Album Review: Kesha’s High Road

Tau Nell | Student Writer

Kesha’s philosophy is pretty simple these days: ‘I’m going to be as happy as possible because I could get hit by a bus in ten minutes’. Here’s a quick run-down as to why she might feel this way.

In 2014, Kesha publicly accused her producer, Dr. Luke, of chronic physical and emotional abuse. The case went to the Supreme Court, but the judge ruled in Dr. Luke’s favour, denying Kesha’s plea to break her six-album contract with him. Luke then filed a $50 million defamation lawsuit against Kesha, and demanded $374,000 in interest on royalty payments.

Between 2014 and 2017, Kesha was silenced. For her, this suppression was infinitely more unbearable than her financial loss. Her fans felt the same way; ‘#FreeKesha’ went viral and protesters gathered outside Sony Records’ offices for months on end. Eventually, a compromise was reached, Dr. Luke was fired, and Kesha was freed. After Rainbow, which centred on this traumatic period, High Road is Kesha’s second release since her emancipation. Here, she rejects the role of the wounded martyr, as the media branded her. She makes it clear that she is more ‘Girl, Interrupted’ than ‘Damsel in Distress’.

In the opening track, Kesha declares ‘Tonight’s the best night of our lives / We got it all if we’re alive’. Her joy at being back in the game is contagious. The bass is boosted, autotune is cranked high, glitter is audible. But Kesha is well aware of the public’s split opinion of her, voicing it in My Own Dance as she drawls, ‘You’re the party girl / You’re the tragedy’. She wears this duality like a sparkling accessory, assuming the role of preacher-come-satanist in Raising Hell and ghetto sweetheart in Honey. Tracks like these are pep rallies of positivity, but sometimes try too hard to revive the festivities Kesha was forced to leave all those years ago, using outdated party tricks. Luckily, High Road sticks around for the cosy after-party, here losing any and all artifice.

In Cowboy Blues, we find ourselves in a sleepy post-party living room, leaning on Kesha’s shoulder as she strums a ukulele. In BFF, we lie staring at the ceiling with our equally dazed companion. Resentment suggests pine trees and fireflies. Kesha’s storytelling talent is on full display in songs like these; their effortless charm stands out and makes us wish Kesha had showcased this side of herself much sooner.

While some tracks on High Road are party anthems which hark back to Kesha’s ‘Ke$ha’ days, others are fresh and thoroughly modern. Kesha, determined to reclaim her lofty position in pop, has catered to both nostalgic fans and a new generation of listeners, who may be unfoundedly sceptical of her abilities. Before its release, Kesha said she hoped to be ‘fully seen’ on this album. After all she’s been through, it would be understandable if she kept her guard up, but the Tennessee songstress has shown us her soul. If Rainbow was a battle cry, High Road is a victory dance.

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