Kesha back where she belongs on new record Rainbow
The fact that Kesha managed to release an album in 2017 is a triumph in itself. After an endless legal battle (which is still going on) with Dr. Luke, her former producer, she finally has new music out. She still works under the label that he once started, but the big difference is that this time she had (more) creative freedom to work with who she wanted to work with. And that difference is easily hearable on all of her brand new record Rainbow, which both is a statement for the rights of women in the music industry as well as a personal journey for Kesha towards a more organic sound.
For people who expected more autotuned dancefloor pop from Kesha, first single ‘Praying’ was a rude awakening. She belts her heart out on a dramatic pop ballad with a clear message for the ghosts of her past (wonder who that could be aimed at). This however does not mean that ‘Praying’ is representative for the style of the whole record. The only other proper power ballad is title track ‘Rainbow’, a convincing one complete with strings, high notes and an empowering message. With the rest of the album she goes into the direction of organic pop with country and rock influences, like Lady Gaga did on Joanne.
The album opens with the acoustic guitar track ‘Bastards’ about not paying attention to the people who do not mean well in your life. You immediately ask yourself why they used to bury Kesha’s voice under such a thick layer of autotune as her voice sounds wonderful without any help. This might not be surprising for her fans, as Kesha once started out trying to make it as a country singer, following in the footsteps of her mum. Mother Pebe Sebert is a singer and songwriter who penned the 1980 hit ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle To You)’ for Dolly Parton, which Parton re-recorded with Kesha for this album. The best country moment on here however, is undoubtedly the Rick Nowels (Lana Del Rey, Adele) collaboration ‘Hunt You Down’ with a swinging production and an absolutely undeniable earworm hook.
‘Boots’ mixes a little hint of country with a straightforward pop production in similar fashion to her worldwide hit ‘Timber’ with Pitbull. ‘Learn To Let Go’ and ‘Hymn’ probably are the poppiest moments, but with a lot more vocal power and stronger lyrics than on any of her previous work. In between all of the statements and serious topics, there also is enough room for some proper fun. On both Eagles of Death Metal collaborations Kesha shows she can rock and especially ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ is potential single material with an upbeat vibe and killer hook. On promo single and feminist anthem ‘Woman’ with The Dap-Kings Horns, Kesha goes for a full swing soul arrangement and does so with leaving part of the contagious studio banter in the final recording. Admitted, the lyrics are a little on the nose, but no one listens to a Kesha record for its subtlety, right?
Well, maybe from now on we will. Kesha’s Rainbow comes full circle with the stripped down ‘Spaceship’ and we have never heard her so vulnerable yet powerful and toned down before. As cliche as it may sound, with Rainbow Kesha gets to show all her colours for the very first time. Yes, there is still some fun and upbeat pop on this record, but by reclaiming creative control she can finally show she is more than that. She writes more important stuff, she has better control over her own voice than ever and the fact that this album did see the light of day in the end, shows that she is more determined to be an autonomous musician than most and deserves every bit of success. Kesha sets an example with Rainbow and more women will follow.