Photo via pitchfork.com

3 stars

Released on Jan. 31 by RCA Records, pop artist Kesha’s new album “Tonight” features 16 songs. Confessional, raw and confident, Kesha unleashes a free side of herself that has never been seen in her music before. This is Kesha’s fourth studio album and precedes her 2020 High Road Tour which will start in April. 

The first song on the album titled “Tonight” sets a unique, free and uplifting tone for the rest of the album. Kesha sings about refusing to be held back and tied down by societal standards, and always being excited to go out and have a good time. The second song of the album, “My Own Dance,” is about Kesha following her own path and refers back to a time in her life when she was younger, as she sings, “woke up this morning feeling myself / hungover like hell like it’s 2012.” This song, as well as others on the album, are a flashback to her upbeat 2010 album “Animal.”

While the auto-tuned high notes and dance/pop beat were signature for Kesha’s teenage years and early adult career, these features still remain in her older and more sophisticated songs. She plays between still being wild and young, while also adopting a more reserved and serious side when she includes certain lyrics about finding her faith in God and being thankful for how far she’s come. The album is an interesting mix of fresh, new ideas that Kesha shares as well as her usual party anthem tracks that made her famous. 

In her song “Raising Hell” that features Big Freedia, Kesha celebrates her freedom and enjoying her life as an adult who can make her own choices. This song in particular is nostalgic of her younger years. With an EDM and dance sound, this is one of the most upbeat and production-heavy songs in the album. There are references to heaven and God throughout the song, and Kesha makes sure to include that she “doesn’t wanna go to heaven without raising hell.”

One of the slowest songs on the album, titled “Shadow,” is a heartfelt testimony to old memories and to Kesha living her life how she wants despite other people’s judgments and setbacks. Being 32, Kesha admits that she isn’t the same woman that she was in her early days, but still enjoys partying and having fun amidst furthering her career and working hard.

Kesha has been singing since 2005 when she was signed to a label at age 18, but she hasn’t released an album since her 2017 project “Rainbow.” The cover of this album is chromatically similar to the colors used in the last, with an orange and pink wax melted figurine of her head at the center of the cover. Although interesting, the imagery doesn’t connect that well with the free-spirited nature of the album, and it might be a little too simplistic for Kesha’s signature over-the-top style. 

Overall, Kesha’s music and performances continue to impress and excite younger fans who enjoy having songs to dance and sing along to. This being said, Kesha’s autotuned voice and inclusion of almost a dozen songs about partying and getting crazy still make me yearn to hear a softer and more laid-back side of her in her music.