Seven years ago, the world saw one of the fastest and meteoric rises to fame in history, when Kesha (then Ke$ha) blasted onto every chart in the world. She was everything that music critics hated – sleazy, auto tuned and seemingly uncaring about what she sang. However, those were in fact not decisions made by a bunch of corporate suits trying to create a star, but instead aesthetical choices made by an artist who wanted to have fun. That same artist has spent the past five years since her last release locked in legal battle against her former producer and alleged abuser. However, that same artist has come out the other end, changed for the better but still herself, a fact that is evident on Rainbow.
A very mixed and diverse album, Rainbow is an important change of pace. She embraces the country roots that she comes from but doesn’t forget the auto tune heavy party music that was her staple. Tracks like the punk-rock influenced ‘Let ‘Em Talk’, and the similarly-influenced ‘Boogie Feet’, make it known that the she hasn’t lost herself in her self-discovery. They are cut from the same “Balls out” cloth that put her where she is, but have a maturity to them that elevates them beyond her prior work. An album highlight comes in the funk tinted and feisty feminist anthem that is “Woman” furthers the notion that the dollar sign remains in Kesha’s heart if not in her name as she declares she’s a “motherf-ckin’ woman”.
However, the album is laden with tracks unlike most cuts in Kesha’s back catalogue. The lead single ‘Praying’ is a brilliant and raw power ballad that packs a punch of emotion with every word, while slower tracks like ‘Bastards’ and ‘Spaceship’ discuss her inability to fit in and her journey to accepting that one day she will find her place. The album’s title track levels it’s listener with an emotional thwack that is both the quietest and most unnerving part of an otherwise very self-assured and empowering record.
The album’s more country tinged moments also provide a blend of new and old. The indie-folk ‘Finding You’, harkens back to ‘Past Lives’ from 2012’s ‘Warrior’, while ‘Hunt You Down’ which adopts a similar viewpoint as the title track of 2010’s ‘Cannibal’. The latter of the two is one of the LP’s strongest moments, providing a cinematic and modern take on what would otherwise be a parody of the genre. Dolly Parton provides the most satisfying of the album’s features, a wonderfully modern cover of a track made famous by Parton herself and written by Kesha’s mother, “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)”.
The album’s less impressive moments are few and far between, however they are still there. The synth-pop ‘Hymn’ fails to match the genuineness and believability that similarly themed tracks possess in spades while the oddness of ‘Godzilla’ makes it stand out as random and tacked on. Finally, ‘Boots’ captures the essence of Ke$ha but lacks the maturity and conviction of the same artist five years later.
Overall, the album is a triumph. It is a triumph from an artistic viewpoint, remaining true to the sound that produced her career while growing in maturity. It is also a triumph from a personal standpoint. Kesha may be forever altered by the legal case that will plague her name and music, but, here, she proves herself. She proves that she can tackle near anything and make it sound like she’s been doing it for years. She proves that she is not merely a party girl, instead that is one of the many aspects of a complex and extremely talented individual. Finally, she proves that even after everything she’s been through, she is still unapologetically herself.