When Kesha came onto the music scene in 2009, she quickly became known for her brash party pop anthems and clever songwriting. In addition to two #1 hits of her own, Kesha had a hand in hits like Britney Spears’s “Till the World Ends” and Miley Cyrus’s “Time of Our Lives.”
However, for the past few years, Kesha’s experiences have been anything but a party; unfortunately, her career has been tied up in an ugly legal dispute with music producer Dr. Luke. After easing back onto the music scene with a guest spot in Zedd’s 2016 Coachella set and a third world tour, Kesha’s back with her long-awaited third studio album. Comprised of contemplative ballads, rock anthems, and country pop, Rainbow blends all of Kesha’s musical inclinations into one fabulous, feminist album.
Kesha informs listeners what they’re in for from the get-go, kicking off Rainbow with a song called “Bastards.” “Bastards,” a fairly stripped down ballad with a bit of ethereal flair, instructs listeners not to let all of the bad things in the world interfere with their own happiness. The song shares a clear, simple idea with that of The Handmaid’s Tale: “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” With this first song, Kesha makes her message perfectly clear: she won’t let herself be defeated, and neither should you.
What follows is an album in which Kesha rewrites the story, reacting to her negative experiences, but not letting it take hold of the entire album. Fans will recognize the singer’s candid attitude on anthemic tracks like “Let ‘Em Talk,” “Woman,” and “Boogie Feet.” Featuring the hard rock band Eagles of Death Metal, both “Let ‘Em Talk” and “Boogie Feet” call back to songs like “We R Who We R”–fast, loud, and sassy. They’re songs that Kesha uses to set expectations about herself, regardless of what is expected of her. “Woman” is an angry feminist declaration inspired by the revelation of Donald Trump’s explicit comments towards women during the leadup to the 2016 Presidential Election, which caused Kesha to yell, “I’m a motherfucking woman.” She’s joined by the horns section of the American soul band The Dap Kings, providing a new sound for Kesha’s catchy lyrics.
While certain songs may take a softer tone than Kesha’s past fare, the tracks still have her signature spirit. The rhythmic “Hymn” balances self deprecation with self confidence with lyrics like “Sorry if you’re starstruck/Blame it on the stardust/I know that I’m perfect/Even though I’m fucked up.” Lyrics like these remind her audience that you don’t have to actually be perfect to feel good about yourself–and that the bad things that happen to you don’t necessarily define you. Affirmations like these continue with songs like the album’s titular track “Rainbow,” which promises a future beyond the darkness. Written while Kesha was in rehab, the song details her personal journey through what’s been happening with her over the past few years: “And I know that I’m still fucked up/But aren’t we all, my love?/Darling, our scars make us who we are/So when the winds are howling strong/And you think you can’t go on, hold tight, sweetheart,” she sings.
For the past year or so, Kesha has been performing country-fied versions of her earlier hits, so it’s not too surprising that Rainbow has been injected with some country spirit. Songs like “Finding You,” the twangy “Hunt You Down,” and the line dance-worthy “Boots” all call back to Kesha’s Nashville roots, making the album even more dynamic than it already was. The cherry on top is a cover of “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)” performed with Ms. Dolly Parton herself–a song that Kesha’s mother co-wrote in 1980.
While Rainbow’s distinct sounds–the fast dance tracks, introspective ballads, and both sassy and wistful country songs–may not always transition as smoothly as they could, they do combine to create the album that Kesha was made to create. It’s unique, dynamic, and most importantly, a feminist triumph. Rainbow brings us a Kesha who has reclaimed her story, despite having her career and life thrown completely off course. However, keep in mind that while the album is clearly influenced by her terrible experiences over the past few years, it isn’t overwhelmed by the topic. The album Kesha’s love, resilience, and sass, making an important statement: she is more than what happens to her, and so are women everywhere.