In a year when Lorde has released a much anticipated second album and Taylor Swift is ramping up the hype machine again it would have taken some gigantic gamblers balls to put any money on Kesha putting out the pop album of the year. Well if you put money on it you’re quids in as she has. Let’s not mess about, Rainbow is bloody awesome.
The major surprise is that there’s any new music at all, everyone knows the court battles between the singer and her “mentor” Dr Luke, they’ve kept the tabloids busy for a couple of years now at least. It seemed like we’d heard the last of Ke$ha, and we have. There’s no $ now. What isn’t a surprise though that this album is laced with potential references to the last five years, from the acoustic opening of ‘Bastards’ (“I’ve got a lot of people to prove wrong / All those motherfuckers / Been too rude for too long”) to the gospel flecked ‘Praying’ (“Well you almost had me fooled / Told me I was nothing without you”) there’s no lack of tabloid fodder.
For the less sensationalist listener though it sounds cathartic, you can hear her pain at times (“I’m so sick of crying” on ‘Bastards’), her defiance – the primal scream of ‘Praying’ (“I’m proud of who I am”) – and maybe the real Kesha Sebert, laughing on ‘Woman’.
What’s genuinely stunning though, aside from the honesty of the lyrics, is the effortless mix of genres; there’s bubblegum rock on the duo of tracks with Eagles Of Death Metal, rebellious funk on ‘Woman’ (“I’m a motherfucking woman”) ably supported by the Dap Kings Horns, a touch of disco-rap on ‘Learn To Let Go’, proper honest-to-god country on ‘Hunt You Down’ and her Dolly Parton duet ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)’, and show tune glamour on the title track, the list goes on. It turns out Kesha is a musical chameleon, the likes of which haven’t been heard before, and it all hangs together, it’s all her.
There’s an incredible rawness to Rainbow and a tremendous heart at its centre, it feels and sounds all Kesha. Who knew there was an artist this accomplished trying to escape the $.