Kesha’s Kaleidoscopic Album”Rainbow” is a Work of Catharsis and Transformation

At first, Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)” was my favorite song on the album. In a waltz with the one and only Dolly Parton, Kesha’s resonant vocals are set against a meandering pedal steel guitar which is decidedly “country”; yet the underlying  near heavy-metal downpicking and tambourine on the chorus elevates the tune to “not your grandmother’s”  country shuffle. Kesha and Parton’s vocals complement each other beautifully as a faint doo-wop piano adds to the nostalgia of unparalleled love. Lyrically, love is likened to a flame, of course; but embers, fires, and candles are also invoked to describe the type of love about which singer-songwriter Patricia Rose Sebert and Hugh Moffatt wrote in 1978. “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You”) is the only cover song on the album: Kesha does her own writing, which is another reason to love this deeply-personal album.

As it turns out, “Spaceship”, track number 14, is my absolute favorite song on the album.  Kesha’s voice is paired with a banjo (and also a mandolin?) on the verses as she sings:  “I always said when I’m gone, when I’m dead / Don’t lay me down with the dirt on my head / You won’t need a shovel, you don’t need a cold headstone / You don’t need to cry, I’m gon’ be going home.” Due to the minimalism of the song, I am able to hear the beautiful timbre in her voice which is not buried (but instead enhanced) by the stripped-down instrumentation. “Spaceship” is essentially a dirge about how the narrator wants to be treated at the time the she departs the earth. I can think of no creative act on par with the self-penned elegy that is perhaps the penultimate act of staking one’s little claim on this spinning earth. The elegy song is basically akin to a living will for artists and one of the greatest works they can write.  The narrator of the song laments her life on Earth and states that she’s from another galaxy and will one day return home. Note the ethereal backing vocals on the chorus and how they creates a ghostly ambience that is not quite of this world. In my lil humble opinion, “Spaceship” is the best song on the album, because in a really beautiful, inventive way the artist confronts her mortality, contemplates her place in the world, and explores her interest in what lies beyond. The existential lyrics contemplating one’s mortality on “Spaceship”  immediately liken the mundane verse in “Tik Tok” to mere fodder for some otherworldy sacred cow.

“Woman” is a righteous, feisty song and gives voice to female empowerment and staking your ground,  dominant themes of Rainbow.  A saxophone full of attitude paves the way for the famed Dap-Kings horn section (who backed the inimitable, late Sharon Jones). Kesha sings: “I buy my own things/ I pay my own bills / These diamond rings / My automobiles /  Everything I got I bought it / Boys can’t buy my love/ Buy my love, yeah / I do what I want / Say what you say / I work real hard everyday / I’m a motherfucking woman, baby alright.” The song is part cabaret, part pop, and all sass, and Kesha sprinkles in some expletives for good measure (and I’m not mad at her for it). In fact, I love her for it because artistic integrity is not sanitized and flawless. Kesha is the antithesis to the Insta-world where all things appear perfect but are far from it: she is the raw and the real. In other words, beauty lies in imperfection. Sometimes, what is most real is disheveled and rough-around-the-edges. Check out “Boots”, which is a little bit like the “answer” to “Woman” and “Hunt You Down”, a pantomimic ballad about murdering a lover who has done you horribly wrong. Either way, this kaleidoscopic genre-bending album showcases Kesha’s dynamic vocal ability and range.

Forgiveness, prayer, and redemption from suffering (at the hands of loved ones) are also major themes of Rainbow. You’ve likely heard “Praying” at this point, which was released with a stunning,  video depicting a narrator who is letting go of the pain of all of those who have wronged her. If you haven’t seen her late night television performance of “Praying”, it is an awe-inspiring performance. The use of repetition andguttural belting of the lyrics “praying” and “changing” make it the centerpiece of the album, no doubt. But “Rainbow”the song after which the album has been named–has quickly become another of my absolute favorites. Kesha wrote “Rainbow” when she was in rehab  for an eating disorder, so this song both embodies and symbolizes healing, growth, and survival.  “Rainbow”–with its swelling string arrangements–evoke the magic of a Disney scene in which the lead character performs her triumphant soliloquy in a sunlit forest. Kesha sings: “I used to live in the darkness / dress in black / act so heartless / but now I see that colors are everything.” Thematically, colors  are a key vehicle for communicating personal transformation, and if you’ve seen the album artwork, you know what I mean. “Rainbow” signifies a new beginning or a re-birth while “Spaceship”–a song contemplating mortality–is the perfect final cut.

