Following the runaway success of her emotional 2017 comeback album Rainbow, High Road marks an unexpected, supremely joyful return to the raucous brand of pop associated with her early career.
In our feature Kesha dived deep into the making of the album, contemplating both her place in the modern pop landscape and the emotional journey she’s been on in recent years.
Here, in an unread extract of our interview, she tells us more about how the record came about…
You said you feel you've never fit into the pop world – do you think that's actually helped your career?
“I think pain breeds art. And then, in my case, I try to take a positive approach to any kind of pain I feel and try to create art out of it and, especially with my fans, give everyone a place they can come and fully be themselves. I even have a part of my show where I play Take It Off and I encourage people – if they want to, if they feel comfortable and inclined – to take off their clothes… I have had people butt naked crowd surfing! It is the greatest joy I could ever feel in my life, to see people having the time of their life and feeling completely free and safe and comfortable. It just makes me so happy because I remember when I was in high school, my safe place was going to see music and it just made me feel comfortable, made me feel like I was not alone. I feel like my Animals, hopefully, feel the same way I do when they come to one of my shows. I'm there to have the best time ever with them, hopefully they're there to feel comfortable, free and go apeshit.”
Rather fantastically, your new song Kinky begins with you prank calling your mum pretending to be ‘Kinky Spice’ – how did that song come about?
“I had to fight so hard to get that on the record. I had to have that one on because I think it's really important to show all sides of one’s personality and where you're at. A record, for me, is a snapshot in time of how I'm doing, what I'm doing, and how I'm feeling at this point of my life and in my career. I really try to not pay attention to what people think about it. Of course, I want people to love it and, especially in this record-making process, I had my fans in mind. But I also have to be true to myself and put out something that I'm proud of and is genuine and honest and truthful. And I had a really hard time knowing what that was going to be after Rainbow because I just felt like I had this exorcism of emotion on Rainbow and I felt like I had so much to prove.”
To that end, your brother had a big role in re-directing you towards the pop sound featured on High Road. What album might have arrived if it weren’t for his intervention?
“Everyone who enjoys this record owes my brother; everyone who hates it can blame my brother! I felt like I was expected to make a Rainbow Round 2, or at least something that wasn't so celebratory [and didn't feature] the part of my voice that other people call rapping, I call it shit-talking.”
I have to be true to myself and put out something that's genuine, honest and truthful. I had a really hard time knowing what that was going to be after Rainbow
What’s the difference between shit-talking and rapping?
“I just feel more comfortable with that because that's really what I'm doing when I'm utilising that part of my voice. That's what I'm usually doing, just talking shit! I never set out with the intention of being a rapper, so I think it feels more genuine to just say, ‘shit talking’ or ‘talking shit.’ When I would listen to the Beastie Boys, I never was like, ‘Oh that's rapping!’ Yes, in hindsight, it was rapping the first time I heard Licensed To Ill, but it sounded more to me like it was a group of friends having the best time talking shit. And it was super-infectiously fun.”
My Own Dance seems to frame how you think the world sees you…
“Yeah, it's like internal dialogue. It’s how the world sees me, what the world expects from me, what I want to do and what I expect for myself. And that to me is the mission statement of this record, it’s: ‘I'm going to do this, but I'm going to do it my own way.’ That was the first pop song that I'd written for this record.”
You also worked with Brian Wilson on Resentment – how did that song come about?
“I just always dreamt of working with [Brian]. That man is so influential to music history, what music is, harmonies and just everything. He was on tour, so I unfortunately didn't get to do it with him, but when I found out he was open to it, I cried. Then again when I found out he recorded it… Then I cried again when I heard it. Almost every time I hear it, my soul feels so validated that someone I look up to so much took the time and would want to work with me. I just so can't even really believe it – I haven't fully wrapped my mind around it, it's like I'm going to wake up going, ‘Shit, that was all a dream!’”
Subscribers can read our the full Kesha cover feature here.