Kesha revives party pop on ‘High Road’


Illustration by Alexandria Moore

Kesha’s latest album “High Road” returns to party pop while maintaining the singer-songwriter’s new, more earnest brand. “High Road” plays with dualism as Kesha creates heartfelt, endearing ballads as well as crass, silly party songs. 

“High Road” notably takes notes from each of Kesha’s past albums, highlights the main points and melds them together. Where there are hints of her electronic-pop debut “Animal” on songs like “Birthday Suit,” there are also notes of the soft rock, activist-pop from “Rainbow” on songs like “Shadow.” “High Road” places Kesha in the best position she’s been in as there is something on this album to please her broad range of fans.

This album comes after the controversy-plagued “Rainbow,” Kesha’s 2017 album that came in wake of her sexual assault lawsuit. Where Kesha’s calls for positivity, growth and activism sounded painful on “Rainbow,” these same messages now sound warm and welcoming on uplifting anthems like “Raising Hell.” Kesha might be getting sued by her ex-producer, but there is still a profound sense of joy and pride across all the tracks of “High Road.”

“Tonight,” the album’s opener, is one of the best examples of how Kesha melds together her 2010 conversational, electronic-pop with the empowering, explosive pop-rock tracks she has made herself known for since 2017’s “Praying.” 

Kesha brings back the $ in her name on the catchy and hip hop-tinged “Kinky.” While the production is solid and worthy of several back-to-back listens, “Kinky” is disappointingly not very kinky. When compared to a track like the 2010 anthem “Sleazy,” “Kinky” sounds almost like a nursery rhyme. That is not to diss “Kinky” though, because “Kinky” is a certified bop with definite replay value.

Kesha even explores cowboy, western pop on “My Own Dance” where she declares over a twangy pop beat that she will not perform for anyone but herself. After so many years of being treated poorly by different people in her life, it is no surprise at how inspiring it is to just hear Kesha declare herself as free from the pack and unapologetically protesting “don’t circumcise my circumstance.” Kesha’s personal freedom and love for independence are what make songs like this and the album’s title track real standouts.

“High Road” also provides more low key, chill cuts that have an intimate vibe reminiscent of a singer-songwriter performing at a bar. This is especially present on the thumping, R&B-flavored “Honey” that features an earworm of a vocal sample in its chorus. 

The slower songs on the album are some of the best ones, proving Kesha’s talent for emoting within her songwriting. “BFF” has Kesha collaborating with Wrabel on a lyrical journey of an everlasting, judgment-free friendship. In comparison, “Cowboy Blues” addresses nameless one-night stands.“Father Daughter Dance” deals with the mixed emotions of having an absentee father. “High Road” has Kesha exploring a range of emotions and life issues that seem so genuine and relatable. 

There are only a few true clunkers on the album. “Little Bit of Love” is generic and forgettable, “Chasing Thunder” features some awkward lyricism, and “Potato Song” sounds like it would play at the county circus. Truly, though, “High Road” is a cohesive album that has far more good than bad.

“High Road” is by far not the best album by Kesha, but it is the most open and honest. “High Road” feels like a new step for Kesha as she reclaims the $ in her name and the carefree pop jams that made her famous. A few songs too long, “High Road” lets Kesha fans look at her in a new light on this album full of well-crafted pop tunes.