And that leaves “Bastards” which was described in the Rolling Stone review as a “ballad ripe for a campfire singalong”. And I couldn’t agree more. In fact, “Bastards” echos the sentiment my father still eschews to his kids today. This pep-talk of a title track is Kesha’s inner dialogue turned outward: ” Don’t let the bastards get you down, oh no / Don’t let the assholes wear you out /Don’t let the mean girls take the crown / Don’t let the scumbags screw you ’round / Don’t let the bastards take you down.” And that’s pretty solid advice.

I haven’t heard much of Kesha’s work aside from her 2010 album, Animal; but after listening to Rainbow, I’d count myself among the ranks of her adoring fans. After just a few spins of the album, there are some standout tracks that I would say are “great”, due either to the result of her collaborations with other (great) artists, her emotive shapeshifting vocals, or how content/lyrics, vocals, instrumentation, and overall production quality culminate in beautifully-crafted songs. As it turns out, the punchy, poppy dance tunes are my least   favorite songs but are catchy in their own right.  The songs I am drawn to and that have the most substance, in terms of lyrical content, also happen to be the most minimally arranged.

In general, Kesha really shines when her emotive voice gets to take center stage without competing with a spastic instrumental backdrop (“Boogie Feet” comes to mind). It’s easy to pass judgement on an artist like Kesha who has achieved the all-too-evasive super-stardom; but check out some of her live performances from “Rainbow” and if you’re like me, you’ll be moved by how she has completely lived the experiences about which she sings. “Spaceship”, “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle To You)”, “Rainbow”, “Bastards”, and “Praying” are beautiful and honest songs that I will return to again and again. If you’re the least bit privy to the legal battles and alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of her former producer, “Dr. Luke”, it’s not difficult to see that Rainbow  is a work of catharsis and metamorphosis. It’s fantastic to witness her return to her country roots because, yes, she isn’t merely a manufactured pop-star: not only does she write her own songs, but she can really sing. Check her out!

 

New CD’s for November

Bon Jovi — This House is Not for Sale

The first Bon Jovi album without longtime guitarist Richie Sambora

 

 

 


Alicia Keys — Here

The fifteen-time Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and producer will release her highly anticipated sixth studio album. From the human condition to global politics, Here offers a keen glimpse of everything that matters most to Keys.

 

 

 
Miranda Lambert — The Weight of these Wings

Miranda Lambert’s highly anticipated sixth studio album was inspired by both heartbreak and newfound love. Among the tracks is the new single Vice.

 

 

 
Bruno Mars — 24K Magic

After four years, and two Super Bowl halftime appearances, Grammy Award winner Bruno Mars is back with his highly anticipated third album, which includes the hit title track.

 

 
Metallica — Hardwired…To Self Destruct

Metallica releases their eleventh studio album. The two disc set is their first studio album since 2008’s Death Magnetic.

 

 

 
Now That’s What I Call Music 60

The 60th installment of the popular music series that features the hit song from Calvin Harris and Rihanna, This Is What You Came For.

 

 

 
Doug Stanhope — No Place Like Home

Doug Standhope tackles an abundance of hard-hitting issues, from caring for the mentally-ill, to Vietnam vets, being locked up abroad, and why everyone should kick like they kick. He also take on ISIS, global poverty, TMZ, and LGBT related issues. No one is off the table in this one-of-a-kind stand-up special including Gabrielle Giffords, the Duggars daughters, Caitlyn Jenner, and Robin Williams.

New CDs for October

Michael Buble — Nobody But Me

The 9th studio album and first in three years from the multi-Grammy, multi-platinum award winning singer. It follows the critically acclaimed To Be Loved album which was his fourth album to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Charts.

 

 

Colbie Caillat — The Malibu Sessions

Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat returns with the follow up to her 2014 album Gypsy Heart. Her sixth studio album also includes the single Goldmine.

 

 

Kenny Chesney — Some Town Somewhere

Country superstar Kenny Chesney releases the follow-up to his hit album The Big Revival. His latest includes the single Noise, which is quickly rising up the country charts.

 

 

 

Green Day — Revolution Radio

After four years, Green Day return with a brand new album, their first release since being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their latest includes the new single Bang Bang.

