With all these pop megastars caught up in the scramble for the chart-topping position every week, it has become very hard to tell if pop is an honest outlet of expression or hollow shell of sound just trying to buy its success. However, the tides are beginning to turn as artists like Rhianna, Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga are ditching the plastic rhetoric and pushing pop to become a genuine outlet of progression – even challenging! Chart reigning diva Kesha Rose Sebert certainly makes an argument for this on her latest album Rainbow.

The run up to this record hasn’t been the smoothest for the singer to say the least. Filing lawsuits of sexual and emotional abuse against her previous producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, who had the thirty-year-old Californian in an unforgiving creative vice grip, had a career crippling affect that should have spelled the end of the singer. Churning out warm, distasteful trash in the past, this puts Rainbow into perspective as not only a career best, but an arguable challenger for pop album of 2017.

Having her entire career dictated by Dr. Luke, Rainbow is a reflection of who and how Kesha should sound, which she executes perfectly in her infectiously obnoxious style that she’s mastered. This change of direction from nonsensical bubble-gum crass, to an honest and sentimental sound is refreshing beyond belief, a sound that Kesha herself has argued to be her most honest work to date.

She wears her Nashville roots on her sleeve, as these songs feel more organic than the cookie cutter formula we’ve succumbed to from the 00’s through to the early-mid 2010’s. Having fought for more rock-based songs, which given her ‘No fucks to be given here’ attitude, this is a promising step forward for the singer that totally makes sense, complementing her style perfectly. With notable appearances from the band Eagles Of Death Metal and the queen of country herself, Dolly Parton, who pops in to say hello on the track ‘Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)’, there are no shortage of bangers spread across the record.

Right off the bat, ‘Bastards’ is a big ole slice of ‘fuck you pie’, which pretty much sets the tone of the whole album. An empowering start that has the conviction of someone who has everything and nothing to lose. The Gottwald sound is long gone, and with that it does feel that the record has a point to prove, which Rainbow never really lets you forget.

With a statement such as this, ‘Woman, Praying’ and title track ‘Rainbow’ all help to drive the themes of female empowerment, independence and redemption home, all in a very digestible way that her audience can fully grasp. It’s an all new and vastly improved Kesha alright, but rest assured, fans won’t be denied their party anthems and straight-up belters as her signature stamp is present throughout.

Running in at 14-tracks, it’s ambitious for what this album is trying to achieve. Out-staying it’s welcome to a degree, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all, given the points she’s hammering home deserve the time and contemplation to be understood. The dynamics and structure is a little unusual, dipping in and out of ballad to banger at the drop of a hat. The pieces are there, it just feels they were dropped on the floor and jumbled back together rather than arranged with the context in mind.

Given the level of resistance that Kesha faced in the wake of this record, it’s a miracle that it even made it to the shelves at all. This is a testament to the singer’s talents as a legitimate songwriter. Not only defying monstrous odds, but being able to pull off a decent album while doing so is a commending achievement. Without a shadow of a doubt, this is her most important album to date. Where it will take her, who knows? But we are more than invested to see what happens next.

Rainbow is out now via Kemosabe.

By Hywel Davies

Cardiff based freelance music/media journalist.