Release Date: Aug 11, 2017
Record label: RCA
It's not uncommon for pop stars to emerge with an industry-constructed image. From Britney Spear's "girl next door" persona to Lana Del Rey's "Laurel Canyon goddess," musicians have began their careers as manufactured products. When Kesha first surfaced in 2009 with "TiK ToK," she was portrayed as a gritty party girl whose songs were (too) often over-AutoTuned.
“Praying," the lead single from Kesha's first album in nearly five years, is as triumphant as songs come. Swelling pianos and career-best vocals frame the cut, which seemingly refers to the singer's creative break from former producer Dr. Luke. (In a 2014 lawsuit, she accused him of sexual assault, among other allegations; Luke -- real name: Lukasz Gottwald -- has repeatedly denied all her claims, most of which were thrown out by a judge in April 2016, though one contract-related claim is still ongoing in court.
Whatever happens with Rainbow, it's already a victory for Kesha. (No longer Ke$ha, a notable change.) The mere existence of this third album, her first in five years, while the U.S. Supreme Court case over the singer's contract with producer Dr. Luke is still ongoing, is a gift to both the beleaguered pop star and her fans.
W hat ever? Spiritual paths can be roughly divided into the transcendent and the immanent. The transcendent path proposes that the conditions of the lived world — sex, money, work, our bodies, every aspect of daily Being — need to be transcended for something separate, higher, more true, more pure, more real. The immanent path, more congenial to modern-day Western spiritual practitioners, sees the Divine in all of these things.
“What’s been put out as singles have just perpetuated a particular image that may or may not be entirely accurate. I’d like to show the world other sides of my personality. I don’t want to just continue putting out the same song and becoming a parody myself. I have so much more to offer than that, and I can’t wait till the world really gets to hear that on the radio.” —Kesha, Rolling Stone, 24 October 2013 “I got too many people / That I’d like to prove wrong” Kesha sings at the start of Rainbow, her voice sturdy and plaintive over a simply strummed acoustic guitar.
A rainbow is a beautiful trick of the light that arises after a thunderstorm, a fact that is not lost on Kesha, who experienced more than her share of tumult after her second album, 2012's Warrior. Two years after its release, the singer/songwriter filed a lawsuit against her producer and collaborator Dr. Luke, alleging emotional and sexual abuse, and he returned the volley with countersuits.
T he final chapter of music critic Simon Reynolds' exemplary history of glam rock, Shock and Awe, concentrates on the genre's influence between punk and the present day. One figure it unexpectedly alights on is Kesha Sebert, then known as Ke$ha: in her early, multiplatinum singles Tik Tok and We R Who We R he detects traces of everything from Suzi Quatro's trash-talking androgyny to the screw-you triumphalism of Alice Cooper's School's Out. As it turned out, Sebert may have had more in common with another glam act, the Runaways, the Californian all-girl quintet whose bassist, Jackie Fox, alleged that she had been raped by their svengali-like manager, Kim Fowley.
Three years ago Kesha Rose Sebert found herself at the centre of one the biggest legal battles in recent pop history. The Californian singer-songwriter alleged that Dr Luke, the producer who signed her at 18, had subjected her to "mental manipulation, emotional abuse and sexual assault". Fans protested to 'Free Kesha', calling for her to be freed from her contract so she could make music elsewhere.
In 2012, wild-child pop diva Kesha hit a high point with her dirty, glitter-soaked rock album, Warrior. But she's spent the past five years in silence, embroiled in a grueling legal battle with her most frequent collaborator, superproducer Dr. Luke, whom the singer accused of physical and emotional abuse. On her excellent comeback record, Rainbow, Kesha channels that drama into the best music of her career - finding common ground between the honky-tonks she loves (her mom is Nashville songwriter Pebe Sebert) and the dance clubs she ruled with hits like "Tik Tok" and "Die Young," between glossy beats, epic ballads and grimy guitar riffs.
In early 2017, amid news of Kesha's legal battle to extricate herself from the contract that bound her to the producer she had accused of sexual assault, the same image kept resurfacing in my mind over and over: that of Britney Spears with a half-shaved head, staring off into the middle distance. Kesha is not Britney, and vice versa, but the widely shared picture of Kesha in the courtroom, her face crumpled in grief, on the day that her request for an injunction that would have temporarily lifted her contract with Sony was denied by a Manhattan judge was the same kind of moment. All of the industry artifice, all of the production value, all of the money and leveraging that had gone into making these women consumer products had been stripped away.
