It’s been no easy musical journey for 30-year-old singer-songwriter, Kesha. After twelve years of making music with producer Dr. Luke—who allegedly sexually, mentally and emotionally abused her—battling mental health issues, an eating disorder, rehab and being forced to then continue to work with Dr. Luke after asking for an injunction, she’s finally getting to heal. And we couldn’t be happier for her, or for her music.
From all of that hardship—and five years of silence—came her most personal and most recent album, “Rainbow.” A therapeutic work for sure, “Rainbow” depicts Kesha’s slow but steady transition from hurting to healing.
Absolutely heart-wrenching and partially self-soothing is the first track on the album, “Bastards.” The song’s ‘teenage-girl-sitting-cross-legged-on-her-bed-crying-and-playing-the-guitar’ feel painfully portrays an artist that once confidently belted out “We R Who We R,” now solemnly repeating, almost whimpering, “don’t let the bastards get you down,” as if a note-to-self. Kesha closes out the track with a series of “Na na na hey’s” giving it that “Kumbaya,” ‘clap-your-hands-together-now’ feeling. But you don’t walk away from the song with a camp-songs-by-the-fire warmth. “Bastards” leaves a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes, especially when you fully process the fragile and infantile nature of Kesha’s singing, and realize how wounded this once self-proclaimed “Warrior” really is.
But no song quite reveals the depth of those wounds than her single, “Praying.” Although the song depicts her making peace with the demons and fighting back, it begins with an extreme undertone of grief. Low, drawn-out piano chords and Kesha’s quiet singing of “well, you almost had me fooled,” and you’re not sure. Not sure if she’s going to make it through the trauma, the song, the album.
But just like when she flawlessly performed on “Good Morning America” just months after breaking down in court, the “Warrior” shines through and hits an all-time high. “I hope you’re somewhere praying” is repeated to a thumping beat, as if Kesha’s running, determined to finish strong. And then the sweltering crescendo holds until she finally belts out, almost mercifully, the highest note Kesha has ever hit. Finally, she’s free. Kesha comes to terms with the trauma and now she can finally move towards the healing. And we’re right there with her, rejoicing.
With acceptance comes a regaining of self-confidence. In “Woman” Kesha makes it clear who’s boss. With jazzy, blasting horns and the type of full-bodied vocals reminiscent of her first two albums, she declares, “I’m a mother——- woman!” and “I don’t need a man to be holding me too tight,” as loud and clear as any declaration of independence.
And if “Woman” didn’t quite convince you that this survivor has regained her nerve, then “Let ‘Em Talk” will do the trick. Reminiscent of an all-girl pop-punk band with Kesha’s continued high pitch and an 80s dance-anthem tempo, the track says a big FU to anyone questioning Kesha’s return.
In just under 50 minutes, “Rainbow” carefully unravels the many facets of Kesha’s recovery, ending on a hopeful and powerful note. She survived the storm, dropped the dollar sign, shed the producer, made her own rainbow and gained a whole lot of composure.
Written by Asli Shebe.