Kesha’s ‘High Road’ takes on a roller coaster of emotions

Monty Daniel

In 2017, Kesha surprised us with her range and depth, but on Jan. 31, 2020, Kesha released her newest album, ‘High Road,’ and surprised us all in a different way.

Kesha has a beautiful voice, but “High Road” just doesn’t utilize it nearly as much as “Rainbow” did. This album was an odd compilation of party girl anthems and acoustic Western-tinged ballads with not much room in between.

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The best thing I can say about this album is that Kesha genuinely seems carefree and open. I can appreciate how she is taking liberty over her music and her life.”

The opening track, “Tonight,” felt like mixing auto-tuned “High School Musical” with 2012-style rapping and trap beats. Needless to say, it felt like what I would imagine having a heart attack would be like. In fact, I think I would rather have a heart attack than listen to this song again. That might sound intense, but it was a jarring beginning to the album. 

The first 30 seconds of the title track, “High Road,” seem to be redeeming but quickly turn into cheerleaders on acid who only know one cheer. This format of repetitive party anthems permeates into other songs on the album, such as “My Own Dance” and “Birthday Suit.”

When Kesha took the dollar sign out of her name, we all assumed she was growing out of her crazy party girl phase, but this album shows that she is not over that time in her life. 

There is a song on the album called “Kinky,” which is already bad enough, but the icing on this weird cake is that the song features Ke$ha. I’m not kidding. She featured her past self on her own album.

The first 30 seconds includes a phone call with her mom, introducing her to “Kinky Spice,” which then goes into another round of poorly produced rap and trap beats as well as whisper singing. 

Most of the lyrics and beats on this album are not well-thought-out or creative in any way, with a few exceptions. 

“Cowboy Blues” is an acoustic, witty, existential ballad that really showcases a different side of Kesha. She focuses on the art of making mistakes and owning up to them in this song. It feels like a missed connection ad made into a song where she is questioning life choices while sounding joyous and sorrowful at the same time.

Kesha is a master at harmonizing, which is truly shown on the no-gimmicks, country-leaning “Resentment,” which features Sturgill Simpson, Brian Wilson and Wrabel. The clean, even guitar licks and crystalline voices meld together to create a song that reminds me of Lady Antebellum. This song is beautiful and honest in every way. I want more music like this from Kesha.

There was one song on the album that would have made me cry if it wasn’t so auto-tuned. “Father Daughter Dance” is authentic and incredibly sad. She explores the relationship, or lack thereof, with her father and how she’s questioning her own future and her wants due to him.

One line in particular that really affected me was “Sometimes I wonder if I had a dad if he would have protected me from all the bad sh*t.” This song is nearly on par with “Praying” with genuine emotions and a showcase of her vocal range.

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The best thing I can say about this album is that Kesha genuinely seems carefree and open. I can appreciate how she is taking liberty over her music and her life. I think a lot of this feeling is established on the song “Shadow.” This song feels like a sequel to “Praying” after she has begun living her life to the fullest again and not caring what others think. 

“High Road” felt like Kesha was throwing every emotion she has felt in the past few years into one album. A more cohesive album, or even two EPs, would have felt like a better move for her. Either way, Kesha isn’t holding back any longer, and she is releasing music that feels true to herself. I commend her for being honest about her lifestyle and diving into personal issues on the same album, even if it isn’t always the easiest to listen to. 

Rating: 5/10

Best songs: “Father Daughter Dance,” “Cowboy Blues,” “Resentment (feat. Sturgill Simpson, Brian Wilson and Wrabel)”

Worst songs: “Tonight,” “Kinky (feat. Ke$ha),” “Birthday Suit”

Monty Daniel can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @MontyDaniel_.