When Kesha first came on the scene “brushing her teeth with a bottle of Jack,” critics were appalled while fans, in general, took the lyrics and music video less seriously. Most of the Kesha fans I know listened to songs about partying while studying for finals or working out in the gym, not while they were out getting trashed. (This is not to say that people didn’t party while listening to Kesha, but rather that the lyrics were so ludicrous that fans didn’t take them literally while critics raged over them.) Fans even turned a blind eye that time that Ke$ha drank her own urine. It wasn’t about Ke$ha as a person or necessarily the party lifestyle; the sound was just addictive.
Then the legal battle with Dr. Luke began.
Kesha’s new album, Rainbow, has been widely praised as more than a comeback; it has been hailed as a rebirth. Despite the lack of legal victories against Dr. Luke (meaning that yes, he will make money off the album), the artist has been given more creative license with her work. Less auto-tune, more instruments, and less of the quasi talking/singing are on this new album. And for the most part, fans are loving it.
This track opens with acoustic guitar, straying briefly into a twangy country vibe, but then gradually introduces more digitized instrumentation, moving firmly back into pop territory. Immediately, the listener knows to expect something a bit different – more genuine and less manufactured. However, the beat that emerges at the end of the song and the overall spirit of the lyrics is classic Kesha; it is the same artist, but less confined. I found it somewhat disappointing that the opening track, the bridge between her old sound and new sound, was so full of expletives, but it does seem to fit with the overall theme of the new album. Instead of embracing guaranteed success by following the Dr. Luke formula, Kesha has made some not so radio-friendly choices. (And wait, was that a reference to The Handmaid’s Tale?)
Let ’em Talk
This song is catchy and you can add it to the list of songs in which Kesha tells people to suck her dick. There’s real instruments and more genuine vocals in there, but it’s still her.
This is another catchy tune, but, as someone who doesn’t smoke weed and rarely drinks, I have a hard time identifying with the climax of the song. It doesn’t make me dislike it, but it does create a bit of disconnect when I listen to it. Of course, party songs are nothing new for Kesha, so I won’t dwell on it. (However, I do find it a little odd that she says not to touch her weave.)
While I enjoy the unifying message of the song and don’t dislike it, it doesn’t stand out enough for me to say that I love it. It’s good enough that I won’t skip it if it comes on, but I doubt it’s one I will specifically want to listen to. This line also doesn’t ring true for me.
Hymn for the hymn-less, don’t need no forgiveness
’cause if there’s a heaven, don’t care if we get in
It’s one thing to not believe or to question, but saying that even if there’s a heaven you wouldn’t care is another matter entirely.
This is easily my favorite song on the album. While Kesha has received some criticism for avoiding her high notes during live performances, it really doesn’t matter to me. I would rather a vocalist make a smart decision than try to show off. (Typically, if a vocalist hits a high note in concert, the crowd erupts in cheers and I find it ruins the mood of the song.)
Learn to Let Go
I really like this song, but the music video is remedial. There are better ways to show getting over past trauma than carrying around a teddy bear and reenacting childhood memories. It also seems very… off-topic. Most fans would think the trauma she has overcome is her destructive relationship with Dr. Luke. However, the music video focuses on events from when she was much younger. We also don’t see any darkness for her to overcome in the memories shown. Sure, this could be representative of her choice to focus on the good things in her past, but it doesn’t seem very authentic to “let go” of the past by looking even further into the past.
While Kesha has sung sweet songs previously, this is definitely the most authentic sounding. However, it is interesting that Kesha makes more religious but not actually religious references in this song.
I know forever don’t exist
But after this life, I’ll find you in the next
So when I say “forever, ” it’s the goddamn truth
I’ll keep finding, finding you
I’m gonna search for your love, right through Hell and Heaven
Millions of years yet to come and in all dimensions
Kesha is not questioning the existence of God or Heaven and Hell. Rather, she’s saying “I don’t believe this, but even if it does exist it doesn’t make a difference.” I think that this attitude resonates with many millenials, but it doesn’t with me.
This feels like Kesha’s version of Sara Bareilles’s “Kaleidoscope Heart.” And I’ve got to give the win to Sara Bareilles. Bareilles doesn’t beat her metaphor to death and the song is simple. “Rainbow,” on the other hand, feels a bit pretentious when you watch the music video. I am very glad that Kesha is using more natural sounds, but showing the musicians and the back-up vocalists in the music video is too much of a, “look, my songs have real musical elements in them now” move.
Hunt You Down
This song takes Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” to the next level. I like it. It has the same playfulness as “Cannibal” with added sweetness.
This is the first reappearance of Kesha’s previous half-singing, half-talking style on Rainbow, and I personally find it to be one of the weakest tracks on the album. Coupling her old style with strong vocals in the chorus just doesn’t work.
While this song is reminiscent of some of Kesha’s previous work, playing this immediately after “Boots & Boys” from Animal will demonstrate how much Kesha’s sound has evolved.
Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)
I have never liked Dolly Parton, so it’s no surprise that I don’t like the parts where Parton sings by herself. I’m also just generally not a big fan of most country (unless I grew up listening to it).
The opening of this song sounds like it’s going to be a joke. However, it’s a cute little song.
The guitar sounds like country, but Kesha’s vocals do not. I was on board with this song until Kesha started talking in the middle of it. I can’t think of a single song I like where there is a weird spoken part in the middle, so I’m not going to comment on whether she did it right or wrong.
What do you think? Do you like Rainbow more or less than Kesha’s previous albums?