The last decade of Kesha’s career has been anything but a breeze.
Since 2014, Kesha has been in a series of lawsuits with her former producer, Dr. Luke, who she accuses of physically, emotionally and sexually abusing her for several years. Alongside abuse allegations, Kesha also said Dr. Luke had complete control over her career and image.
After the lawsuits were filed, Sony Music agreed to allow Kesha to work with other producers for her album. The turmoil she faced resulted in the cathartic release of her 2017 album “Rainbow.” With that album, she finally released music that showed her love for country music and rock music shown in her collaborations with Dolly Parton and Eagles of Death Metal.
The context for that album is necessary to understand the direction for Kesha’s newest album, “High Road.” Kesha neither needs to address the pain in her past nor is she forced to release electropop party songs. Instead of continuing on one path, she combines her dance-pop roots with her slower, more serious persona.
The opening track, “Tonight,” starts off as a piano ballad akin to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Listeners feel alone in a smoky room as she sings with the piano, but then the piano is tossed aside approximately forty seconds into the song in exchange for thumping verses, auto-tune and an electrifying chorus about living in the moment; Kesha is back.
Kesha continues the trend with resurrecting her early 2010s persona with songs such as “Raising Hell” and “My Own Dance,” the latter in which she declares her defiance against those who attempt to put the singer in a box. Kesha will continue to dance to the beat of her songs.
Toward the middle of the album, the tempo slows down and Kesha begins to dig deep into her soul. “Cowboy Blues” is an existential song about thinking of someone you met three years ago at a bar and wondering if they were your soulmate all along and you missed your chance at true happiness.
“Resentment,” which features Wrabel, Sturgill Simpson and Brian Wilson of the legendary group the Beach Boys, is a pure country-pop ballad about anger building up against your significant other, so much to the point that the anger becomes numb. The lyric “I don’t hate you, babe, it’s worse than that” shows the emotional turmoil between the singers.
The heart wrenching “Father Daughter Dance” and the back-and-forth delivery between Kesha and her real-life best friend Wrabel in “BFF” showcase the “Tik Tok” singer’s capabilities as a songwriter. While some songs on this album feel like pure fantasy, these two stand out as the most transparent and honest tracks on the album.
Despite the string of heartfelt ballads and acoustic tracks, Kesha returns to her pop roots with other tracks such as “Birthday Suit” and “Kinky,” which feature Ke$ha, thus having Kesha reclaim her party-girl dollar sign alter ego and making it her own.
Regardless of how listeners perceive this album, it goes without saying that this is Kesha in her most authentic state. She is a multifaceted artist who can have a take-no-prisoners flamboyant attitude in one song while, in the next song, have a therapeutic session between her and listener.
Kesha’s unique situation allows her to finally make the art she has always been restricted from creating. With “High Road,” Kesha starts off the new decade as her most relaxed and authentic self.