It was a little disappointing to discover that this wasn’t a cover of the 1986 Cyndi Lauper hit. A little. It is, however, still a reworking of a previously released song. Specifically, Kesha has returned from a three year absence to re-record the vocals for the eponymous track from Zedd’s 2015 album, True Colors, for the song’s release as an official single. For any genre outside of electronica, releasing a single so decisively different from the album version would be an incredibly audacious move but, with its re-mix and mash-up culture, this release seems almost par for the course.
As might be expected, Zedd’s music – here applied to a mid-tempo ballad – is largely unchanged, perhaps lightly buffed and polished in the mix, but the replacement of Tim James’ vocals with Kesha’s is a drastic shift. Given the public spat between Kesha and Sony music’s production maestro, Dr. Luke, it is difficult not to interpret Kesha’s involvement here as a mission statement. Kesha seems to be using True Colors as a means of demonstrating herself as a more mature, and world weary, artist. Under Zedd’s production, her vocals aren’t hidden behind a mask of auto-tune and digital manipulation, and the small amount of echo and reverb that has been applied feels more like an appeasement of electro-pop’s genre expectations.
When taken in the context of her previous recordings, Kesha’s vocals show a genuine versatility, here imparting an earnest warmth and determination which results in this version of True Colors being far more emotive and compelling than the original. Zedd’s musical style, however, hasn’t translated as well to the balladic form used. From a cross-marketing perspective, Zedd and Kesha are a natural fit, and had Kesha’s legal dispute with Dr. Luke gone in her favour the lyrics of True Colors would easily be apt but, given the recent outcome of the case, they now sound of wishful thinking and a missed opportunity.