Review Summary: Fuck 'em - let 'em talk
A confession: it's been a long road to get here, and I say this with the air of one admitting to a dark secret, shoulders hunched and eyes downcast… I think I might be a poptimist
. I don't mean to be self-deprecating – when did a phrase so prominently containing the word 'optimist' become a dirty word, anyway" – but it's the truth. I have in-depth arguments with friends about how Lorde has subverted expectations of pop music in 2017. I theorise about the notes, sounds, qualities that make a pop song perfect throughout musical history. I have spent late night hours trying to find tracklists for Blonde
which flow more naturally to my $2 instant gratification-craving ears. We all have to accept our identity, in other words, and there's no use hiding that one from my Tool-jamming, sneering-at-the-Top-40 friends anymore.
I'm using humour to lower the stakes of this analysis, but in all seriousness: it's the bold, brilliant, shameless pop stars that help people accept who they are, whoever that may be. And make no mistake, Rainbow
is steadfastly, stubbornly about embracing a new identity. Everything from the misleadingly psychedelic cover art to a deeply sentimental Dolly Parton appearance (on a song written by Kesha's mother, no less, if you thought the emotion was unearned) colour this album as a re-claiming of identity and independence. Even putting aside its lyrics – which are not so much from the heart as from somewhere deep in the gut, fuelled by acid and bile and vitriol - "Praying" firmly plants this album's flag as a showcase for Kesha's technical abilities, as she flaunts an incredible vocal range over a simplistic piano melody. "Bastards" is perfectly placed as an album opener, catching you off guard with a quiet country beginning which erupts into a euphoric layered chorus of "na na nas", paying tribute to the past while planting itself firmly in the present. Two guest appearances by the Eagles of Death Metal might raise some eyebrows, but the well-titled "Let 'Em Talk" immediately makes it clear that neither artist really give a fuck if you think the combo works or not. A breakneck slice of glorious power pop underpinned by Jesse Hughes' garage riffs scorches away any lingering doubts that this will be a soft, intimate album; Kesha is here with foot on the floor to outrace her demons, leaving burnt rubber and a sweetly sung "I've decided all the haters everywhere can suck my dick" kiss-off in her wake. "Woman"'s funk/electro swing/whatever combo shouldn't work, and it probably doesn't, but the conscious decision to keep the recording of her voice dissolving into fits of laughter in the second verse reinforces what really makes Rainbow
a great album – the fact that it is not, and never was meant for you.
This is a Kesha freeing herself of the dollar sign in both name and motivator (sorry, that was just screaming to be used) and embracing country, funk, garage rock and whatever else she wants. Whether she's taking on Trump, Dr. Luke, or the myriad of cynical pop culture obsessives who no doubt will be on the internet within minutes registering their disgust across the world, Rainbow
is for one person only, and she'll sing a ballad about Godzilla's poor social manners if she damn well feels like it. It doesn't all work, of course, and that kind of wacky humour nestled alongside self-empowerment anthems can be jarring, but it's all in service of Kesha re-discovering the fun, the joy, the rainbow. Let's get one thing damn clear, too: this is not some ephemeral poetic shimmer of sunlight on raindrops, glimpsed from your car's side mirror as you briefly remember how excited you used to get over that kinda stuff when you were young. Nah, this rainbow was born in the fucking earth, moulded from grit and hardened by perseverance, something jagged kept in a secret pocket until it started to burn then thrown up into the air, sharp edges intact, to refract its colours all around the world.