Her long-awaited return is an honest, often thrilling statement of who she is today.
One of the hardest things for a pop artist to pull off is a second act. It's easy to list examples of singers crashing in to the mainstream -- sometimes with one song, other times with a few songs on one album -- and not knowing where to go once they get there. It's an understandable predicament, since deviating from a formula that has produced immense success is a difficult trigger to pull. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Yet the true greats are considered such because they understand how to evolve once they arrive in the spotlight, and know to throw a changeup when their fastball is still effective. Imagine if Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince or George Michael had committed to their first modes, their debut personas, for the entirety of their careers; they still would have been stars, but would they have been legends?
Rainbow is technically Kesha's third album, but it is the start of her second act. It is a rebirth five years after her most recent album; in the interim, as you probably know, the singer-songwriter has been trapped in legal purgatory against the producer who helped engineer her stardom. On 2010's Animal and 2012's Warrior, Kesha was a synth-pop siren, beckoning dance floors to join her wayward, riotous party. The years that have preceded Rainbow have been full of headlines and heartbreak; the album could not have feasibly been a collection of 12 "TiK ToK's" or "Take It Off's" without feeling disingenuous. But what Kesha pulls off on Rainbow is far more impressive than a handful of club bangers. Her long-awaited return is an honest, often thrilling statement of who she is today, refracted through several types of songwriting approaches that showcase a range underutilized on her first two albums. Kesha reflects on her past, but has moved on to new sounds and ideas. As listeners, we are better served for it.