 

 

Norah Jones — Day Breaks

One of music’s most beautiful and critically acclaimed voices returns with an album that finds her returning to her jazz roots.

 

 

Kings of Leon — Walls

Kings Of Leon release the follow-up to their Mechanical Bull album. Includes the songs Waste A Moment; Find Me; Over; and more.

 

 

Pitbull — Climate Change

International icon Pitbull releases his 10th full-length album that features an array of superstar and burgeoning musical guests including Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Prince Royce, Jason Derulo, Stephen Marley and more.

 

 

Rascal Flatts — The Greatest Gift of All

Country superstars Rascal Flatts release their first ever holiday album, which features both new and classic tracks like Strange Way to Save the World; The First Noel, and Someday at Christmas.

 

New CDs for June

Fitz & The Tantrums — Fitz and the Tantrums

The third album from Fitz & The Tantrums is brimming with imagination, energy, and genre-smashing scope. Includes the tracks Handclap; Complicated; Do What You Want; and more.

 

 

 


Nick Jonas — Last Year Was Complicated

Radiohead continues to do things their way with the release of their first new album since 2011. Their unique rock style comes through on tracks like Burn the Witch.

 


Radiohead — A Moon Shaped Pool

Fresh off of the success of his 2014 self-titled album, Nick Jonas returns with a release that has already generated a hit with the track Close featuring Tove Lo.
Red Hot Chili Peppers — The Getaway

Along with the single Dark Necessities, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ first new album in five years also includes new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer and production from Danger Mouse.

 

 


Tegan & Sara — Love You to Death

The follow-up to Tegan and Sara’s 2013 pop breakthrough album, Heartthrob, is their eighth studio album and features the single Boyfriend.

 


Train — Does Led Zeppelin II

Train, the band behind such hits as Hey Soul Sister, pays homage to one of their biggest musical inspirations with the release of the first cover album of their career.

 

 

New CDs for May

Eric Clapton — I Still Do

Music legend Eric Clapton has reunited with famed producer Glyn Johns for his forthcoming 23 studio album, set for release on May 20, 2016 on his Bushbranch /Surfdog Records. The twelve-track record includes some original songs written by Clapton.

 

 

Goo Goo Dolls — Boxes

The eleventh album from the Goo Goo Dolls is a vibrant, sonically forward-looking album with indelible melodies, intimate, heartfelt lyrics, and an anthemic, uplifting vibe. Features the single Over and Over.

 

 

Ariana Grande — Dangerous Woman

Grammy Award nominee and pop superstar Ariana Grande returns with her third album, which includes the tracks Dangerous Woman and Be Alright.

 

 

Cole Swindell — You Should Be Here

Cole Swindell releases the follow up his successful debut album, which earned him the ACM Award for New Artist of the Year. Along with the title track, which is also the first single, there is a collaboration with Dierks Bentley.

 

 

Meghan Trainor — Thank You

Meghan Trainor releases her highly anticipated sophomore album three months after winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The first single, NO, made its debut on On Air With Ryan Seacrest.

 

 

Keith Urban — Ripcord

Four-time Grammy winner and judge on the farewell season of American Idol is releasing his eighth studio album. Features the hit singles John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 and Break on Me.

New CDs for April

The Lumineers — CleopatraThe Lumineers return with the follow-up to their platinum selling debut. Their second album is the natural continuation of the sound that audiences all over the world fell in love with. Includes the single Ophelia.

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Santana — Santana IV

Features sixteen all-new tracks written and produced by the band that burst with the same unparalleled energy and superlative musicianship that made Santana a pioneering force in world music, and a household name across the globe.

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Weezer — White Album

Weezer’s self-titled tenth studio album. The first track from the highly anticipated album, Thank God for Girls, has charted across multiple genres and is currently sitting in the top ten on alternative radio.

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cheaptrickCheap Trick — Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello

As they are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cheap Trick continue their reign as the top progenitors of power-pop with their seventeenth studio album.

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Andrew Bird has always been highly respected and has held a captive audience with his storytelling prowess, but it’s with his new album that he has made a breakthrough record.

