By Hayden Wright
Kesha’s long journey back to the mainstream pop game has been riddled with legal action, abuse allegations and music-industry squabbling over the terms of her comeback. More often than not, the singer seemed cast a commercial product with little power or freedom to express her point-of-view or extricate herself from toxic professional relationships. Her saga telegraphed the cynicism of boardroom politics and touched the third rail of charged cultural conversations about power, personal and professional dignity. Along the way, her legion of fans grew even more devoted, and the stakes of her comeback album rose higher and higher.
On Rainbow the singer (formerly styled Ke$ha) takes control and goes back to basics with a new, uplifting outlook on life and art. The battle scars from years of professional limbo linger but Kesha shares her experience with acceptance and clarity. In times of trouble, Kesha drew on Bob Dylan, Nashville and rockabilly experimentation to keep her creativity in gear. Those influences are present on Rainbow with distinctive studio polish and some unabashed pop confections. One thing is certain: This is the most authentic Kesha the world has ever heard.
Here are the five best songs on Kesha’s Rainbow:
This soulful conflict resolution track was Rainbow‘s lead single. It bears a sophisticated message about forgiveness and resentment and contains Kesha’s best vocals on Rainbow. At once heartbreaking and empowering, “Praying” challenges listeners to see her journey as one of progress and grace, not score-settling.
“Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)” featuring Dolly Parton
Like Stevie Nicks on a Lana Del Rey track, Dolly Parton on a Kesha album immediately forces listeners to stand at attention: “Old Flames” is an old-school country western “missing you” song with wistful guitar and beautiful harmonies. Hearing Kesha in tandem with Dolly evokes the concept of longevity, implying Kesha’s with us for the long haul.
Kesha made her mark on the pop scene as a dance floor queen: Few of the tracks on Rainbow are ready for the club but Kesha returns to her roots on “Boots.” The uptempo song harkens back to the grimy charms of early Kesha, as she seduces a man wearing nothing but his boots.
“Boogie Feet” (featuring the Eagles of Death Metal)
Amid all the soul-searching, Kesha proves that she’s still ready to get down and boogie on Rainbow. The singer cuts loose on this rollicking rock track, and her ironic, irreverent tone is the perfect match for the Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes.
Rainbow’s opening track begins with the lyrics: “I got too many people [I’ve] got left to prove wrong.” On the acoustic, folk-inflected track, Kesha makes a statement of intent for the album and even quotes The Handmaid’s Tale: Don’t let the bastards keep you down.