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Kesha, ‘Warrior’ – Album Review

Kesha 'Warrior'
RCA / Kemosabe Records

Kesha likes to party, but there’s more to the girl than just glitter and whiskey. Since bursting onto the scene with ‘Tik Tok,’ the Jack Daniels enthusiast has been focusing not just on enjoyment, but also empowerment. Affectionately dubbing her fanbase as her Animals, her success inspired not just partying, but also self-acceptance and love. As a result, Kesha grew up a bit on ‘Warrior’ — but she never lost her desire to have fun.

‘Warrior’ seems like a natural progression for Kesha, born Kesha Rose Sebert. ‘Animal’ established her role as a pop party girl, giggling, rapping and “sing-talking” through the bulk of her tracks, but hinting at a vulnerability underneath with songs like ‘Blind.’ On ‘Cannibal,’ K-Dollar Sign kept her tongue-in-cheek dance songs (‘Blow,’ anyone?) but once more unveiled the heart beneath the glitter and piles of empty bottles with heartwrenching ballad ‘The Harold Song’ and self-acceptance anthem ‘We R Who We R.’

Thematically, ‘Warrior’ is similar to her previous work, if a bit more clearly appealing to “misfits.” It’s important to note, however, that Kesha never really appears to be pandering to her core base, because she actually does feel like she’s one of them — and based on her critics who insisted she couldn’t sing, she might well be right. Luckily, she proves those same critics wrong in her new work, as well as on her acoustic ‘Deconstructed’ EP, letting her voice shine and even taking them to task with her lyrics. Kesha may have a sense of humor, but she takes her music seriously.

While her message may be consistent, sonically, ‘Warrior’ presents some departures from its predecessors. There are EDM touches, garage rock tracks (like her duet with Iggy Pop, ‘Dirty Love’), less Auto-Tune and more melodies, showcasing Kesha’s ability not just to spit rhymes, but also to warble. On ‘Warrior,’ there’s a little bit of everything, and it all works.

It’s easy to think of the ‘Warrior’ tracks in terms of more mature versions of her previous work, because that’s essentially how the album comes together — in the best way.

1. ‘Warrior’
‘Warrior’ boasts a message similar to ‘We R Who We R,’ but in a much more forceful way. “Cut the bulls— out with a dagger / With a dagger / With a dagger / With a dagger / Til we die / We optin’ to stay young / Shoot the lights out like a machine gun / Think it’s time for a revolution,” she commands. The verses are rapped in a rapid fire delivery, but the choruses soar. [Listen Here]

2. ‘Die Young’
Co-written by Fun. frontman Nate Ruess, Kesha’s releasing rollicking ode to “carpe diem” as the lead single from ‘Warrior’ was a risk, but a rewarding one. The song gave listeners their first taste of her rock ‘n’ roll sound without alienating dance floors completely. Sure, fans may be clapping and stomping along to this instead of bumping and grinding, but it’s still a great time. [Listen Here]

3. ‘C’Mon’
Released as a promotional single, ‘C’Mon’ is like a more melodic ‘Tik Tok’: Kesha wants to get drunk, hook up with a band member and have a good time — and she does just that, as her smile is almost audible when she delivers lines like “Feelin’ like a saber-toothed ti-grrrrr / Sippin’ on a warm Budweiser / Touch me and give me that rush / Better bring a toothbrush / Gonna pull an all-nighter / We been keepin’ it Kosher / But I want to get it on fo’ sho’.” ‘C’Mon’ is the least likely to offend longtime Animals and is catchy enough to attract new ones like catnip. [Listen Here]

4. ‘Thinking of You’
Opening with guitars and a ferocious drums, ‘Thinking of You’ is like a garage rock version of ‘Kiss n Tell’ from ‘Animal,’ though less shrill. It’s a bratty breakup track calling out a cheating former flame — and reminding him that she’s doing better without him. Chances are she is. Kesha also channels her inner feminist on the track, telling her scuzzball of an ex, “I’m over it / So suck my d—.” All about equality!

5. ‘Crazy Kids’
‘Crazy Kids’ opens with whistles and features everything from an EDM drop to whispering. Though the ‘Crazy Kids’ hook isn’t quite as immediately gripping as the others on ‘Warrior,’ there’s a lot going on here sonically, and it captures the chaotic vibe that Kesha’s going for in the song. “We are the crazy people,” she whispers, somewhat maniacally. And what’s a crazy person if not unpredictable?

