Capsule Review: High Road

A few thoughts about Kesha’s new album, High Road:

High Road_Kesha

The Bad: So who is the real Kesha? Is she the party animal from her “Tik Tok” days – drinking Jack, bathing in glitter, rapping her way through verses and not giving a fuck? Or, is she the fully matured songwriter that made 2017’s Rainbow such a charming and brutally honest record. Well, if this album is any indication, she’s both. There are a fair share of ballads on High Road, and they’re all passable, but, hearing Kesha unabashedly try to go back to her old sing-song rapping style on a fair number of the tracks on here (especially at the beginning of the record) is awfully disappointing. I wouldn’t go as far to say that most of the “party songs”sound forced; instead it plays to me like an artist who wants to do what she wants for the first time, without being pressured by producers, or addressing the lawsuit that sidelined her entire career for five full years.

Maybe she doesn’t really know who she wants to be. Maybe she wants to play both sides and is still figuring it all out. I will say that it doesn’t help the case for the old Ke$ha that the hooks in the party songs aren’t as strong as they once were and many of the lyrics swerve from supremely meaningless to downright bad. Ultimately, it’s a tough call for an artist who has so much talent and can pull off so many different styles.

kesha2
Ke$ha in 2010 vs Kesha in 2018. We get a little bit of each on High Road.

The Good: Frankly, it’s just good to have Kesha around. There was a period of five years where she legally couldn’t put out any new music. Any new Kesha is a welcome sight, since we were probably closer than we think to never hearing from her again, and she clearly has an abundance of talent, no matter what style she chooses.

Kesha’s strengths on High Road are a bit buried, especially on an album that probably could have been trimmed by at least 3 or 4 tracks. “Cowboy Blues” gives us a sweet taste of the wonderful acoustic sounds that Kesha gave to us on the latter half of Rainbow, while “Resentment,” which features Sturgill Simpson and Brian Wilson, is another slice of brutally honest and emotional music without getting too sappy.

Meanwhile, there are a couple good upbeat songs, namely the back to back of the video game style of “Birthday Suit,” and the hooky “Kinky.” They’re both playful and provide natural fun, without resorting to the “I lost my phone again” or “fuck you” antics of the first few tracks on here.

Kesha vs Ke$ha: “Kinky” features “Ke$ha,” her old stage name. It marks the first time that I’ve ever seen or heard of an artist feature themselves on a track. I was really hoping that it would feature some long lost vocal takes or samples from the dollar sign days, but, it doesn’t appear to have any older material in it, at least not directly.

kesha
“I’m very excited for the world to hear Kinky! i really want to reclaim all sides of my voice on this album and embrace where I’m at everything I’ve gone through, and that includes Ke$ha. She was how I first got introduced to this world and how I met so many of my fans and also I’m kinda taking the piss of the fact that I have 2 names. i think sense of humor is a big part of my personality and i want to make sure i maintain that and my fans should know i dont take myself that seriously” – Kesha on “Kinky”

CAUSE I WANT TO: There’s a song on here called “Potato Song (Cuz I Want To).” You can skip it…cause you’ll want to!

 

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