With her autotuned-heavy debut album, Animal, back in 2010, Kesha (known back then as Ke$ha) was generally dismissed from serious music considerations despite her skyrocketing fame after her hit single Tik Tok. To most of the self-proclaimed musical connoisseurs, it seemed that her collections of fun, upbeat pop anthems and signature glitter look were nothing more than a flashy cry for attention.
That changed in 2014, when much to the concern of her long-devoted fan base, Kesha entered rehabilitation for an eating disorder, which she claimed to be the result of her producer, Dr. Luke’s, excessive and heavily abusive harassment of her appearance. That same year, Kesha went on to file sexual harassment and sexual assault claims against Dr. Luke, which he promptly denied. It’s worth noting that Kesha’s lawsuit against him didn’t even ask that he be held against criminal charges. All she wanted was to not have to work for him again.
In 2016 a judge dismissed the abuse claims, which was a decision that understandably enraged not only her fan base but also the collective community of sexual assault survivors who had tracked the process of the trial. As so often happens with crimes of this nature, the court failed to uphold the victim’s rights. The people decided to step up by pressuring Sony to drop Dr. Luke or dissolve the contract. The social media campaign #freekesha was born as a result, and it quickly took the internet by storm. A small vindication was finally taken in 2017 as Dr. Luke was dethroned from his position as CEO of Kemosabe Records. Unfortunately, the legal battle is still ongoing.
During this time, Kesha was legally barred from expressly herself creatively, which is to say she could no longer record any new music while still caged in by her original contract. Not one to be knocked down for long, the artist found a way to continue doing what she loved as she formed the country-rock band Yeast Infection back in 2015, and proceeded to tour while performing rock-centric versions of her own songs. Yet, long-time fans couldn’t help but mourn the loss of her cheerful, niche music from the mainstream pop scene.
Now at last, Kesha is back in the familiar music limelight. Exactly where she belongs.
Her new album, Rainbow, dropped on August 11th and is the artist’s first original work in five years. Since her six-record contract with Sony is still intact, both the artist’s team and the label had to collaborate and move forward on the album, whether any of them liked it or not. Negotiations allegedly involved each party choosing a list of other acceptable producers to work with instead of Dr. Luke. Kesha has credited the new album for conquering her depression and helping her find the joy in making music again.
On the highly anticipated album, Kesha is clearly the only one in charge of the narrative. This new work is significantly unlike her other albums, Animal and Warrior, since these songs don’t sound like the kind of artificial techno-pop associated with her brand. Instead, it is a painfully-sincere and beautiful account of her life and her struggle.
Her single Praying actually echoes her hopeful response after the court case last year. In the song, she says she can only “pray to feel happiness again.” Kesha shows she’s not wasting her time trying to get us to believe her, but rather is gracefully trying to move on and find joy in her music again.
Woman is a more upbeat anthem to the resilience and glory of womanhood. It’s perfect to play as you conspire to destroy the patriarchy. Overall, each song delivers this kind of inspiring confidence and bravery, making her album reach number one on the charts.
On top of everything, Kesha’s new music still encapsulates that irresistibly fun and upbeat energy that has become her trademark, though this time it sounds more raw and spontaneous with all the live instrumentation that’s worked into it. She manages to skillfully craft music that not only gets you dancing, but can lift you up from whatever hurt you’re enduring and empower you to keep fighting.
It’s good to see Kesha back on the main stage and hear her on the radio once again. Throughout these past few tumultuous years she has opened up a serious discussion about the industry and sexual assault in general. She’s a living example to survivors, especially women, that they can rebuild their lives and find happiness once again. Kesha is returning as a champion, and as her album, Rainbow, demonstrates so well, “the best is yet to come” for this pop icon.