6. ‘Wherever You Are’
You are forever on my mind / Wherever you are / Know that our love will never die.” Kesha gets romantic to a danceable beat, letting a lucky guy know that just because he’s out of sight, he’s not necessarily out of mind. It’s a moving ode to one who got away, and it will get your body moving to boot.

7. ‘Dirty Love (Feat. Iggy Pop)’
Kesha’s punk-inspired duet with Iggy Pop, ‘Dirty Love,’ opens with her howling, “All I need is to get between your sheets / Oh whoa-oh-oh / I just want your dirty love.” Pop’s lines are baffling and hilarious, referencing everything from Rick Santorum to Afghanistan. If this is what Kesha’s “cock pop” sounds like, keep it coming.

 8. ‘Wonderland’
‘Wonderland’ opens a little bit country, likely a nod to Kesha’s Nashville roots. The song is a piano-driven reflection on the singer’s roots. “Everything was simple then / Living like it’s our last weekend / Wish I could find my way back to Wonderland.” It’s a softer side to Kesha, and it’s lovely.

9. ‘Only Want to Dance With You’ Feat. Julian Casablancas
Appropriately enough, ‘Only Want to Dance With You’ is a danceable track, and it will get stuck in your head for days. Like in ‘Dirty Love,’ Kesha’s wasn’t necessarily looking for romance, but if she found it — and now you’re stuck with her. “I fell for you / Boy, you’re so screwed / You’re in for it now,” she warns. The addition of the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas vocals give it a rock edge, and the music itself sounds like something his band would release as a single. Kesha plays very well with others.

10. ‘Supernatural’
One of Kesha’s songs with frequent collaborator Dr. Luke, ‘Supernatural’ is about having sex with a ghost. (Seriously.) While she doesn’t get too explicitly macabre, she does allude to it, telling her lover, “We’re gonna wake the dead.

11. ‘All That Matters (The Beautiful Life)’
Possibly the biggest straight club banger on ‘Warrior,’ ‘All That Matters (The Beautiful Life)’ features production similar to Ace of Base’s ‘Beautiful Life.’ Whether it’s a huge coincidence or a cheeky homage, Kesha just wants to dance and get high. Ain’t no shame, girl!

12. ‘Love Into the Light’
Kesha is unapologetic for who she is on ‘Love Into the Light.’ “I’m sorry but I am just not sorry ’cause I swear and ’cause I drink,” she sasses softly on the ethereal track. The Cannibal Queen begs, “Can we all just get over ourselves and stop talking s—?” It’s the starlet’s own brand of philosophical waxing, and it suits her perfectly. Paws out, Animals!

Bonus Tracks:

13. ‘Last Goodbye’
On ‘Last Goodbye,’ Kesha slows it down in the intro, then ups the tempo. It’s a wistful yet toe-tapping reflection on a failed relationship that will likely keep listeners, to paraphrase Kesha’s ‘Animal Track,’ dancing with tears in their eyes.

14. ‘Gold Trans Am’
Kesha opens ‘Gold Trans Am’ with a spoken word intro: “This song makes me want to have sex in my car.” She’s said that the track is about her “hoo-ha,” and it’s evocative of Joan Jett with it’s chants, heavy drums and raunchy lyrics. It’s tongue-in-cheek (and elsewhere) and will likely be a fan favorite, even if it’s too racy to be released as a single.

15. ‘Out Alive’ 
‘Out Alive’ is thematically reminiscent of ‘Die Young’ mixed with ‘Blow.’ Kesha wants to party and have fun while she can, because, well, no one gets out of life alive — so enjoy it. And with a beat this thumping, it’s hard not to.

16. ‘Past Lives’
On what may be her most romantic track to date, Kesha tells a lover that she’s so madly in love with him that she may have well loved him in a previous incarnation. “Time after time / I’d make you mine,” she sings softly. ‘Past Lives’ wouldn’t be out of place on ‘Deconstructed,’ her acoustic EP, and it’s a shocking in that it’s not shocking at all — it’s a love song. But for casual listeners of Kesha, who on ‘Warrior’ alone sings about sex with apparitions, cutting “bulls— out with a dagger” and compares her lady bits to a car, that’s the most shocking subject she can sing about. But it doesn’t just shock. It also awes.

Next: Hear Kesha Go Country!


 

Watch the Kesha ‘Die Young’ Video

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