Kesha, Rainbow | Album Review
After a five-year hiatus, pop superstar Kesha returns better than ever on her third studio album, ‘Rainbow.’
Five years can be an eternity in pop music. That’s how long that Kesha was ‘out of commission.’ It seemed as if one day, she was scoring hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and the next, she was gone. The five-year hiatus was tough, as Kesha was embroiled in an intense, legal argument with Dr. Luke, the producer who helmed her first two albums. Despite a turbulent, trying time in her life and career, she’s back, better than ever on her third studio album, Rainbow. Chocked full of eclecticism, shifting from style to style, not everything works, but most of it does.
“Bastards” – what a way to start a pop album. Surprisingly, Kesha has a notable message, exemplified by the blunt chorus.
“Don’t let the bastards get you down, oh no / Don’t let the assholes wear you out / Don’t let the mean girls take the crown / Don’t let the scumbags screw you ‘round / Don’t let the bastards take you down.”
Prudent and uplifting despite the language, “Bastards” is more mature than anticipated. This isn’t only thanks to the message, but also the singer/songwriter sound. The opener ends epically thanks to heavier production work with more oomph.
If Rainbow began too seriously for some Kesha fans, “Let ‘Em Talk” brings more fun to the table. Up-tempo and feisty to the nth degree, the pop artist enlists Eagles of Death Metal to assist her. What’s fascinating about this particular track are the punk vibes. Two songs into Rainbow, Kesha shows off her eclecticism.
On “Woman,” Kesha enlists The Dap-Kings Horns to construct a soulful backdrop for her empowering, feminist vocals. Given the unfortunate series of events that Kesha has been part of, this song seems like the perfect complement. Vocally, she continues to do things that we didn’t think she could do. The biggest offense is the profanity, which seems counterproductive given her message. Still, “Woman” is irresistible – even for the guys.
“Hymn” fits right into the uplifting, empowering, and all-inclusive nature of Rainbow. Here, she’s recorded a “hymn for the hymn-less.” The tempo is on the slower, while the sound of the record has some urban-pop touches. All in all, it’s well produced. The chorus ranks among the selling points.
“This is a hymn for the hymn-less, kids with no religion / Yeah, we keep on sinning, yeah, we keep on singing / Flying down the highway, backseat of the Hyundai / Pull it to the front, let it run, we don’t valet / Sorry if you’re star struck, blame it on the stardust / I know that I’m perfect, even though I’m f*cked up / Hymn for the hymn-less, don’t need forgiveness / ‘Cause if there’s a heaven, don’t care if we get in.”
Kesha gave us all chills on “Praying,” the promo single for Rainbow. “Praying” marked her first departure – a stark contrast from her past work. A ballad, it’s clear from the jump she’s aiming for empowerment for herself, and others who’ve been in an unfortunate situation. By the end of the song, the powerhouse vocals are mind-blowing. Where has she been hiding this? The most surprising moment is when she nails a high F that no one – NO ONE – thought she could hit. Judging by the content, Dr. Luke is definitely in the doghouse.
“Learn to Let Go”
“Learn to Let Go,” the third single from Rainbow, continues to showcase newfound maturity from Kesha. She reflects on the past, but arrives at the point that she must move forward in order to heal. Being an encourager to others, she realizes she needs to embrace her own advice for herself. Interestingly, in the context of Rainbow, “Learn to Let Go” comes off stronger than it did as a single. You go girl!
Following the uplifting “Learn to Let Go,” “Finding You” focuses on finding truly love. It’s a nice continuation of maturity, the best way to describe the majority of Rainbow. Once again, Kesha throws in some profanity, but it’s unnecessary. That is the next step in her maturity process. “Rainbow” isn’t quite as impressive as the most elite numbers from the album, but definitely has its share of epic moments. The robust, dramatic nature of the production work is a selling point. The strings are beautiful by all means.
“Hunt You Down”
“Hunt You Down” finds Kesha embracing country music. This totally shouldn’t work, but given the eclectic nature of Rainbow, it fits. Among pros are the personality the singer exhibits, and vocally, she rocks. The cons? It’s still a bit tough to wrap you finger around the fact that she’s singing country. Still, love the ambition.
“Boogie Feet” brings Eagles of Death Metal back into the fold. Kesha again switches gears stylistically, going for a pop-rock sound. “Boogie Feet” parallels “Let ‘Em Talk,” but also differs. It isn’t as punk-driven. The “Boots” are kinky in her hands, as in sexually driven. A fun, minor-key pop cut, the groove is killer, and Kesha exhibits incredible personality. “Boots” has the oomph of her past work, but with a smidge more maturity.
“Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)”
One of the very best songs from Rainbow doesn’t arrive until near the end. Regardless, “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)” is certainly worth the wait. “Old Flames” gives Kesha another country cut, this one more successful than the aforementioned “Hunt You Down.” Also helping the cause is the fact she enlists country royalty – Dolly Parton. Ultimately, the duet is magical, memorable, and among the crème de la crème of Kesha’s career.
On “Godzilla,” Kesha opts for singer/songwriter fare. There’s a retro sensibility, hearkening back to the 60s. While “Godzilla” has a silly, tongue-in-cheek sensibility, this eclecticism showcases more range from an artist who initially was pigeonholed in electro-pop. “Spaceship” concludes Rainbow with more country vibes. It may be a bit much at this point, but the ambition is a selling point once more.
All in all, Rainbow is a winner for Kesha. Not every song is a three-point jumper, but the mid-range jump shots are going in from all areas of the court. One thing’s for sure – Rainbow is a big musical step for Kesha. She successfully shows she should have never been pigeonholed artistically.
Gems: “Woman,” “Hymn,” “Praying,” “Learn to Let Go” & “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)”