It’s been a well-publicised, rocky battle for Ke$ha since her last record in 2012. Now, five years later, the singer’s highly-anticipated return in here with her best effort yet, Rainbow.
With all that has gone on in Ke$ha’s life, especially the drawn-out court battle against Dr. Luke, you’d be forgiven for expecting to hear a beat-down and vulnerable sound in Rainbow. That is not the case. Whilst there are sporadic references to “monsters”, “flames” and “hell” in tracks such as the lead single ‘Praying’, which has racked up over 41 million streams in a month, the record is a story of rejuvenation and headstrong recovery.
That’s not to say that the 30-year-old wants to gloss over the past - that wouldn’t be fair to all the oppressed that she has come to represent. Rainbow opens with ‘Bastards’ whose minimalistic production makes it sounds as if you are listening in on Ke$ha’s own private musings over the past five years. The very first lines of the album include, “all those motherfuckers been too mean for too long”, an early cuss to make it clear that although the young, care-free Ke$ha may have been battered and bruised, she “will keep on living the way I want to live”. ‘Bastards’ is a calm acknowledgement of her own difficulties but also the ending of an old chapter and the start of a new one.
Once this introduction is over Eagles Of Death Metal are roped in on the second track, “Let ’Em Talk”, to provide the fast-paced drums and guitar riffs which kick-start the long awaited Ke$ha party. On paper, the collaboration was a shock, but boy does it work. It’s so uplifting, oozing the kind of ecstasy that Ke$ha built her career on, but despite the commands to “shake that ass” and “suck my dick” it’s an impressive, mature sound that will be universally loved.
On paper, the collaboration was a shock, but boy does it work.
The production is once again calmed after the fist-pumping, feminist number ‘Woman’, but the story of recovery shifts up a gear. Little needs to be said about ‘Praying’ whose message has already touched so many whilst in other singles ‘Hymn’ and ‘Learn To Let Go’, Ke$ha looks to take the hand of all outcasts and march them forwards with her.
Later in the record Eagles Of Death Metal appear again on the funky and, quite frankly, hilarious ‘Boogie Feet’. It’s refreshing to hear that amongst the lyrically touching efforts on Rainbow, Ke$ha is still very capable of producing songs intended for nothing more than a good time. Surprise features keep on coming as country queen Dolly Parton takes a verse on ‘Old Flames’, harmonising perfectly with Ke$ha, although the track packs less of a punch than others.
Dolly Parton takes a verse on ‘Old Flames’, harmonising perfectly with Ke$ha, although the track packs less of a punch than others
Elsewhere, the plodding bassline and yodelling on ‘Hunt You Down’ make it seem as if Ke$ha is joking with “baby I love you so much, don’t make me kill you”, but the style with which the lyrics roll off her tongue make it clear that she is done being “fucked around”. ‘Rainbow’ is arguably the most touching number on the album which again reaches out to those being put down as she stretches out an invitation to “come and paint the world with me tonight”, backed by a fairytale-like string section.
With all the focus on Ke$ha’s past few years and trying to listen out for that in Rainbow, it’s easy to forget just how much her voice has grown. Not only do moments, such as THAT whistle note on ‘Praying’, stop you in your tracks but the versatility to span genres such as rock and country as well as pop deserves recognition. By no means is Rainbow the story of a defeated woman looking to recover. Ke$ha is back and means business.