Kesha proved so many of her detractors wrong. Rainbow, a collection of raw, intimate songs surrounding her personal journey the past several years, is 2017's biggest statement piece. She not only details her struggles of self-doubt, loathing and the darkest moments of her life, she learns to forgive, let go and move on. As a result of her notable musical ambition, she snagged her first-ever pair of Grammy nominations for the 2018 Grammy Awards, a sign voters are finally paying attention. The singer's third proper studio album competes for Best Pop Vocal Album, with lead single "Praying" landing in the Best Pop Solo Performance, in which AXS has predicted is hers to lose.
From the searing piano ballad "Praying" to the fist-pumping anthem "Learn to Let Go," the psychedelic funk of "Hymn" and the dusty country wobble of "Hunt You Down," Rainbow challenges Kesha's stylistic notions, expanding her scope of accomplishment. It's decidedly progressive, while still harkening to her pop-punk days (as you'll witness prominently on "Let 'Em Talk" and "Boogie Feat," both featuring Eagles of Death Metal). Even the empowering "Woman" still taps into that classic Kesha fierceness but pushes the envelope even further with a hearty dose of blues. When she strips things back, evidenced on such standouts as the title track, slithering opener "Bastards" and "Godzilla," her vocal sits front and center, fearless and powerful, immediate and intense. Even "Spaceship," the bizarre but relatable bookend, has a certain organic charm, assisted with swirling background harmonies. "I don't really care if you believe me," she withers, through plucky guitar and spooky piano chords.
In terms of sheer vocal delivery, Rainbow is Kesha's finest hour. Best Pop Vocal Album is on lock. "This whole album, for me, really is a healing album. It's healing from so many things from my past and just trying to get back to the most childlike, naive, purest version of myself that I can find — the most free-spirited, un-jaded version of myself," she told NPR in a walkthrough of the record. Her free, gypsy-like spirit is best depicted in the visual to "Learn to Let Go," which includes exaggerated versions of crucial childhood trinkets and fixtures out in the middle of the forest. She has let loose truly for the first time in her life, and her explorations appear to be paying off.
On the pivotal title song, she explained, "'Rainbow' was the first song I wrote for this record. I was in rehab for my eating disorder. I was sitting on the floor, and I had begged the head of the rehab to let me have a keyboard for one hour a day, and finally she relented. And for that one hour a day I played and wrote [it]. [The song] was just my promise, my letter to myself that things would get better. It was my mantra, because at the end of a storm comes a rainbow."