Kesha‘s second album without the dollar sign is here, and it’s a clear attempt to return to her early career roots. High Road has all of Kesha’s most valued qualities: a carefree attitude, lively energy and comical elements. It’s uniquely Kesha, just like her previous album, Rainbow, but with more fun and less sorrow. Knowing Kesha is in a better place and is comfortable enough to embrace her previous persona is undeniably exciting for fans.
High Road combines Rainbow‘s folk influences with Animal‘s party girl aesthetic, for which Kesha was originally known. The title track, “Tonight,” hits the ground running with this combination, basically declaring that this album will be the best night of your life. The song chronicles the typical girls’ night out, which includes getting drunk and hitting the town with your best friends. Kesha’s purposefully slurred vocals are reminiscent of “Tik Tok,” but this time mixed with showing off her stunning vocal abilities.
In the second track, titled “My Own Dance,” Kesha even blatantly takes us back with the lyrics, “Woke up this morning, feeling myself // Hungover as hell like 2012,” which is an even more obvious reference to her earlier work.
The lead single, “Raising Hell,” featuring Big Freedia, sits well on the album. The track has had a good amount of radio success, but most memorably was performed at the AMAs with a surprise mash-up of Kesha’s very first hit “Tik Tok.” It embraces the pop star’s religious side, but she keeps it 100 percent Kesha with its party anthem vibes.
With Kesha, absurdity is expected. On Rainbow, we got “Godzilla,” which questions what would happen if you took Godzilla home to meet your mom. On High Road, we get “The Potato Song (Cuz I Want To),” which proudly states “I’ll grow some potatoes // And flowers, then I’ll make sandcastles // Then I’ll eat some cake, ’cause I want to.” For most artists, songs like these would feel ridiculous and unnecessary, but Kesha’s music benefits from embracing her goofy side.
But High Road has more to offer than nutty tracks about potatoes — there are some really beautiful and vulnerable moments in songs like “BFF,” featuring Wrabel, and “Resentment,” featuring Brian Wilson, Sturgill Simpson and Wrabel, again.
Although “Kinky” is supposed to be the track in which Kesha officially reconnects with her former self, if it weren’t for it listing Ke$ha as a feature, it would not be clear. Listening blind, “Tonight” or “Birthday Suit” have more of an early Ke$ha sound than “Kinky.” Besides this misleading choice, Kesha’s embrace of her former self makes High Road an incredibly fun and nostalgic album.
High Road is a pleasing blend of Kesha’s present and previous sounds. It shows that the singer has made it to the other side of her horrific experiences and now gets to make music that’s fun, honest and uniquely her own. You can’t help but feel lighter after listening to this record from start to finish. It’s an ode to Kesha’s current happiness without completely ignoring the past.
Featured Image: RCA/Kemosabe Records