Review: Kesha's new album 'Rainbow' is 'a rebirth'

PHOTO: Kesha performs on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Aug. 10, 2017. PlayAndrew Lipovsky/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
WATCH Kesha opens up about her deeply personal new album

Kesha’s “Rainbow”
***1/2

As expected, Kesha’s “Rainbow” is a rebirth for the singer. There’s a newfound confidence in Kesha’s work on the undeniably bile-heavy “Bastards,” with its refrain of “Don’t let the bastards get you down. / Don’t let the a------- wear you out.” Kesha is out to prove herself on this record and become the folk-, country- and rock-influenced singer she always wanted to become.

There’s still remaining pop energy flowing through tracks like “Hymn” and the Ben Folds-produced power-ballad title track. but the fact that she’s joined by the Eagles of Death Metal on both “Let ‘Em Talk” and “Boogie Feet” indicates a strong shift, even if the latter contains the same kind of ill-advised half-rapping that made “TiK ToK” such a successful yet polarizing offering seven years ago.

“Rainbow” isn’t quite the perfect redemption that Kesha probably deserves. It’s still slightly uneven, but on the single “Praying,” (which, like most of the rest of this album, one can’t help to think is aimed in producer Dr. Luke’s direction, as the two are engaged in a messy legal battle) she shows herself to be a truly amazing talent. This album has both stunning moments and disappointing ones. Thankfully, it lands mostly in the positive column.

Kesha actually shines the most where she brings out her singer-songwriter side. “Finding You” is the kind of track that should have packed this record. She also does well with her attitude on “Boots,” where she comes off like a lighter weight answer to Pink. Give her time and she will perfect this. It seems like given her newfound freedom, Kesha will only continue to grow and if she makes the right moves by fostering her earthier side, she’ll make some of the folks who initially had a problem with her work change their minds.

On "Old Flames (Can’t Handle You)," she holds her own singing side by side with Dolly Parton, which is no easy task, and on “Godzilla,” she takes what could potentially be a silly throwaway song and makes it into something that is quietly remarkable.

Those of us who heard her very sparse, emotional cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright” on the “Chimes of Freedom” tribute compilation a few years back knew then she had a lot of talent that was often obscured by too much glitz and polish. It’s nice to hear her sounding like she’s having some fun backed by the Dap-Kings Horns on “Woman.”

In the end, this is the album where Kesha really comes into her own. The few missteps just prove that she still has plenty of room to grow. This is just the beginning of her blossoming career. When she gets more comfortable, she’ll be potentially unstoppable.

Focus Tracks:

“Praying” This is easily her best song and best single to date. It’s interesting that “Hymn” is placed in the track list a track earlier, since it serves as a nearly perfect intro. “I hope you’re somewhere praying. / I hope your soul is changing,” she declares with some incredible emotional heft. This is an undeniably weighty kiss-off.

"Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You)" Featuring Dolly Parton, this track is way more country than most of what comes out of Nashville these days, and yet it shows Kesha and Parton effortlessly harmonizing with each other. Kesha doesn’t sound out of her element in the least.

“Godzilla” What a weirdly magical track. It perfectly captures the feeling of being in a doomed relationship where the conflict is evident to everyone around you but you are too blinded by your own ill-fitting euphoric bliss. It also possesses an odd but appealing sweetness.