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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Album review: Kesha shines bright on Rainbow

The US pop star returns with a confident and brave new album

Pop star Kesha. Andrew Lipovsky / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Pop star Kesha. Andrew Lipovsky / NBC / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

When Kesha released her third album Rainbow last week, expectations were low. The fact the album came out at all is a miracle.

The 30-year-old pop star has recently emerged from one of the most acrimonious legal battles in the music industry of recent years, in which she accused former mentor and producer Dr Luke of allegations ranging from emotional abuse to scuppering the release of new tracks.

The court battle may now be resolved but Dr Luke’s ghost hangs all over this record. Most of the songs address the producer indirectly, either through missives or artistic statements of defiance.

With Kesha’s two previous Dr Luke-helmed albums so tightly produced, there is a wilful display of variety on offer here as the album takes on funk, punk rock and more rootsy sounds.

The daughter of country singer Pebe Sebert, Kesha explores that lineage in the opener Bastards. Over a

gently strummed acoustic guitar she comes to terms with her struggles: “I could fight forever but life’s too short.”

In Let ‘Em Talk, her rousing collaboration with Eagles of Death Metal, Kesha channels Joan Jett as she slays the demons of gossipmongers: “It used to hurt me, used to bring me down / Do your worst, ‘cause nothing’s gonna stop me now.”

Fortunately, Kesha’s pop instincts have not totally left her, Hymn boasts a dynamic chorus while the gospel-tinged Praying is a stirring power ballad.

The highlight is undoubtedly the title track. With indie-piano man Ben Folds providing gentle accompaniment, Kesha delivers her finest vocal take yet. It is a powerful and bruised ode to survival from trauma. When Kesha’s voice, a quavering mix of joy and pain, states “now I see the colours in everything”, you believe and can’t help but cheer her on.

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