 

New CDs for August

AUGUST 2015

Mac Demarco — Another One

Like the days of Steely Dan or Harry Nilsson releasing a classic album every year comes an eight-track release that expands the arsenal of Mac DeMarco’s already impressive catalog, showing the maturity of his progression as songwriter.
immortalizedDisturbed — Immortalized

After a four-year hiatus, hard rock titans Disturbed announce their return with their sixth studio album, which features the lead single The Vengeful One. Their last album, Asylum, was the band’s fourth consecutive number one release.
Now That’s What I Call Music 55

From Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud to Taylor Swift’s Style, the biggest chart hits come together in a new collection that also includes hits from Maroon 5, Nick Jonas, Tove Lo, Jason Derulo, and more.
buckcherryBuckcherry — Rock N’ Roll

Notorious LA hard rockers Buckcherry come roaring back onto the scene with their seventh full-length. They keep the party going with tracks like Bring It on Back, which is also the first single.

 

TobyMac — This Is Not a Test

The sixth studio album from the Christian hip hop artist.

New CDs for July

Chemical Brothers — Born in the Echoes

The Grammy Winning Chemical Brothers return with their first album in five years and quickly remind fans of their influence and importance.

 

 

Finger Eleven — Five Crooked Lines

Finger Eleven prepares to release their seventh studio album, which is also their first new full-length in five years. Immediate, urgent, and unfiltered, it expresses the exultant spirit of rock n’ roll.
Buddy Guy — Born to Play Guitar

Legendary blues icon Buddy Guy returns with the follow-up to his 2013 album, Rhythm and Blues. Joining him here are such guests as Van Morrison, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Joss Stone, and Kim Wilson.

 

 


Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free

Jason Isbell returns with the follow-up to his acclaimed 2013 album Southeastern. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he stated that this release will be less dark. It also includes the track 24 Frames.
Alan Jackson — Angels and Alcohol

Country superstar Alan Jackson returns with his first new studio album in three years. It also marks 25 years since he released his debut album. Jackson had a hand in writing seven of the album’s ten tracks.
Owl City — Mobile Orchestra

Owl City, the artist behind hits like Fireflies, is back with his fifth album. The first single, Verge, features vocals from Aloe Blacc. There are also appearances from Hanson and country star Jake Owen.

 

 

Joss Stone — Water For Your Soul

Soulful singer Joss Stone returns with her first new album since 2012’s The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2. Includes the tracks The Answer; Stuck On You; and Let Me Breathe.

New CD’s for April

Mumford & Sons — Wilder Mind

Features twelve new tracks, written collaboratively by the band in London, Brooklyn, and Texas. This release marks a significant departure for the young British band from their previous two records. There is a minimalist yet panoramic feel to this new album.

 

The Plain White T’s — American Nights

After five years Plain White T’s, the band behind the hit Hey There Delilah, return with a brand new studio album. The first single, Pause, made its debut on Alternative Press’s website.

 

darius ruckerDarius Rucker — Southern Style

CMA and three-time Grammy Award winner Darius Rucker returns with his sixth solo studio album, which is the anticipated follow-up to 2013’s True Believers. Among the tracks is the new hit single Homegrown Honey.

 

Three Days Grace — Human

Ontario rockers Three Days Grace release their fifth studio album, which is the first to feature new lead singer Matt Walst. The album also includes the single I Am Machine, which has already become a hit on the rock charts.

 

Van Morrison — Duets: Re-Working the Catalogue

Van Morrison releases the 35th album of his storied career. Here he has re-recorded some of his favorite songs with the help of fellow artists including Michael Buble, Mavis Staples, and his own daughter Shana Morrison.

 

Brian Wilson — No Pier Pressure

One of popular music’s most deeply revered figures returns with his eleventh solo studio album. Joining him here are some of his former Beach Boys bandmates as well as Kacey Musgraves, fun.’s Nate Ruess, and more.

 

Zac Brown Band — Jekyll + Hyde

The fifth studio album from Zac Brown band features sixteen songs, including Heavy Is the Head with Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and a collaboration with Sara Bareilles.

2015 Grammy Nominees and Winners

It appears that Sam Smith (or Tom Petty, depending how you look at it) was the big winner at the 2015 Grammy awards, which were awarded this past Sunday.  To hear all the winners and runner-ups, get your hold on the 2015 Grammy Nominees at the Davenport Library.

 

 

And be sure to check out the winning albums. Here’s just a sampling:

 

Album of the Year –Morning Phase, Beck

 

 

 

Best New Artist – Sam Smith

 

 

 

Best Country Album – Platinum, Miranda Lambert

 

 

 

Best Dance/Electronic Album – Syro, Aphex Twin

 

 

 

See the full list of nominees here.