Kesha – ‘Rainbow’ Review

Californian pop hero Kesha returns with a defiant country and garage rock-tinged triumph

Three years ago Kesha Rose Sebert found herself at the centre of one the biggest legal battles in recent pop history. The Californian singer-songwriter alleged that Dr Luke, the producer who signed her at 18, had subjected her to “mental manipulation, emotional abuse and sexual assault”.

Fans protested to ‘Free Kesha’, calling for her to be freed from her contract so she could make music elsewhere. In turn, Dr Luke – not a real doctor – countersued for defamation. Last year, after a judge threw out her abuse claims against Dr Luke, Kesha dropped her case, but on ‘Rainbow’ – her first album since 2012’s ‘Warrior’ – the effects of the highly publicised lawsuit ring loud.

“The reason I wanted to name this record ‘Rainbow’ is because I kind of associate healing with going back to my childlike mind, before I got all twisted and turned and beaten and heartbroken and all those things,” she said in a recent interview. The cathartic nature of the album is clearest on the emotive piano and string-laden ballad ‘Praying’, a forceful Lady-Gaga-worthy offering of defiance, as she hollers “’Cos you brought the flames and you put me through hell / I had to learn how to fight for myself”. The record’s title track is equally therapeutic, but sounds more like Haim doing an epic Disney number, with Kesha singing “come and paint the world with me tonight”.

It’s not all butterflies and sunsets, though. Eagles Of Death Metal provide gritty full-throttle dive-bar guitar-band backing on ‘Boogie Feet’ and ‘Let ’Em Talk’, both of which sit halfway between hair-metal and Katy Perry’s most bubblegum moments. The country-lite vibe that runs throughout the album – see the yodelling ‘Hunt You Down’ – shines brightest on ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)’, not just because of the pedal steel guitar but thanks to a guest appearance from the real life Dolly Parton. But bluegrass and gospel-inspired closer ‘Spaceship’ is perhaps the most powerful track here – a contemplative trad finger-picker that sees Kesha waiting to be rescued by a bloody great big UFO and taken somewhere far, far away.

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