Kesha’s long awaited return to music has arrived, and Rainbow is an effort long in the making. Despite a tiring public battle with her record label, Kesha has returned, and her album isn’t entirely comprised of sad ballads or songs about the unfortunate situation she endured. With this album, she experiments with her sound, ensuring that she’ll keep old fans happy and earn herself plenty of new ones with her vocal talents that are now, finally, being showcased.
The album opens with an acoustic jam session, ‘Bastard,’ as Kesha professes to not let the bastards get her down. It’s an underdog anthem, with its guitar-driven production letting Kesha’s lyrics take center stage. It’s not quite as perfectly polished as the later track, ‘Praying,’ but it makes Rainbow‘s purpose clear: this is Kesha’s return to the spotlight, and she wants to confront everything that’s kept her down in the past.
Eagles of Death Metal join Kesha on ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ and later track ‘Boogie Feet’, each being one hell of a rock number. This is the epitome of Kesha, masterfully mixing classic rock production with catchy pop hooks. ‘Let ‘Em Talk’ keeps the theme of ‘Bastards’ but gives it an uproarious and fun beat that shows that even with what Kesha’s been through, she’s not bound to make a downtrodden album. Kesha’s letting her haters talk, but she’s going to be dancing the night away without a care. Amazing.
“The wild fun energy that first inspired me to perform has not, and will never, go away.” Kesha said before Rainbow’s release. And ‘Woman’ makes that crystal clear. What a fun and utterly joyful track that’s full of Animal level craziness. Kesha’s voice is still able to shine, not stylized with autotune. The song’s feminist lyrics are empowering, proving that Kesha can still have fun and make her point. Rainbow need not be full of moving, anthemic ballads to instill its message.
The momentum slows down on ‘Hymn,’ with its deep synths and, according to Kesha, message of equality. While it matches Kesha’s previous releases with its message to those who don’t feel like they fit in, the track itself feels misplaced on Rainbow. Perhaps its because the lyrics just don’t have enough meaning to them, or maybe it’s because the chorus is bloated and heavy, but either way, this is one that could’ve been left off Rainbow without much loss.
Kesha’s first release from the Rainbow era was the beautifully moving ballad ‘Praying’ that assured fans she had the same bright visuals, but a brand new sound — featuring much less autotune and more stunning vocalizations. On the very surface, ‘Praying’ is an emotionally charged track. When you stop and ponder about the experiences Kesha endured before writing this song, there’s another layer to this track that cuts like a knife.
Lyrically, Kesha sings about a higher calling, rising above negativity, and wishing the best upon her enemies (namely, Dr. Luke.) She knows the power and the might that she wields, and she hopes her detractors are praying for themselves. “You brought the flames and you put me through hell, I had to learn how to fight for myself,” she sings. She adds: “When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name.” Ouch.
Following ‘Praying’ on Rainbow is ‘Learn To Let Go,’ another highlight of the album. It’s an uplifting track, and it’s easy to see that the message of the song is aimed to herself just as much as it is for others. “Been a prisoner of the past, Had a bitterness when I looked back,” Kesha sings of her past outlook on life as the song opens. She’s made a drastic change by the song’s bridge with “I’m done reliving my bad decisions, I see now maybe there’s a reason […] Holding on to wasted time, Gotta learn to let go in life.” The most infectious part of ‘Learn To Let Go’ is the chorus, which remains upbeat and has a real rocker vibe that one would expect from Kesha these days.
‘Finding You’ mixes Kesha’s newfound penchant for acoustic tracks with a rock beat as she sings about finding love. The mix of acoustic-driven verses and a more rockworthy chorus somehow manages to work against all odds, making for a surprising gem thanks to its heartfelt lyrics and delivery.
The album’s titular track is Kesha’s promise to fans that she’s back and more invigorated than ever. “Got kaleidoscopes in my hairdo, Got back the stars in my eyes, too, Yeah, now I see the magic inside of me” she sings. It’s not surprising that Rainbow‘s titular track would be a slower number, full of uplifting moments — even though it would be very surprising to those who had only heard Kesha’s debut album. Thankfully, ‘Rainbow’ shows a stunning growth and beauty in Kesha’s musical style, sound, and voice.
A country-twang and Tarantino-soundtrack production comes on ‘Hunt You Down,’ as Kesha promises the guy she has her eye on that she’s got her eyes on him — and she’ll track him down if he messes up the special relationship they have. Kesha’s proclamations on the chorus are hilariously innocent as she tells the man she may have never killed anyone or buried a body — but she’s not afraid to hunt him down. A wonderful romp that’s sure to bring a chuckle.
Kesha gets seductive on ‘Boots,’ a steamy number as she sings on the chorus ‘I know you love me wearing nothing but your boots.’ It’s clear that she’s in love, singing about the ‘wifey life.’ The fast-talking on the verses gives the song something special and lets Kesha’s warbling on the chorus be even more memorable. As always on a Kesha song, the bridge is a highlight.
An unusual pairing finds Dolly Parton joining Kesha for ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You.)’ Surprisingly, it’s good. This track rightfully takes its style cues from the seasoned Parton, with both artists able to shine on their respective verses. It’s funny to think how this duet came to be, and even more interesting to ponder how Kesha’s sound came to be so close to Parton’s. Nonetheless, this is the album’s surprising gem. More Dolly!
Rainbow begins to wind down with ‘Godzilla,’ seeing Kesha channeling her inner Zooey Deschanel for a track that is meant to be quirky and cute, although it ultimately isn’t as strong as the rest of Rainbow‘s tracks. Kesha sings about meeting Godzilla, comparing it to falling it in love, and how it can be wonderfully unpredictable.
A plucky banjo leads the bluegrass sounding closer, ‘Spaceship.’ Kesha talks about her beliefs about death and going back ‘home’ to outer space. It’s better than ‘Godzilla,’ but Rainbow would’ve done better to end on a high note with the Dolly Parton collaboration. The over five minute runtime of ‘Spaceship’ further complicates it.
Overall, Rainbow is a strong return from Kesha that shows her at her best. She’s no longer afraid to break the mold, and she’s triumphant in shaping a new musical landscape for herself with unfettered possibilities. The album’s more rock-driven numbers are its strongest, but the acoustic and ballad tracks are also highlights. Kesha only loses her way towards the end of the album, but after twelve tracks of pure magic, it’s easy to learn to let it go.
Kesha’s Rainbow is available now.