2019 Year-End Charts

7 Hidden Messages in Kesha's 'Rainbow' Lyrics

Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Kesha performs on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Aug. 10, 2017.

The songs open up on the nasty legal drama and mental health struggles that have kept the pop star on hiatus for so long.

Kesha's triumphant return to the music scene came full force Friday (Aug. 11) with Rainbow, the 30-year-old pop star's first album in a tumultuous five years. But before we jam out to the album's blend of rock-pop anthems and acoustic ballads, it's worth putting a spotlight on the lyrics, which open up on the nasty legal drama and mental health struggles that have kept Kesha on hiatus for so long.

From the reflective, peace-making "Praying" to the empowerment anthem "Bastards" and misfit tribute "Hymn," each of the 14 tracks that make up Rainbow brings listeners deeper into the singer's state of mind. We're running through the album's seven most revealing lyrics line-by-line, below.

"I'm proud of who I am/ No more monsters, I can breathe again/ And you said that I was done/ Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come"
-- "Praying"

In this emotionally-charged lyric, the "you" Kesha is addressing seems to be her former producer and record label boss, Dr. Luke, who Kesha has claimed prohibited her from releasing new music after she filed a lawsuit against him alleging physical and emotional abuse in 2014. "You were wrong," Kesha declares with the release of "Praying," which, incidentally, was the first single off the album.

"If we die before we wake, who we are is no mistake/ This is just the way we're made/ You know what I mean, you on the team"
-- "Hymn"

Here, Kesha appears to slip in a throwback to her earlier tracks "We R Who We R" and "Die Young." And when she adds "you know what I mean" after the play on words, it feels as if she's talking directly to her loyal "team" of Animals. "It’s also dedicated to anyone who feels like they are not understood by the world or respected for exactly who they are," the singer said about the track in an essay penned for Mic. "It’s a hopeful song about all of these people -- which I consider myself one of."

"Been underestimated my entire life/ I know people gonna talk shit, and darling, that's fine/ But they won't break my spirit/ I won't let 'em win/ I'll just keep on living"
-- "Bastards"

Kesha gets personal in this lyric off "Bastards," a guitar-fronted middle finger to the haters that kicks off Rainbow. The singer revealed in an essay for Teen Vogue in May that she has dealt with her fair share of "bastards," "mean girls" and "scum bags" -- "I have felt so unlovable after reading cruel words written by strangers who don’t know a thing about me," she wrote. 

"Been a prisoner of the past/ Had a bitterness when I looked back/ Was telling everyone it's not that bad/ ’Til all my shit hit the fan"
-- "Learn To Let Go"

In this lyric, Kesha seems to reference her earlier work on albums Warrior and Animal, which glorified a pleasure-seeking, party-heavy life with bubbly tracks like "TiK ToK" and "We R Who We R." But unbeknownst to her fans, Kesha has since revealed that her life at the time was consumed by mental health struggles and a battle with an eating disorder. "I made the decision to take the dollar sign out of my name. I did away with my cynical self-deprecating 'I don't give a fuck' attitude and the matching Twitter name @keshasuxx," the singer explained about her new sound in a personal essay for Refinery 29. "I let myself be 100% genuine, vulnerable, and honest in my music."

"You gotta learn to let go, put the past behind you/ Trust me, I know, the ghosts will try to find you"
-- "Rainbow"

In the time since her last full album, 2012's Warrior, Kesha has been embroiled in a legal battle with Dr. Luke, checked into a rehab center to treat her bulimia and anorexia and fought anxiety and depression. So when she adds the words "trust me" to this emotive lyric about overcoming "ghosts," you know she's being real. "I am a walking testament to anyone out there that with honesty and self-love, you can feel whole again," Kesha also wrote in the Refinery 29 essay. "No matter what you have been through, even if things feel unfair and hurt your soul, it does not have to define who you are."

"I'm so sick of crying, yeah/ Darling, what’s it for? I could fight forever, oh, but life's too short"
-- "Hymn"

Kesha has experienced a string of setbacks in her case against Dr. Luke since filing her lawsuit, preventing the singer from escaping her contract with the record label boss as she originally hoped. But this lyric seems to mark a turning point, where the singer has decided to move on with her career -- and her life -- starting with the release of Rainbow.

"Yeah, maybe my head’s fucked up/ But I'm falling right back in love with being alive/ Dreaming in light, light, lights"
-- "Rainbow"

Through the album's title track, Kesha also seems to acknowledge that recent struggles -- most of which she battled under the public spotlight -- have likely left her with psychological pain she may never fully overcome. But rather than dwell on the damage, the pop star proclaims she is "falling right back in love" with life, leaving her fans with a message of hope.


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.