Kesha Paves Her Own Way on 'High Road'
Halle Lujah. She's still here, still bringing it to ya.
Halle Lujah. She's still here, still bringing it to ya.
Text: Ryan Killian Krause
As of midnight, Ms. Kesha Rose is officially back. The powerhouse dropped her fourth album, High Road, earlier this morning and it's already atop the iTunes charts. If you don't already have it on repeat, I'm going to need you to change that immediately.
On the album, listeners are treated to a multi-faceted version of the singer that we’ve yet to see with such dimension. We see a return to the pull-no-punches, shit-talking, party girl of pop who we originally fell in love with years ago melded with the newly emancipated, genre-bending, and vulnerable Kesha who has emerged over the last couple of years. In this, she’s effectively carved out her own place – straddling lines and definition – in pop music.
Whereas many saw her last album, Rainbow, as her return to music, on High Road Kesha is essentially returning to herself, perhaps for the first time in album-form. This blend of the old and the new, the party and the sentimental, gives us a more authentic and holistic view of a woman who defies characterization and rejects the boxes into which the industry has tried to force her.
“I didn’t want to have tragedy be my legacy. I have so many other traits and so many other things to say," said Kesha. "I have a wildly loud sense of humor and that's a huge part of who I am. I want to chase joy in life while also staying true to who I am and being honest. I realized I just needed to tell the story of where I'm at right now, which is, fortunately, a place where I'm ready to be all of the above things. I'm ready to be happy. I'm ready to have fun."
Just as importantly, she's on a mission to return to her rightful place atop the industry. “I wanted to reclaim my place in pop music. Because I fucking love pop music,” she said. Now that we've had a chance to listen to High Road, consider it officially reclaimed.
In terms of the tried-and-true party anthems, Kesha is serving us plenty this go around. Three of the four singles that she dropped prior to today fall squaring into this category. Kesha started of the High Road era with the unbelievably catching Raising Hell, with the help of the incomparable Big Freida, followed by the ode to doing it your own way, My Own Dance. Earlier this week, she dropped the night-on-the-town banger Tonight. Also on the album is the non-monogamy anthem Kinky and the Nintendo-infused Birthday Suit.
For Kesha, these songs, reminiscent of those on her first three studio albums, were an important reclamation of her sexuality. “I feel like once you’ve been through the kind of thing that I’ve been through, I felt like I couldn’t even talk about sex,” she said. “But now I realize that our sexuality is a huge part of who we are. I’m not going to let one bad encounter ruin sex for me for the rest of my life.”
“It’s really important for me to have a song about having fun, beautiful, consensual sex," she said, "and that’s ok that I’m not letting my life take anything away from me. I’m kind of taking the power back in all parts of my life.”
There is, of course, then the more sentimental and emotionally raw side of High Road. In Father Daughter Dance, we hear Kesha muse over what her life might have been like if her father had been present. BFF is a sweet duet between her and her friend and co-writer Stephen Wrabel about their close-knit relationship even through hardship. On Cowboy Blues, Kesha wonders if maybe she missed on one her one true love.
Kesha executive produced High Road – she did on Rainbow as well – which gave her complete creative control over the album, something she's had to fight tooth and nail for in the past. Unlike with Rainbow, which had a decidedly more serious tone (for obvious reasons), Kesha found levity in the creation of High Road. “With Rainbow, I was in a very different place. I wasn’t sure if it was ever going to come out and when it did it felt like this huge triumph. With this record, it feels in a really good way like I’m not having to climb and claw to put out music. I just get to be myself and put it out and have people enjoy it," said Kesha. "I wouldn't say it’s easy – but there’s an ease to the process."
With High Road, we've officially entered a new era of Kesha - one characterized not just by the shirking of definition but also by the prioritization of happiness. “I know it sounds really cheesy, and it’s really hard to do sometimes, but I’m making being happy a priority, up there with drinking water and sleeping,” she said. She's creating the space for herself and shining through it, a lesson she hopes to share with her fans.
“[The album] has been this really beautiful experience knowing that you can go through something all-consuming and fucking horrible and horrendous, and then a couple of years later you can find yourself writing songs about how happy you are,” she told me. “And I just really want people to know that if they're in the middle of going through something really painful, that you can reach the other side.”
"I'm not a perfect human being by any means close to the imagination of anything perfect, but I have found the light at the end and there is happiness waiting for you."
Kesha is hitting the road with Big Freida starting in April. If we've come to expect anything from this powerhouse of a woman, it's an unbelievably high-energy performance, so make sure to snag your tickets while you still can.
Listen to High Road below and check out the High Road tour dates.
High Road Tour Dates
April 23 - Sugar Land, TX - Smart Financial Centre
April 25 - Irving, TX - The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory
April 26 - Austin, TX - ACL Live at The Moody Theater
April 29 - Phoenix, AZ - Arizona Federal Theatre **
May 1 - Las Vegas, NV - The Pearl Concert Theater **
May 2 - San Diego, CA - Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre **
May 5 - Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theatre **
May 6 - Santa Barbara, CA -Santa Barbara Bowl **
May 8 - San Francisco, CA - The Masonic **
May 9 - San Jose, CA - San Jose Civic **
May 11 - Denver, CO - The Mission Ballroom **
May 13 - Council Bluffs, IA - Stir Cove at Harrah's Casino **
May 14 - Kansas City, MO - Starlight Amphitheatre **
May 16 - Nashville, TN - Ascend Amphitheater **
May 17 - Atlanta, GA - Ameris Bank Amphitheatre **
May 19 - Cincinnati, OH - PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center **
May 20 - Minneapolis, MN -The Armory **
May 22 - Milwaukee, WI - Eagles Ballroom **
May 23 - Chicago, IL - Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island **
May 25 - St. Louis, MO - TBD **
May 27 - Philadelphia, PA - The Met Philadelphia **
May 28 - New York, NY- Pier 17 **
May 30 - Mashantucket, CT- Foxwoods Resort Casino - Grand Theater **
May 31 - Boston, MA - Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion **
June 2 - Washington, DC - The Anthem **
June 5 – Windsor, ON – The Colosseum at Caesars Windsor
** confirmed with Big Freedia