Kesha's "High Road" Is a Beautiful Mess

Kesha enlists Brian Wilson, Sturgill Simpson, and old Ke$ha to create a sometimes jarring portrait of herself, past, present, and future.

Kesha's fourth album High Road begins with a near-perfect hook.

"Tonight is the best night of our lives," she sings over an ear-worm of a chord progression, voice awashed in auto-tune. Suddenly the music stops. "B*tch, pick up your phone," a voice says. "We're going out."

It's jarring, tongue-in cheek, and a bit messy, like the rest of High Road. Kesha's always toyed with the limits of pop, balancing kitsch and genuineness, and true to form, High Road ricochets back and forth between pristine euphoria and camp, between childlike wonder and jaded ennui.

On "Shadow," Kesha flips between reflectiveness and crudeness. "Imma love you even though you hate me," she sings. "Hate is the poison, love's the elixir. If you don't like me you can suck my…." Her voice spirals into a choir of eerily beautiful harmonies, perhaps one of the more elegant arrangements that the phrase "you can suck my" has ever been spun into.

Maybe the contrast is the point. Kesha is an artist, but her medium is pop music's cliches and reliable symbolism. She pulls from other stars, sometimes copying Cardi B's flow, arguably adopting a bit of a blaccent in songs like "Honey." The transition from "Honey" to "Cowboy Blues," an ethereal, deeply beautiful acoustic number that mentions cats and talks with therapists and tarot cards, is also startling. At times, walking through High Road can feel like traveling through a bunch of different sets in Hollywood—a party, then a bedroom scene, then a desert under the stars. It's hard not to think of Lil Nas X's kaleidoscopic rendition of "Old Town Road" at this year's Grammys; Kesha's album feels like a similarly endless rotation through a carousel of lights and sounds.

Hovering over High Road is the well-known story of Kesha's past. Her fraught relationship with Dr. Luke dominated the headlines for months, exploding after Kesha accused him of abuse that nearly ended her life and attempted to free herself of her contract with him. The case dragged on and on, and when Kesha was finally able to break the chains, what followed was 2017's Rainbow, crowned by the breathtaking power ballad "Praying."

High Road finds Kesha borrowing from the ragged seriousness of that era, choosing to blend it with the glittery, vodka-soaked, gold-tooth fragments of her past and adding a sprinkle of openhearted optimism. Some of the album is so saccharine and manufactured that it's hard to listen to—the calliope-influenced, "Potato Song" could soundtrack mind-bendingly annoying TikToks—but it redeems itself with moments of beauty that feel like deep breaths. Similarly, the cosmic folky flashpoint "Chasing Thunder" is an inspiring power ballad which offers more scope than the glitchy cliches of the earlier bangers, but it winds up losing some of its power as it progresses instead of building to a truly satisfying chorus.

Few albums contain such an even mix of beauty and stupidity, of ugliness and effervescence. Kesha pulls it off with a wink, taking the high road and shrugging off the heaviest parts of the suffering that weighed over her for the past decade while not denying their existence. She practices self-confidence, but at the same time, she searches for unreliable men as if they could save her—an absent father and a man she briefly met at a Nashville bar both represent paths towards redemption and innocence that went untaken. Now all she has is herself and her scars, and she both celebrates them and mourns what could've been.

Maybe that's what we need nowadays—a movement towards optimism that doesn't disavow pain and suffering. Maybe we should be like Kesha on High Road, embracing the fact that none of us are just one thing; we're all collages of shallowness, mistakes, triumphs, Netflix binges, wild parties, best friends, transcendent experiences, days spent in bed, heartache, daddy issues, anxiety, clarity, and everything in between.

Kesha certainly thinks so. "You can be a woman who goes out and you party, and you have drinks … and you smoke some weed, and then you get a tattoo," she said to The Atlantic. "And then the next day you go for a run, and then you meditate, and then you go to the studio and write a song about a totally different emotion. That's just what being human is."


Kesha Talks Emotional Wreckage, Glitter, and Her Upcoming Album

The pop star examined her past and future in a new interview with Billboard.

This December, Kesha is releasing her first album since 2017's Rainbow.

While not exactly downbeat, Rainbow was certainly a marked shift from her previous work, which was mostly about partying the night away and drowning oneself in glitter and liquor. If you thought that Kesha had disappeared along with the $ in her name, think again. In a new interview with Billboard, she said "I got my b*lls back, and they're bigger than ever."

She wants you to know that this isn't a renunciation of the more serious side she showed on Rainbow, though. "Everything goes up and down, and I think it probably will for the rest of my life," she added. "So you ride the highs, and you write songs about an awesome night where you go and meet Elton John and get f*cked up and lose your phone in the Uber, and sometimes you write songs about what it might have been like if you grew up with a father, because you have absolutely no clue. And hopefully, by now, the world has realized that you can be multidimensional."

