Kesha’s personal life has been making headlines more than her music in recent years. Her well-documented legal battle with producer Dr. Luke prevented her from releasing new music and it’s been 5 years since Kesha released her last album Warrior. The first taste of new music came in 2016 when Kesha recorded True Colors with Zedd and it was well over a year until any more new music materialised. In July Kesha released Praying, the lead single from her third album Rainbow, and it caught pretty much everyone off guard.
Where once Kesha’s voice was processed through auto-tune and surrounded by studio wizadry, Praying stripped everything away and allowed Kesha’s fans to actually hear her sing. I recall hearing her 2012 EP Deconstructed and it was obvious then that Kesha was a more capable vocalist than her music allowed or her critics would acknowledge. Praying is a bold single that is clearly all about the issues that have taken place in her personal life. At times Kesha sounds guttural as she releases her frustration, her anger and surprisingly her forgiveness. It’s the song no one expected to hear from Kesha and it’s the one that will ensure she continues to have a fruitful and successful career.
As you may expect Rainbow is a record of many things; reflection, therapy, introspection, anger, empowerment, learning to let go and finding forgiveness in the toughest situations imaginable. That means the album is a smorgasboard of sounds and it’s not particularly cohesive but that’s the reason why it actually works so well. Rainbow is like you’re hearing Kesha truly for the first time, free from any shackles and able to express herself truly as an artist.
The album opens with the stripped-down Country-esque Bastards. The acoustic number is one that speaks of resilience and fighting back in the face of adversity. Knowing the allegations Kesha levelled at Dr. Luke and the subsequent scrutiny they put her under, you can’t help but feel affected by her honesty. There is a strength in Kesha’s vocal that reassures you that she may have been through dark times but she’s sure as hell not going to be taken out by them.
From that point onwards Rainbow is a bit schizophrenic in its sound. Let ‘Em Talk, one of two songs to feature Eagles of Death Metal, is a balls-to-the-wall middle finger in the air to Kesha’s detractors which is followed by the empowering uptempo track Woman featuring Eagles of Death Metal. If you weren’t clear from the opening track, Rainbow is Kesha uncensored saying what she wants, when she wants to who she wants. With that in mind you may want to exercise some caution if you’ve got kids who are fans as the swearing is pretty constant.
One of the first highlights on Rainbow is Hymn, a song that sees Kesha embracing others who feel like they don’t quite fit in. It’s a powerful statement and one that rings authentic. Another highlight comes on Learn to Let Go, a song that finds Kesha freeing herself from her past and her demons as she chooses to live a happier and better life. It’s another inspiring moment and a beautifully optimistic moment of hope.
Elsewhere on the record title track Rainbow is a stripped-back moment where Kesha determinedly pushes through her recent struggles and finds her resilience. It’s the kind of song you can imagine becoming an anthem for a generation and it’s certainly one of the finest Kesha has recorded. Hunt You Down steps squarely into the Country genre and even features a bit of yodelling for good measure, Boots is a beat-driven tale of finding love and Godzilla is a quirky acoustic ballad that is one of many surprising moments on the record.
Those Kesha fans who had her Deconstructed EP will know that she’s previously recorded Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle To You), a song that her mother co-wrote. For Rainbow the song has been re-recorded with Dolly Parton, who made it a hit, featured. It suggests that Kesha could potentially make a convincing move into Country in the future, should she wish to (she is from Nashville after all!).
The album ends with Spaceship, which sounds like a whimsical ditty until you pay attention to the lyrics. Kesha is basically singing about waiting to die pointing out that there’s too much hate and hurt in the world. It’s oddly hopeful despite the sombre subject matter.
Rainbow is a record that gets better with every listen. It’s an album that’s emotionally draining, endlessly optimistic, often inspiring but always honest and real. It’s without a doubt the best record Kesha has released and it’s sure to prove a lot of people wrong. Rainbow is a million miles away from Animal and Warrior, and it’s all the better for it. Kesha has channelled her hurt, pain and struggles and made one of the best albums 2017 has seen so far.
Track Listing: 1. Bastards 2 Let Em’ Talk (feat Eagles of Death Metal) 3. Woman (feat The Dap-Kings Horns) 4. Hymn 5. Praying 6. Learn to Let Go 7. Finding You 8. Rainbow 9. Hunt You Down 10. Boogie Feet (feat Eagles of Death Metal) 11. Boots 12. Old Flames Can’t Hold a Candle to You (feat Dolly Parton) 13. Godzilla 14. Spaceships Record Label: RCA Release Date: 11th August 2017