Kesha’s ‘High Road’ rewrites her narrative

The personal lyrics and colorful production of her new album make it one to play on repeat


"June-8325.jpg" / ktbuffy / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kesha does not hold back on her new album, "High Road."

“Tonight’s the best night of our lives / can you feel it? I can feel it…”

So begins the fourth studio album of pop singer-songwriter Kesha Rose Serbet, better known as Kesha. “High Road” harkens back to her earlier work, returning from the country-pop fusion of “Rainbow” to the party girl anthems that made her famous a decade ago. The lead single from the latter album, “Praying,” still conjures up the same emotions as it did when it was first released.

In 2013, Kesha checked into a rehabilitation facility for an eating disorder she acquired after making her second studio album, “Warrior.” In October the following year, she sued her former producer, Lukasz Gottwald — who has worked with Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and Kelly Clarkson — for sexual assault and gender violence. However, a New York judge dismissed her case, as the two instances of sexual assault fell outside of the statute of limitations.

He then claimed that “every rape is not a gender-motivated hate crime … Gottwald is [also] alleged to have made offensive remarks about Kesha’s weight, appearance, and talent, not about women in general.”

Gottwald then pulled a defamation lawsuit against her, arguing that the allegations were fabricated so she could break her contract with him. According to the Hollywood Reporter, he made $40 million off of the case.

Kemosabe Records 2019

However, this did not deter Kesha for long; she made a comeback with “Rainbow” in 2017, which explored her road to recovery. With her newest album, “High Road,” Kesha reclaims her party girl image from Gottwald with pride. 

She released the anthemic lead single from the album, “Raising Hell,” in fall 2019. The song is the perfect combination of her previous work while highlighting her newfound voice as an artist, making for something that sounds wholly original.  

“Can I get an amen? / This is for the misfits of creation / Take this as your holy validation / You don’t need to hide your celebrating / This is our salvation,” she sings.

You can’t help but want to sing along with her.

The first track on the album, “Tonight,” will remind you of her debut single, “Tik Tok,” which, to this day, remains one of the most recognizable songs in pop history. 

However, if I had to pick favorites, the soulful ballad “Shadow” takes the cake. 

“So get your shadow out of my sunshine / out of my blue skies / out of my good times / so get your darkness out of my damn way / I’ll be dancing in the rain / I’ma love you even if you hate me,” she sings.

Just like with “Praying,” she demonstrates her strength, not as only as an artist, but as a human being. 

Kemosabe Records 2019

There are songs on this album that will make you jump out of your chair and dance around the room, and there are songs that will bring you to tears. The lyrics range from poignant to awkward to absolutely ridiculous, yet Kesha makes them work. Her personality shines through every word. 

The only issue that I have with this album is its lack of cohesiveness. The songs will bounce from dance-pop to piano ballad, and there isn’t a consistent theme tying them together. However, each of the songs on their own struck a chord with me, which gives them heavy replay value.

As the album builds, she strips back each of the layers and reveals more of herself to the audience. This is true for “Father Daughter Dance.” 

Oh, I wish my heart wasn’t broken from the start / I never stood a fighting chance / In all my days, from my cradle to my grave / I’ll never have a father-daughter dance,” she croons. 

Neither she nor her mother, fellow singer-songwriter Pebe Sebert, knows the identity of Kesha’s father. In this personal track, she ruminates on the idea of having a father figure in her life, and whether he would have kept her from being exposed to the evils of the world. 

Recognizing her growth from her debut album “Animal” to “High Road” is imperative to understanding the music. Although it is more subtle, “High Road” makes just as an empowering statement as “Rainbow” did in 2017, and I couldn’t be happier that she rewrote the narrative and took back her voice. 

On the final track, “Summer,” she belts, “Every time I feel the spirit / I remember we were fearless.”