with Dolly Parton on Parton’s past song, “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)” and gets a nod of approval if only for including Parton on such a huge release. Album closer, “Spaceship”, even takes off with a banjo leading the way. Here, you would think synthesizers would especially be prominent. Perhaps the album’s biggest moment is its title track. Kesha wrote “Rainbow” on a toy piano while in rehab, and here, it gets a sonic overhaul with help from Ben Folds to land an undeniable emotional wallop. So, how did we get here from a past of annoyance (that goddamn “Tik Tok” song) to an actual solid album? Life experiences, man. Kesha went through a lot, but she’s definitely found the gold at the end of this Rainbow.