Kesha – “High Road” Album Review

Story posted February 5, 2020 in

Returning with a blast of nostalgia, Kesha dips back into her original aesthetic with a bold return to form on her latest release “High Road.” Transitioning between mosh pit party rock and solid ballad interludes, Kesha attempts to strike a fair balance between her previous and current style.

Riding high at the top of the charts, Ke$ha initially entered the airwaves with a solid string of hits in 2010. With tracks like “Your Love Is My Drug,” “We R Who We R” and the iconic “TiK ToK” rocketing her to the front of the pop mainstream, Ke$ha seemed to be the biggest rising star in pop music at the time. However, suddenly Ke$ha disappeared from the spotlight.

The singer’s international success was quickly struck down by a series of legal battles with her then producer Dr. Luke. Dropping the “$” from her name and reinventing herself, Kesha then returned to the public eye with her 2017 release “Rainbow.” Exploring the gap of time when she was hidden from notoriety, Kesha came clean about her battle with drugs, struggles with her self-image and legal issues with her producer Dr. Luke.

Reigning in the same energy she wielded on “Rainbow,” Kesha returns once again with a solid attempt to retrieve much of the acclaim she was deprived of during her years in silence.

Opening with the striking “Tonight,” Kesha begins the album with a solid slow presentation of her lifting vocals. However, with a quick pivot, the song shifts to a dance club mix anthem. Laying down a gauntlet which the rest of the album is then challenged to live up to, Kesha promises her listeners a flood of nostalgia as she reintroduces her previous synth-pop sound.

Channeling the Ke$ha side of herself alongside her reinvented self, Kesha openly expresses her challenges with moving between her two styles as she proceeds forward with her career on the brilliant “My Own Dance.” This track sums up Kesha’s situation perfectly. Be the party girl? Be the tragedy? Submit to the haters? Bend to the fans? Should she try to appease everyone? Or just f**king sing? Kesha daringly announces that she refuses to be pulled into opposing directions by those around her, and instead decides that she will follow her own direction.

The album then moves to the flashy country infused “Raising Hell.” Featuring the boisterous Big Freedia, Kesha parallels the liberation brought by religion with the freedom felt while allowing yourself to hang loose on a lighthearted queer dance track.

The album then transitions to the dazzling “High Road.” Playful and sassy, Kesha declares to her listeners that she is forging her own path backed by a bright pop beat.

The album maintains its momentum with the soulful “Shadow.” Slowing things down to allow her impressive range to take the stage, Kesha valiantly proclaims that she is not going to pay any mind to anyone who attempts to drag her down. 

The album then begins to drift into a bit of a chaotic scramble. There are several moments where Kesha really goes off the ledge, such as the off-beat “The Potato Song (Cuz I Want To)” and the oddly composed “Birthday Suit.” While these tracks are not by any means unlistenable, they fail to satisfy compared to the extent of interesting territory that Kesha explores earlier on the record.

Unfortunately, “High Road” is very frontloaded and the latter half of the album feels like it suffers from a lack of direction. However, the album is very generous with its 15-track composition. Other highlights on the album include the effervescent “Little Bit of Love,” the bouncy “BFF,” the suggestive “Kinky” and the somber “Father Daughter Dance.”

Kesha covers a lot of ground on this record. While it’s true that Kesha loses a bit of her direction because of the sheer size of the album, overall it is a very enjoyable listen. Kesha also impressively discovers a satisfying blend between her initial unhinged party personality and her fresh semi-country ballad approach.

Refusing to be a victim, Kesha is back with a vengeance. Instead of viewing Kesha’s return to her older sound as a regression, it should be seen as a recovery. Kesha was effectively silenced by her legal battles with Dr. Luke. She held her tongue for several years and now refuses to do so. She owns her sound; she makes it clear that her voice is her property. While it is evident that she still has some kinks to work out as she rediscovers her groove, “High Road” marks Kesha’s recovery of her rightful position at the forefront of the pop mainstream.

Rating: 7/ 10

Reviewer’s Favorite Song: “My Own Dance”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Song: “Birthday Suit”

 

Scott Perdue is a junior majoring in secondary education. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.