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A Track-By-Track First Impression Of Kesha – ‘High Road’

Written By Sam Murphy on 01/31/2020
Kesha 'High Road'

It’s been a long road, but three years after the last Kesha album Rainbow she’s bringing the party on High Road. Here are our initial thoughts.

1. Tonight

This is the most in-line with the old Kesha. It houses a stirring single that’s absolutely disintegrated by the beat that follows it. “Bitch we’re going out tonight,” is one of the best lines on the album, to be honest, and gets you really excited about the prospect of party KE$HA.

2. My Own Dance

We’re already familiar with this one and it sounds good coming off the back of Tonight. The verses are excellent but the Imagine Dragons’ influence jumps out in the chorus which may be a little much for some, including me.

3. Raising Hell

One of the best singles Kesha has released in her career. It encapsulates the spiritual side of Rainbow and the ratchet antics of her early records while forging forward. Vocally, she sounds powerful and she’s perfectly complimented by Big Freedia’s hyping in the chorus.

4. High Road

“I’m taking the high road, I’m high as fuck and these assholes won’t shut up,” is quite the line to begin the title track on. The song itself is not quite as aggressive as the lyric would have you believe. The chorus elevates while the verses see her back on her rap game with things like, “Why y’all think I’m fucking mental.” Raucous good fun.

5. Shadow

Coming in at the same point as Praying on the last record, Kesha hits us with the stirring ballad of the bunch. It doesn’t deliver quite the suckerpunch that Praying did but it’s a nice reminder of the emotion she can deliver with that voice. Shadow is all about positivity, reminding everyone that this is no place for anyone who wants to bring her down. While Rainbow at points felt like she was taking on her haters face-to-face, on High Road, she’s walking away.

6. Honey

This is such an interesting one. A co-write with Tayla Parx, it’s a blues-tinged soul number with a chorus that sounds like TLC gone acoustic. This one is going to catch your attention and it’s impossible to drift by. On first listen, it stands out for me as one of the more exciting tracks on the record.

7. Cowboy Blues

It seems we have well-and-truly left the party at this point. Driven by one single guitar, Cowboy Blues sees Kesha pondering whether she’ll ever find love. “Did I fuck my whole life up,” she sings but she knows she’s being ridiculous, going into comical detail in the bridges.

8. Resentment

We’ve heard this one and we love it. One of the strongest songs Kesha has ever written and it really stands out on the record. Such an intimate and fragile moment of self-reflection that only a popstar like Kesha could do convincingly. Her voice atop Sturgill Simpson’s is really beautiful.

9. Little Bit Of Love

Ayyy, it looks like we’ve re-entered the party. This is a quirky, marching band-inspired cut that packs a real punch in the chorus. “You’re going to miss me when I’ve gone to the afterlife,” she sings as voices chant, “ah woo-ooh”. It’s a lot of fun and she flexes her vocals hard at the tail-end.

10. Birthday Suit

It’s a Nintendo 65-inspired moment and it’s a lot of fun. The choruses are literally made out of Super Mario sounds and somehow she pulls it off without it being a complete gimmick. Melodically, the bridges here are some of the catchiest on the entire record. Excluding the singles, this is the one I’d return to immediately after it finishes.

11. Kinky (Feat. Ke$ha)

Kinky literally features the old Ke$ha and you can hear it in those seductive verses plucked straight from the Animal-era. The choruses, however, go for more of an ’80s vibe that aren’t really that crazy. Still, it’s one of the more delectable moments on the record – particularly that beat switch-up at the end.

12. Potato Song (Cuz I Want To)

Kesha’s mind is wild which makes this album simultaneously exciting and confusing. Potato Song is one of the strangest songs on the album but it works because it’s a 100 per cent representation of her personality. Sounding like it’s come straight from the circus, it’s a wonky declaration of liberation that critiques information overload and materialism.

13. BFF (Feat. Wrabel)

Some people will find this cute but it’s not for me. Sonically, it’s the outlier on the record. It’s shiny and and cutesy which just doesn’t really work in context. The painfully specific lyrics are also overkill.

14. Father Daughter Dance

Here are some very specific lyrics that actually work. Father Daughter Dance is a really sweet ballad, sweetened with some gentle vocal effects. “I wish my heart wasn’t broken from the start,” she sings in the orchestral chorus. Standing ovation for that key change too.

15. Chasing Thunder

Goddamit, she sounds good here. Those little vocal licks when she sings, “never grow old,” are just *chefs kiss*. This song makes a very good case for Kesha as a country singer and really acts as the emotional compass of the record. Complete with hand claps and choirs, it’s a liberating song that could only work on the backend of the album. I don’t think she could’ve given us something this optimistic on the last record and it’s heartening to see she’s arrived here.

16. Summer

We love a little summer nostalgia to close out the album. Producer Ryan Lewis make his sole appearance of the album here and does a great job bringing the theatrics. Kesha sounds comfortable and playful, ending the record on a warm note.

Overall

At almost an hour long, High Road feels like a lengthy road. It’s filled with euphoric highs and emotional lows, pairing ratchet party tunes with acoustic country songs. She definitely could’ve taken scissors to a few of the songs here but overall High Road feels like a triumph for Kesha. For the past few years, things beyond her control have dominated her narrative and for the first time here she’s stepped out of that and reclaimed her own happiness. We’re happy to have party Kesha back but we’re only happy because it’s believable. From the messy ramblings of Tonight to the gameboy sounds of Birthday Suit, High Road is a blast.