Fuck 'em - let 'em talk A confession: it's been a long road to get here, and I say this with the air of one admitting to a dark secret, shoulders hunched and eyes downcast… I think I might be a poptimist. I don't mean to be self-deprecating - when did a phrase so prominently containing the word 'optimist' become a dirty word, anyway? - but it's the truth. I have in-depth arguments with friends about how Lorde has subverted expectations of pop music in 2017.
The annals of pop history are littered with artists who have valiantly gone to battle with their record labels. In the 1990s, Prince and George Michael became the poster boys for emancipation from the shackles of the industry's often one-sided recording deals, but their grievances were largely financial in nature. More often than not, when female pop singers go toe to toe with the music industry, it's a more existential pursuit: to wrestle creative control back from the sticky fingers of their (usually male) handlers.
The story of Kesha Rose Sebert can be told with two songs from her first demo tape. They were written in her teens after she moved to Nashville with her mother, country songwriter Pebe Sebert. The first, Billboard described as a "gobsmackingly awful trip-hop track... at one point toward the end, Ke$ha runs out of lyrics and starts rapping, for a full minute or so: 'I'm a white girl/From the 'Ville/Nashville, bitch.'" The other? "A gorgeously sung, self-penned country ballad that hints at what could've been had Ke$ha pursued a different path." Former producer Lukasz "Dr.
A nyone wanting to sing outside the privacy of their own shower ought to be handed a tablet rammed with memoirs and biopics, featuring the cautionary tales of Tina Turner (abusive partner), Ronnie Spector (ditto), Britney Spears (mental health issues), Mariah Carey (controlling partner), Amy Winehouse (drugs), and now, Kesha Sebert (case ongoing). They should familiarise themselves with the business debacles of Prince (label woes), Leonard Cohen (thieving associate), the Stone Roses (contractual nightmares) and Brian Wilson (abusive therapist) and seriously reconsider small animal veterinary practice. If poetic justice exists, Kesha's Rainbow, her third album, would be a world-beating hit.
As our march toward the world's end builds to a canter, the narratives we wrap around human tragedies both great and small remain the same: resurrection, hope not hate, the phoenix rising from the ashes. After Eagles of Death Metal survived the terrorist attack that interrupted their 2015 Bataclan show in Paris, the appropriate responses began flooding in, spearheaded by (a) a collection of largely ersatz covers of 'I Love You All The Time', and (b) the usual well-meaning platitudes about hope and fear. Frontman Jesse Hughes didn't get the memo.
On Rainbow, Kesha sounds breathless. Her third studio album is an album about survival, and if Kesha is exhausted, she has every right to be. The 30-year-old is embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit with her former producer and alleged abuser Dr. Luke, and recorded 14 songs for this album while still in ….
Even in the big, raunchy pop algorithms now-persona-non-grata Dr. Luke produced for Kesha, her own songwriting sensibilities always glimmered through. As she skyrocketed into becoming a butt-metal loving, electro pop star, she recorded songs that pulled another direction; most significantly, her heart-wrenching cover of Bob Dylan’s “ Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right ,” which she cut in 2011 for a tribute album, showed a musical depth and emotional interior that had previously taken taken a backseat on her arena anthems.
"I've been through hell and back," Kesha sings on her new album, and even casual listeners are likely to know the circumstances of her trip. Three years ago, this pop star famous for her bleary 2009 smash "Tik Tok," filed a bombshell lawsuit against Lukasz Gottwald, aka Dr. Luke, the producer and songwriter with whom she'd collaborated for nearly a decade.
Despite officially blasting out of a glitter cannon and onto the scene a little over seven years ago, Kesha Rose Sebert feels like she’s been around forever. Everything about her look, attitude, and lyrics suggested a girl who might be a mess but definitely knew what she was doing. The more we learned about her, the more we peeled away the layers of an artist who once described her sound as “God having an orgasm.” She popped up in places you least expected it, she earned a nearly perfect SAT score, she cared more about good times than receiving credit.