We all remember Kesha as the big pop star who created the iconic song “TiK ToK” and brought all of our middle school experiences to life. I remember hearing that song everywhere and saying I hated it when I truly kind of loved it.
That was 10 years ago. Kesha Rose Sebert has changed a great deal since the days of “TiK ToK," and has undergone life struggles that stopped her from releasing more music.
In 2014, she began a legal battle with her producer, Dr. Luke, for sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abusing her. However, the claims were dropped due to the statute of limitations.
Kesha then broke her five-year hiatus and released “Rainbow” in 2017. “Rainbow” received plenty of critical acclaim from critics and was my favorite Kesha album. Kesha explored many different genres on “Rainbow” and seemed truly free from the box Dr. Luke often put her in.
Now, we have this new Kesha record, “High Road,” which released on Jan. 31.
“High Road” holds the most emotionally honest lyrics I have heard from Kesha. Her method of songwriting has matured since her original days of writing party anthems. Such anthems still exist on this pop record, but she has reached an emotional vulnerability, which we have never seen before from her.
That being said, there are still plenty of cliché and cringey pop bangers that you either love or utterly despise — or both. One of these tracks is the opening song, “Tonight."
This track begins with lovely piano chords and a pretty melody, which is obnoxiously interrupted by an electronic male voice. She then breaks into rapping about hedonistic pleasures with her friends, like getting drunk and high. I, however, do not mind this track and I could see this fitting in perfectly at a house party or a club.
The next big hit is “My Own Dance." Upon first listen, I hated this song, but I opened up to it after more listens. This second pop banger has a fun guitar lick throughout and a catchy quarter-note beat, which makes it impossible not to bob your head. This song portrays Kesha’s issue with her image in the public eye, and how it makes her question herself and her emotions. Through all this, though, she still does her “own dance."
The most popular track, “Raising Hell," is next and definitely deserves attention. The song begins with nice piano chords that pop up throughout the track; the chorus is infectious with Kesha’s great singing, a powerful melody, marching-style drums and well-placed horns. This track is about Kesha’s relationship with religion; she is committed to God and loves her God, but also values having fun and taking risks.
The title track, “High Road," is one of the less effective songs on the record with an annoying rap and hypocritical lyrics. Fortunately, the next four tracks hold the best moments on the record, especially the track, “Honey," which is my personal favorite. This track has an incredible funk beat and an impressively layered vocal chorus.
Another notable highlight is “Resentment,” featuring artists Sturgill Simpson, the main songwriter for the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson and Wrabel. This song’s significance lies in its impressive collaborations, which go over well. Simpson’s voice sounds wonderful and the guitar work sounds a lot like him as well. This song also has the Brian-Wilson feel, which gives the track incredible beauty.
Then, the album drops in quality dramatically with the lowest point being “Kinky." This song is just bad and has a generic pop/rap chorus, bad rapping and raunchy lyricism.
Kesha gets her saddest in the latter half of the record with “Father Daughter Dance." This well-produced string ballad describes her experience of a fatherless life and is honest about her anxieties that go along with it. The track is simplistic and tasteful.
Kesha concludes the album with "Summer," a song she finished four days before releasing the album. However, a better closing would have been the track "Chasing Thunder" because it would have better synthesized the album thematically.
I was content with the album, however, “Rainbow” was still the better record. I appreciate the humility and honesty that came out of this "High Road." But the ideas could have been more adventurous and fulfilling. This music was safe and there is nothing wrong with that.
This album will sell well, but she has riskier ideas to share with the pop scene.