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Album Review

Kesha comes out swinging on her third album. In the opening lines of album opener "B--tards," she throws down the gauntlet: "I got too many people/I got left to prove wrong."

The 14 tracks that follow sound like Kesha's very own declaration of independence: "Been underestimated/My entire life," she continues in that track. "But they won't break my spirit," she insists. Then there's this: "Don't let the b--tards get you down." That jarring contrast—between gritty determination and vulgar indulgence—permeates Rainbows.

As I wrote in my review of this album's first single, "Praying," Kesha has spent the last few years in a legal battle with her former producer, Dr. Luke, over Kesha's allegations of sexual abuse.

Her battle scars are more than evident here.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

"Praying" is a remarkable song, one that certainly seems to address Kesha's conflict with Dr. Luke. The result of this conflict, she says, is resilience: "I can thank you for how strong I have become." Instead of wallowing in bitterness, Kesha hopes her former antagonist is growing spiritually: "I hope you're somewhere praying, praying/I hope your soul is changing, changing/I hope you find your peace/Falling on your knees, praying." Elsewhere, lyrics reference her petitions on his behalf and reference forgiveness.

On "Learn to Let Go," Kesha refuses to let difficulties define her identity ("You don't gotta be a victim"). She recognizes clinging to hurts is a recipe for disaster ("Life ain't always fair, but hell is living in resentment/Choose redemption, your happy ending's up to you"). She says she's had to learn to "exorcise the demons inside of me" and to relinquish her pain. "Rainbow" repeatedly (albeit profanely) acknowledges our brokenness, but it also suggests that we can flourish (color is a metaphor for vitality throughout the song) despite our suffering.

"Finding You" yearns for an eternal love, even as Kesha doubts such a thing is possible: "I know forever don't exist/But after this life, I'll find you in the next."

"B--tards," despite its vulgar title, delivers an uplifting message: not to let critics define us. Kesha says those voices "been too mean for too long," but insists "I won't let them win." "Let 'Em Talk" deals with similar themes.

On "Woman," Kesha sings about working hard and not being able to be bought by men trying to impress her with their money. Meanwhile, "Hunt You Down" warns (again, sadly, with profanity) a new beau not to cheat on her. Despite suggestive imagery, "Boots" hints at Kesha's longing for an intense love affair to become a permanent one.

"Hymn" mentions "dreamers searchin' for truth." We also hear, "Who we are is no mistake/This is just the way we're made," lines that could be heard positively or problematically depending upon how they're interpreted.

Objectionable Content

Seven of Rainbow's 14 tracks include harsh profanities, including frequent f-words (often paired with "mother"), s-words, as well as less-frequent uses of "b--tard," "a--," "d--n," "d--k" and "g--d--n."

"Let 'Em Talk" advocates individualistic hedonism: "Do your thing/ … We're the kings, life is just our party palace." Later she adds, "Do whatever makes you happy/ … Shake that a--, don't care if they talk about it." Kesha also uses a crude reference to oral sex to further tell off "all the haters everywhere."

"Woman" defines being female in some of the album's harshest language as it repeatedly says, "I'm a m-----f---ing woman/ … 'Cause I run my s---." "Finding You" alludes to the first time a couple had sex. "Boots" talks of how Kesha's guy likes seeing her wearing those … and nothing else. That song also includes a wink at marijuana usage: "Just a rollin' stoner on a roll."

Despite a reference to "truth" early on, "Hymn" devolves into an anthem for "kids with no religion." Kesha sings, "Yeah, we keep on sinning/ … I know that I'm perfect, even though I'm f---ed up/Hymn for the hymnless, don't need no forgiveness." Then she adds, "'Cause if there's a heaven, don't care if we get in." Since there's no real meaning or hope in life, Kesha advises pursuing pleasure: "So we just ride, we just cruise/Livin' like there's nothing left to lose."

"Hunt You Down" playfully threatens to murder a guy if he cheats: "Life is so perfect when you walk the line/Baby, I love you so much/Don't make me kill you."

"Boogie Feet" suggests dancing is about as good as it gets in a world without meaning: "Why waste time in your mind?/There's no wrong, there's no right/Cuckoo bananas unite/ … Life's a hello, a goodbye/The last laugh, then you die/I boogie because I'm alive."

Album closer "Spaceship" finds Kesha hoping in an afterlife populated by aliens who come for her after she dies. (Really.) "Don't lay me down with the dirt on my head/ … I'm waiting for my spaceship to come back to me/ ... Lord knows this planet feels like a hopeless place/Thank God I'm going back home to outer space."

Summary Advisory

Rainbows might best be compared to a pinball careening chaotically off the bumpers. Stylistically, Kesha veers from pop to country to rock, with Dolly Parton and the Eagles of Death Metal among her guests here. Personally, Kesha veers between aching confessions and superficial songs about partying and wearing only her boots for a beau. Philosophically, Kesha veers in multiple directions at once. She can express a yearning for eternity—and maybe even God—one moment. The next, she's denying the possibility of spiritual truth or meaning.

"Spaceship," the album's final song, closes with Kesha's spoken-word kaleidoscope of cosmic perspectives colliding all at once: "As I leave this earth and sail into the infinite cosmos of the universe, the wars, the triumphs, the beauty, and the bloodshed, the ocean of human endeavor, it all grows quite, insignificant. I'm nothing more than recycled stardust and borrowed energy, born from a rock, spinning into either. I watch my life backwards and forwards and I feel free. Nothing is real, love is everything, and I know nothing."

Rainbows arches over all that philosophical inconsistency—often very vulgarly so. I think Kesha wants to believe that love really is everything, a hint of something bigger and better than just being "recycled stardust." But she has a hard time getting there, despite her admirable determination at times. And when she can't quite make that leap, empty hedonism usually seems like the next best option to her.

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Debuted at No. 1.

Record Label

Kemosabe Records, RCA

Platform

Publisher

Released

August 11, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Adam R. Holz

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