Release Date: Jan 31, 2020
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Electronic, Dance-Pop, Party Rap
If 2017's 'Rainbow' saw Kesha reclaiming her voice after a particularly difficult couple of years - marked by a stint in rehab and a highly-publicised lawsuit against producer Dr Luke - fourth album 'High Road' sees her defiantly giving two fingers up to haters and showing that she's back living her best life. Throughout the new record, there's all the dance-floor ready self-love anthems you could ever need. "Find my pictures under 'legends' if you google me," Kesha yells out in guitar-bop 'Honey'.
It's been over 10 years since Ke$ha ram-raided her way into the charts with the genius and trashy trip Tik Tok. Gleefully riding the crest of a pop tsunami with her debut album Animal, the wave broke suddenly by bitter and personal legal battles, and her career was stunted. After a stint in rehab and the $ dropped from her name, Kesha returned with her first work in five years, the cathartic Rainbow, in 2017.
Borrowing at least one trick from Kacey Musgraves, Kesha calls her fourth album High Road, leaning into the dual meaning of "high." She's appealing to her better angels but she's eager to party and who can blame her? Kesha spent the back half of the 2010s embroiled in a series of nasty legal battles with her former producer and collaborator Dr. Luke, a struggle chronicled in part on Rainbow, the 2017 album that found her reemerging after a period of darkness. Now that her heavy lifting is out of the way, she's ready to reconnect with her roots as a funny, trashy pop prankster; the persona that made her a star a decade prior to the 2020 release of High Road.
Kesha is a vocal supporter of underdogs and outsiders; she stands up for LBGTQ rights, women's rights, the environment, songwriters, and gun control in a time when all are being threatened. She sews every seam of her brand with inclusivity and empowerment ("keep glowing, ur a fuckin rainbow," she tweeted to a fan who came out as transgender). After years embroiled in a legal battle with her former producer, Dr.
High Road is Kesha's follow-up to her 2017 liberation record Rainbow. Despite containing some ecstatic curveballs with Dap Kings, Eagles Of Death Metal and Dolly Parton, that album mostly stood out for its incredible return-to-the-fray power ballad, 'Praying', in which Kesha directly channelled in song the immense damage done to her earlier in her career. 'Praying' was also proof that she could belt out a huge chorus; still a minor revelation to the wider world, because of how relentlessly her vocals had been manipulated; her singing presented as faux-drunken declamation rather than melody management, with autotune on overdrive, on those previous breakout hits.
There's no doubt Kesha dominated the pop-sphere during the beginning of the 2010s. Establishing herself through comical lyricism and erffortlessly churning out punchy, over-produced bangers - she crafted a sound that only she could pull off. Her fourth studio album, 'High Road', strikes a perfect balance between her pop roots and the country-inspired gospel takes that formed her previous record, 'Rainbow'.
K esha's new album begins with a U-turn. After a few bars of tinkling piano balladry, the pop star drops a low-riding bassline and launches into the bratty style of rap-lite that made her famous in 2009 (recall her debut single Tik Tok, when she announced that she brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels). The quick genre-flip in Tonight is a sign of things to come from the singer's fourth album: she has mostly ditched the gutsy drama of her last record and, instead, re-embraced her party girl persona.
The Lowdown: A decade ago, a 22-year-old Kesha shot out of a confetti cannon at a critical turning point in pop. EDM was exploding in the mainstream, and Kesha (along with Lady Gaga and others) was ready to take those sleazy synth lines to the top of the charts and the depths of the club. Her music was reckless. It reeked of sweat and Jack Daniels.