For anyone in the dark about how the last few years have been for Kesha, here’s a very quick summary: aged eighteen she signed to Dr. Luke’s label. Three years later she namelessly featured on Flo Rida’s huge single Right Round, and followed it up a few months later with her own release, Tik Tok, and her debut album Animal. This is 2010, a simpler time symbolised by the dollar sign that nestled in the middle of her name. In 2012 Warrior was released to mixed reviews, and although I would describe myself as a fan of Kesha’s I have to admit that Warrior jogs very little in my memory. Since then, she’s mostly been famous in the way that defines most celebrity’s careers, with lawsuits, emotional struggles, and trips to rehab. This is not to undermine the allegations of the trial against her former manager Dr. Luke, but rather to show how fantastic Rainbow is for standing up against the context of its release.
Even if celebrity news and pop culture bore you, it’s worth giving Rainbow a spin. It has to be said that the album rests itself on Kesha’s outward persona and journey, but beyond that it’s also just a solid album, that reaches in a different direction for her. The immediate differences are obvious. Gone is the “cock pop” and autotuned electronic base, and in its place are heavy country guitars. The satisfying amount of twang packed into the 48 minute record culminates with the Dolly Parton duet Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You), an immediate classic worth of sharing a playlist with Islands in The Stream.
I must admit though, despite how much I like the album and change in direction that Kesha’s taking, certain aspects of experimentation fall down for me. Some of the slower tracks are aiming high and are powerful, but seem to end up somewhere closer to overly sentimental. Hymn is a bit hamfisted, and the final two tracks, Godzilla and Spaceship – I have no idea where they came from. There are banjos and cowboy boots that work, but some of the intergalactic space threads start to tear loose.
But, even then, this is Kesha we’re talking about. Once again, she is a mix of several bizarre things that shouldn’t go together. Even though Rainbow is theatrical and over the top, it feels genuine. There is growth, and positive change. Praying is extremely moving, and without layers of effects Kesha’s vocals shine through, and her storytelling comes to the forefront.
I’ve always loved Kesha completely unironically, from eating boys and brushing her teeth with whisky to throwing a hoe-down with Pitbull, but Rainbow is a delight to listen to. More than anything that “didn’t work,” it just made me smile, if I’m completely honest.