Album Review: Rainbow (2017)

Rainbow, by Kesha

Ultimately, this album may prove to be among the most culturally significant albums of 2017.  The context of this album is illuminating, in that it was released after a massive popular outcry against Kesha’s label forced their hand in releasing Kesha’s contract with troubled producer Dr. Luke and allowed this long-delayed album to be released to general acclaim.  The album makes a definite turn from the more upbeat party jams that the singer had performed earlier in her career, but as an older and hopefully wiser singer [1], this album helped inspire the #MeToo movement that put abusive celebrities on notice that their wicked deeds would some come to light.  Here is a track by track review:

Bastards:  An almost country opening, this song of defiance is sung with a bit of a twang to an acoustic album.  The message of this song to survival and the touching backing vocals give this spare track a lot of power, and the song gets increasingly melodic towards its end.  This song could easily have been a hit on country radio with a brave enough DJ.

Let ‘Em Talk (f/Eagles of Death Metal):  The mood shifts abruptly here to a fast-paced song in the bratty style of the singer’s previous work as she gives the same defiant message in a different tone.  This is a catchy song that is easy to appreciate with its message of living and letting others say what they are going to say.

Woman (f/The Dap Kings Horns):  This girl power anthem has a good bit of swagger to it and an effective groove to it as well.  The catchiness and sassiness of the song has made it a hit, even if its language would force it to be edited on some stations.  This is the sort of song that could easily come off as rather insulting but it actually sounds pretty entertaining, sort of what Megan Trainor’s “No” was trying to be.

Hymn:  The album makes a drastic switch in tone from the upbeat previous songs to a spare and atmosphere hymn that points to the singer’s defiance and her struggles with morality and the need for her own forgiveness.  It seeks to gain the best of religious faith without facing up to its ethical demands.

Praying:  The first single off of the album, this song was a reasonably big hit and a popular choice for among the best songs of the year, even if it is a tough song to listen to because of its scorching honesty about the singer’s struggle against Dr. Luke and his hope for him to pray and seek forgiveness from God and to become a better person than he was to her.

Learn To Let Go:  This upbeat and defiant song is a catchy song that really should have been a huge hit.  The meaning of this song deals with a past that the singer is trying to overcome–fairly typical of this album of letting go and rising above–and the hooks here are just so enjoyable that it should have been widely appreciated.

Finding You:  This song has a quirky feeling and shows the singer finding a relationship that gives her some hope that things are getting better, and the instrumental track is full of elegant guitars and a powerful chorus.  This is a song easy to appreciate and filled with all kinds of reflecting about happy endings and forever.

Rainbow:  The title track of the album is a touching mid-tempo ballad that shows the singer finding a sense of resilience to overcome the pain of the past and feeling a sense of hope in the future.  Here again Kesha sings about her hard-worn insight and her recognition of the injuries she has suffered.

Hunt You Down:  Another country track, this one shows Kesha singing in a rather sassy manner about wanting to be someone’s baby but promising to hunt him down if he cheats on her to an instrumental track that could easily have been a hit on country radio.  Again, this sounds like a bit of a missed opportunity to broaden Kesha’s appeal to a different audience than she would usually appeal to it.

Boogie Feet (f/Eagles Of Death Metal):  A rousing and sassy fast-paced song, this song reminds the listener of the singer’s previous songs about dancing and luxury, and the song at least sounds carefree as if it was 2010 or 2012 again, with some interesting backing vocals with someone who wants to dance with her.

Boots:  This sassy song has a bit of a country twang and shows Kesha wrestling with the desire to have power in a relationship while also finding herself tied to someone when she has always been rather skittish about intimacy.  It’s a rather strange song but certainly one that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio.

Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You) (f/Dolly Parton):  A slower ballad, this song is reflective about the past and past loves and the way they can be forgotten or overcome by a better new relationship in the future.  This is yet another song that has a country feel to it and provides a mature sense of optimism in the face of life’s troubles.

Godzilla:  This song is a quirky, almost innocent love song from Kesha to the famous monster.  One wonders exactly what Kesha is trying to say.  Is the song straightforward and odd, or is it symbolic of the sort of monsters that Kesha has had to deal with in the music industry that she is sending up with the image of the song’s titular character?  Either way, this song is so odd that it is among my favorites of an excellent album.

Spaceship:  Another delightfully odd song, this song has Kesha waiting for a spaceship to rescue her from earth and take her back home.  Coming at the end of a thoroughly odd but delightful album, this song is a quirky song that expresses the singer’s belief that she doesn’t belong, a sentiment that is easy to relate to.

This is a complicated but enjoyable album that deserves its considerable praise and deserved a lot more attention from fans.  In this album we see everything from Kesha’s teasing sexuality and her eager use of her sexuality as power to a reflection on loss and damage and struggling with forgiveness and the monstrous nature of people in a variety of ways.  Part defiant continuance of her quirky optimism and part pivot to a more organic folksy and country influence, this album finds Kesha poised between a variety of potential ways foreword.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/01/31/poll-song-reviews/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/01/03/neither-an-edge-lord-nor-a-snowflake-be/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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