Why am I talking about Kesha’s latest album? Even taking into account I said awhile back I was going to start spotlighting non-country stuff occasionally, why this? It’s not as if it’s got any shortage of coverage.
Truthfully? Because it’s held my attention more than any other album these past couple weeks, especially during my small break from writing.
So then, why is this long-awaited Kesha album the one I keep coming back to at the moment, especially over country records?
Well, honestly, my initial interest had, as I”m sure is a commonality among people who paid attention to this project, to do with the drama surrounding Kesha and the release of this record. I wanted to know all about #FreeKesha, and whether she’d really made music that sounded different from her ridiculously processed, virtually lifeless party music from before. And then I listened to this record and was pleasantly surprised by a lot of things, not the least of them being that she seems to understand country better than the majority of mainstream country artists. It’s reflected in the cheating song “Hunt You Down,” which is reminiscent rhythmically of “Walk the Line,” and certainly in her version of Dolly Parton’s “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You),” which is both unique to her and a tasteful representation of the song. Her mother wrote this song, and Kesha grew up with classic country music. She’s obviously not country, but it’s plain to see that she does respect it, and it’s cool to see Dolly Parton joining her on this song like a nod of approval. The two sound surprisingly good together as well.
Admittedly, some of my fascination and connection with this album is personal. I don’t want to insinuate that I’ve experienced even half of what Kesha would have of us believe she went through, but at the same time, I can empathize to a certain, if small, degree, and a song like “Praying” just takes me out of a place of review altogether and just leaves me in a place of solidarity with her. This is just an incredible song honestly. You can tell she’s pouring her heart into it. The same goes for “Learn to Let you Go,” which is sort of the upbeat, less serious version of this one. She’s stronger in this one, but it’s still so honest. It’s the sincerity in these and some of the other straight pop songs that make this different from her previous material; this really is Kesha. You might not enjoy the style, but a lot of this is real. Music is supposed to make you feel something, and that’s what Kesha does for much of this album.
But she’s not always reflecting on her past either. “Boots” is a very cool, fun song that shows her having moved on and found love. “Woman” is sort of like a more mature version of one of her older songs, and “Bastards” and “Let ’em Talk,” although both serious, serve to provide a lighthearted way of saying we should ignore the well, bastards, in our lives, and move on from the hatred. This record ends like that with the very cool, very atmospheric “Spaceship,” where she asserts that in death, she’ll finally be able to escape all that hatred and fly off to her home in another galaxy. This one has got to be the most interesting as far as production, so if you are drawn to weird production, I urge you to check that one out.
So, if you like pop albums, this is absolutely the best one I have heard in 2017 without question. If you are more staunchly rooted in country, i still say check out “Hunt You down” and “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You).” If you like interesting production , there may be a lot for you to enjoy here because there’s quite a bit of diversity and certainly some intriguing collaboration choices. Some of you might just hate this because well, it’s not your style, but it pleasantly surprised me, and it gave me passion to write, which is more than I can say for many country projects that have come out recently. Not in the business of rating pop albums because well, for one, I don’t listen to them as regularly as country and therefore don’t have as much to compare this to, and also because I’m no authority on pop music, but if I’m just rating this against stuff I’ve heard in 2017, without consideration of genre, this gets a solid, strong 8.
Standout Tracks: “Praying,” “Boots,” “hunt You Down,” “Spaceship,” “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)”