Kesha’s first album in five years is the pop equivalent of a franchise reboot. The singer had a public falling out with producer Doctor Luke, whom she accused of physical and emotional abuse (a lawsuit is ongoing). Free of his influence, she has described Rainbow as the sound of an artist casting off the shackles.
It’s certainly quite a change from the autotune-suffused pop of hits such as ‘Tik-Tok’. With cameos from Dolly Parton and raunchy rockers Eagles of Death Metal, the record is earthy and heartfelt (occasionally to a fault) and a world removed from the shiny chart music with which the now 30-year-old made her name.
She isn’t shy about referencing recent travails. No prizes for guessing whom she is addressing on opening track ‘Bastards’, a coy ballad accompanied by acoustic guitar (“I got too many people / Got a lot to prove wrong / All those motherfuckers been too mean for too long . . . I could fight forever, but life’s too short). The finger pointing is even more explicit on single ‘Praying’, a piano-driven roof-raiser in which she hopes those who have done her wrong will eventually find inner peace, while Letting Go darkly references a “boogeyman under her bed”.
Bangers are at a premium though she conjures an impressive groove on ‘Woman’ (with backing from Amy Winehouse’s old touring ensemble The Dap-Kings). The daughter of a Nashville songwriter, Kesha shows that country is in her blood on ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)’, an effervescent duet with Dolly Parton. Against all odds, a singer once widely regarded as a chintzy Lady Gaga clone has emerged with credibility enhanced on a collection that demonstrates that, whatever her differences with Doctor Luke, her talents were wasted as a workaday pop siren.
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