From 2009, when “Tik Tok” was released and reached the top of the charts, Kesha has been considered the fearless and outspoken leader of dance-pop. She released hit after personality-filled hit, and was ubiquitous on Top 40 radio. Therefore, many were shocked when in 2014 she checked into rehab for an eating disorder and accused producer and writing partner Dr. Luke of sexual abuse and controlling her music output. As the legal battle came to a close, supportive actions from the public and public figures morphed into immense excitement and anticipation for what a Kesha album would sound like without Dr. Luke at the production board. Rainbow exceeds these expectations: the album, packed with classic club-ready Kesha charm, is also excitingly eclectic in its genres and shows Kesha’s growth over the last four years.
What the solemn yet powerful lead single from Rainbow, “Praying,” does not reveal about the rest of the album, is that at its heart, Rainbow is still a Kesha album; it features many up-tempo songs that feature her sometimes playful, sometimes aggressive, trademarked vocals. The boldest example of this continuity is drum-heavy “Woman,” in which she declares at the beginning of the chorus, “I’m a motherf*cking woman… I don’t need a man to be holding me too tight.” This is very reminiscent of her earlier music, including lyrics that not many other singers can pull off and vocals that ooze personality. Even in a song that recalls so much from her past hits, the addition of the Dap-Kings Horn Section elevates the instrumentation in a way that shows versatility and growth. The song takes on a more soulful layer that epitomizes the rest of the album’s creativity.
What differentiates Rainbow from Kesha’s previous efforts and many of 2017’s other top albums is its extensive range of genres that keeps listeners on their toes. Not many albums can boast featured performances from both Eagles of Death Metal – on early 2000s rock-pop reminiscent “Let ‘Em Talk”, and Dolly Parton – on the country power-ballad “Old Flames.” Even more surprising is Kesha’s comfort in each genre; she is rambunctious on “Let ‘Em Talk,” a mournful crooner on “Old Flames.” and a reflective pop belter on songs like “Rainbow” and “Praying”.
Rainbow is a highly enjoyable listen for Kesha fans and music fans in general. Kesha shows immense versatility and skill outside of producer Dr. Luke, and she seems at peace with her often tumultuous personal life. There is very little filler material on this album, and each song makes for an interesting experience thanks to Kesha’s vocal and instrumental style.
Key Songs: “Let ‘Em Talk,” “Woman,” “Praying,” “Rainbow”