Kesha - It Ain't Me, Babe [Billboard Music Awards 2016] HD 1080p

Kesha - Woman (Official Video) ft. The Dap-Kings Horns

People can be party girls and multifaceted, complex human beings at the same time. Who knew?

Apparently, Kesha is doing better than ever, and she's back to the place she was when she started making music, before everything happened with Dr. Luke and all the ugliness that surrounded those events. "It feels more earned and healthier than ever," she said of her newfound healthy state of mind. "I dug through the emotional wreckage, and now, I can go back to talking a little bit of sh*t."

Her next album will be a return to the exuberant, neon-saturated pop that launched her career. "I really wanted to put a solid footprint back into pop music, like, 'I can do this, and I can do this on my own,'" she continued. "I don't know if this is my last pop record, but I want to have one where I go out with a bang."

The followup to Rainbow will be released in December.

New Releases

Taylor Swift Finally Has Something to Say

With an awkward (albeit successful) transition from country to pop, the star struggled to grow and change with fans, but now Swift is rediscovering her voice

Wee see you, Taylor.

Image Source: Getty

After a decade of heart-wrenching, soul-shaking, and groundbreaking love songs and breakup anthems, Taylor Swift is finally singing about something bigger than herself.

Whether the criticism for being apolitical wore her down or she needed to rebrand to stay relevant by cultivating a newer, younger fan base, we're relieved. Swift's Reputation era left some fans disappointed. They expected her to tackle the media and her "reputation," but instead, Swift victimized herself and gave us nothing new or lasting. Her latest rollout is plastered with pastel rainbows, making some question if Swift is hinting at something about her sexuality, especially since her most recent single, "ME!," was a rumored coming out. With her new single, "You Need to Calm Down," Swift is finally beginning to break down her walls, calling out the negative nellies of the world and celebrating self-expression.

An anti-hate anthem isn't a new idea for Swift, but here she dedicates a whole verse to uplifting her LGBTQ+ fans. The notable verse smoothly articulates homophobia as a waste of energy: "Why are you mad when you could be GLAAD? / Sunshine on the street at the parade / But you would rather be in the dark ages / Makin' that sign must've taken all night." The sly spelling of GLAAD could go unnoticed, but her lyric "Shade never made anybody less gay" doesn't beat around the bush. She even celebrates gender expression, gutsily asking in the refrain, "Can you just not step on his gown?" "You Need to Calm down" is the adult "Mean": Swift uses the external instead of the personal to explore societal hate, effectively grounding her message in everyday examples.

For the first time in three albums, a Taylor Swift pre-album single is intriguing and insightful. While expectations were low after "ME!," "You Need to Calm Down" delivers a Swift we've never heard before: a grown woman speaking her mind. At last, she's hit her cool-girl stride, effortlessly blending vocals with spoken word components. With an awkward (albeit successful) transition from country to pop, the star struggled to grow and change with fans, but now Swift is rediscovering her voice. She's no longer the raw, thumping country-rock adolescent; she's an adult using her platform to speak out about greater issues. Hopefully, this Taylor sticks around.


The Best Moments from the 2019 Tonys

James Corden celebrated the Tony Awards winners of 2019, from newcomers like "Hadestown" to revived classics like "Oklahoma!"

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

A female director finally won.

New York City (the superior city) beat out Hollywood last night—proving theater is superior entertainment. Rachel Chavkin, the only female director on Broadway right now, won Best Direction for Hadestown and made sure no one will forget it. She proclaimed that the lack of diversity in the industry is "not a pipeline issue. It is a failure of imagination by a field whose job is to imagine the way the world could be. So let's do it." Brava.

Rachel Chavkin Wins Best Direction Of A Musical At The 2019 Tony Awards

Hadestown Awareness

Speaking of Hadestown, the show's 14 nominations resulted in 5 wins and exposure for those who had yet to hear about the phenomenal show. The performance of "Wait for Me" piqued the interest of many who had never seen something like it before. Let's just say ticket sales are now booming.

The Cast Of Hadestown Performs "Wait For Me" At The 2019 Tony Awards

A Taylor Mac Appearance

His outfit alone was delightful enough to be a marvelous moment, but Mac outdid himself. Mac introduced his play, Gary, A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, lighting up the room with a smile while explaining the horrifying premise.

Playwright Taylor Mac Shines As He Describes Gary: A Sequel To Titus Andronicus At The 2019 Tony …

Billy Porter Owns Every Red Carpet

best moments tonys 2019 billy porter

Enough said.

Elaine May is Marvelous

The six decade career-actress spoke humbly, noting, "I've never won a nomination for acting before." The 87-year-old not only gave away her character's ending in The Waverly Gallery, but cracked a few jokes along the way. The short and sweet speech was a perfect moment for the icon. Bless her.

