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Album Review: Kesha – Rainbow

5 min read
Photo: Olivia Bee

The return of Kesha feels like a key music moment for this decade. Having gone through some of the worst and most public pain imaginable, the 30-year-old Californian refuses to be seen as a victim – refusing to bend to the will of the world. Rainbow is more than just a record, it has the power to inspire, enhance and adore all who listen.

 Kesha has always been and will continue to be a fierce warrior princess, yet opener ‘Bastards’ is the subtlest ‘fuck you’ potentially ever lodged. It’s more of a self-soothe than a you-can-do-anything style anthem, Kesha appears to be speaking to her internal monologue in an attempt to overcome adversity. The recurring theme throughout Rainbow is one of hope, that even if the world deals you a rough hand – you can rise above it through your own sense of self. Kesha has always been a powerful ally to the LGBT community, and on ‘Bastards’ there are certainly a number of messages that can be taken to encourage younger generations in accepting themselves and practising self-love.

Let ‘Em Talk’ harks back to the original days of Kesha’s neon glitter demon phase, an anthem to brush off the haters to. Frenetic guitars match the relentless energy of the vocals, screaming from the rafters that nothing was ever going to keep Kesha away from making music for too long. This balls to the wall banger runs sprinting into early highlight ‘Woman’, which oozes a level of girl power not really seen since the Spice Girls era. Expect the chorus to be belted at the highest of decibels come Kesha’s potential live return, and then again in nightclubs for years to come.

It’s not all glitter and sequins on this record, Kesha is astute in knowing how to juxtapose iconic pop with solemn ballads. ‘Hymn’ goes some way to addressing the sense of success and relief Kesha no doubt feels now she is free to make music again. The hymn-less referenced throughout the song speaks volumes about how survivors of sexual assaults and incidents are often faced with excess adversity on their quests for the truth. Hidden amongst the stellar production and faultless vocals are the messages that run more than skin deep, hopefully this will silence anyone who has ever doubted Kesha’s credentials as a legitimate artist.

Praying’ was the comeback single that rocked the entire world, Kesha took the most melancholic moment of her career to date and transformed it into an astounding feat of momentum. Her vulnerable vocals tug at the heartstrings to the core, I will freely admit this track continues to make me cry tears of joy for Kesha. ‘Praying’ is clearly about a very personal journey, but as an honest and frank interpretation of her pain – I am not afraid to say this song may have singlehandedly boosted my mental health back to the more positive side. The same can be said of ‘Learning To Let Go’, by penning her most inner thoughts Kesha has also managed to provide a voice to those amongst us who don’t always have the right words ourselves. Though solemn in their lyrical content, the jovial melodies show that there can be hope even in the most hopeless times.

With the personal trials and tribulations tackled in the opening half of Rainbow, Kesha is free to continue her reign as pop royalty. ‘Finding You’ is again a more subtle effort, with a much more heart on sleeve approach than we witnessed on previous albums. Despite being a confident and powerful woman, Kesha is still looking for her special someone as no person is an island. Kesha wears her vulnerability incredibly well, transforming it from a chink in her armour to something that is part of an overall strength. Rainbow’s eponymous track opens merely with Kesha’s voice and a piano, not a combination that would necessarily be expected – but what a glowing shock to the system! It’s the reassuring hand hold we all need sometimes, to be held and reassured is to not be weak but to grow into something better.

The Kesha who once bragged about brushing her teeth with bottles of Jack Daniels is not lost, she was just waiting for you to get to ‘Boogie Feet’. In amongst the retro rock guitars, is that very party animal – still dancing about with gleeful abandon. It’s not a track to take seriously at all, and to evaluate it any further wouldn’t be in the spirit of the track itself. Just know that it’s best played loud and in a wide space so limbs can flail and groove like there’s no tomorrow.

In 2017 we have put a pie in space, and that is exactly why we can also have a Kesha/Dolly Parton duet. Both icons in their own respective rights, the coming together of this potentially legendary duo has created one of the finest country tunes in recent years. The genre may not be as popular as it once was, but if anyone was going to get pop fiends into something new; it would be Kesha and Dolly. It’s easy to forget that Kesha has one of the finest voices of recent years, but she damn well reminds you about it on this surprising highlight.

The only time Kesha comes close to dropping the ball, is on her two closing tracks – ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Spaceship’. They veer a little too close to bonkers to make any real impact, that said they will no doubt end up as firm fan favourites thanks to their sheer ridiculousness. Why can’t we have more people mixing deep trauma with songs about taking giant dinosaurs to the mall? After everything she has been through, Kesha still has a fun and wild side that she refuses to tone down for anybody else.

The sheer enjoyment present throughout much of Rainbow is reminiscent of Carly Rae Jepsen’s EMOTION album, in that it will become an iconic collection of music within the queer pop culture community, but might potentially be overlooked by the more discerning music fan. It might not win awards, it might not sell vast amounts – but you can guarantee that with Rainbow, Kesha will save lives and bring people back from the brink with a loving spirit that not everybody is lucky enough to receive from the people around them.

Rainbow stands out from the records released so far this year for all of the right reasons, it’s so smart and so incredible to finally witness it be a tangible body of work. It might not be cohesive, and it might not stick to a linear pattern, but you’re listening to a goddamn Kesha album! A woman who refuses to be anything less than her wonderful self, Kesha I applaud you.