Elaine May Wins Best Leading Actress In A Play At The 2019 Tony Awards

Being Reminded Oklahoma! Is a Great Musical

Oklahoma! is definitely benefitting from the comeback of yeehaw culture. Between Ali Stoker's heartfelt speech and the fun, catchy performance, the cast proved Oklahoma! earned its Best Revival Tony.

Ali Stroker Wins Best Featured Actress In A Musical At The 2019 Tony Awards

The Cast Of Oklahoma! Performs "I Cain't Say No/ Oklahoma" At The 2019 Tony Awards

SISTAR domination has officially crossed over into 2014, with the group's lead vocalist, Soyou, hitting No. 1 this week with her Junggigo duet, "Some."

The breezy midtempo takes the top spot by a rather large margin, and could very well remain there next week if its current digital sales are anything to go by.

"Some" is the second solo No. 1 for Soyou, and if you add up all of SISTAR's chart-toppers between their solos, group songs, and sub-units, they've amassed nine altogether.

SM the Ballad is the other big winner this week, with their single "Breath" entering at No. 3, followed by "A Day Without You" at No. 8, and "Set Me Free" at No. 18.

Ga-In falls out the top ten, with "Truth or Dare" slipping to No. 11 and "Fxxk U" dropping to No. 13, while AOA's "Miniskirt" holds steady at No. 14 for another week.

Girl's Day's "Something" also leaves the top ten for the first time, dipping down to No. 16 after eight weeks. It's currently the biggest hit of the year and is still ranking high on Korea's various digital charts, so don't expect it to disappear just yet.

SPICA's "You Don't Love Me" slips five spots to No. 21, while B.A.P's "Angel (1004)" is down to No. 23.

Ladies' Code's "So Wonderful" comes in at No. 33, narrowly out-peaking their debut single, "Bad Girl," which peaked one spot lower. It's a disappointing entry by the group's standards considering that their last two singles made the top twenty, but don't count them out just yet -- not only is there a chance that they could jump higher next week, but Ladies' Code are also known for their chart longevity, so "So Wonderful" could end up making decent sales in the long run.

Speaking of longevity, Rainbow Blaxx's "Cha Cha" is at No. 37 exactly one month after its initial release. It's not exactly what you'd classify as a hit, but it's hung around much longer than anybody expected it to.

A big new debut this week is the controversial STELLAR, who enter at No. 42 with "Marionette," and at No. 1 on the Social Chart. This might not sound like much, but considering that up until this point STELLAR's singles barely scraped into the lower end of the top 100, it's not too bad at all. "Marionette" is also one of the most-viewed K-pop videos of the year, amassing over 2 million views in its first week alone, and the song itself is already guaranteed to have a longer chart run than their previous singles, so overall STELLAR's comeback should be considered a success by their standards.

Check out this week's new K-pop hits, below!

No. 1. Soyou & Junggigo - Some

No. 3. SM the Ballad - Breathe

No. 6. Hyorin - Let It Go

No. 33. Ladies' Code - So Wonderful

No. 42. STELLAR - Marionette

It's been a long hard road for B.A.P, but the talented boy band has finally earned some much-deserved recognition this week with their first ever top ten single on Korea's official Gaon chart.

Their latest tune, "1004 (Angel)," enters at No. 9 this week, beating their previous career best of No. 15 for "Rain Sound." Considering that "1004 (Angel)" has B.A.P adopting a more radio-friendly sound compared to their previous hip-hop, rock, and experimental singles, it's no big shock to see that this is the one to become their first top ten. Additionally, the boys also won their first music program award last night on Show Champion, further adding to their already successful comeback.

Over at the top of the chart, Idina Menzel's unstoppable "Let It Go" spends a second week at No. 1, while SISTAR's Soyu and Geeks' JungGiGo's new collaboration single, "Some," enters at No. 3.

Ga-In's "Fxxk U" slips from 3-6 this week, while her other comeback track, "Truth or Dare," makes its debut at No. 8 -- giving the Brown Eyed Girls' songstress two top ten singles at once.

AOA's surprise hit, "Miniskirt," is down three spots to No. 14, followed by B1A4's "Lonely" at No. 15, and SPICA's "You Don't Love Me" at No. 16.

Rainbow Blaxx's "Cha Cha" rises one spot to No. 24, while Lee Min Woo's "Taxi" debuts at No. 31, followed closely by Rain's new digital single, "I Love You," at No. 32.

Down at the lower end of the chart, GP Basic's new single "Pika Burnjuck" arrives No. 183.


Check out this week's biggest new K-pop hits, below!

No. 3. Soyu & JunGiGo - Some

No. 8. Ga-In - Truth or Dare

No. 9. B.A.P - 1004 (Angel)

No. 31. Lee Min Woo - Taxi

No. 32. Rain - I Love You