Kesha's story is one of the saddest I've read in the music industry as an artist who was taken advantage of.
*TRIGGER WARNING: MENTIONS OF ABUSE*
The American singer first made her breakthrough in late 2009 with the pop song TiK ToK which became a Top 5 hit, and while it was cheesy, the level of charisma she had to display was near impossible to resist.
Her career was fuelled with plenty of charismatic dance-pop hits that showed a lot of charm & fun that wasn't easy to ignore, some of them being guilty pleasures for me nowadays (Blow, We R Who We R).
Then... over the next few years, Kesha went silent due to suffering physical, sexual & emotional abuse from her producer Dr. Luke who drove her to her worst emotional state, which has lead her to an ongoing legal battle against him since 2014 in a series of lawsuits referred to as Kesha v. Dr. Luke
In 2017, she made a comeback with a single named 'Praying' which was a magnificent song that showed a more vulnerable side to her that also felt triumphant as a return to music, whilst also feeling stronger as a person and it hit hard to listen to.
Now we fast forward to 2023 and the American singer presents her 5th studio album Gag Order, which showcases her vulnerable side in full display and it hits incredibly hard in places that make me uncomfortable.
Let's start with analysing how the cover is quite grim, depicting Kesha with a plastic bag over her head. It does a chilling but provocative job at representing the singer's feelings of being silenced from all the abuse she's been through these last few years. Her blank facial expression also chills me as I feel it captures the emotionally draining process of the last few years she's dealt with.
I'm gonna say that this album hit me harder than I expected it to do so. Kesha displays her emotional side to the fullest extent with her vocals having a more matured approach similar to 'Praying'.
The album takes on a mix between art pop & electronic tracks, with the more electronic cuts having a raw surrealist atmosphere to them that feels viscerally chilling while the more art pop focused tracks having a stripped back sound to them that makes me feel drained and emotional. The production choices effectively contrast each other, thanks to talented producers like Rick Rubin & Hudson Mohawke involved.
Lyrically, Gag Order revolves around dark subject matters like death, depression, emotional exploitation, control, hope and a battle for the truth. The way these topics are addressed are chilling to the core, with a strong sense of vulnerability being present throughout here. For example:
The double single Eat The Acid addresses her experiences with taking LSD & partaking in trascendental meditation, while Fine Line uses effective word play to address the emotions she felt dealing with the lawsuit these last few years.
Only Love Can Save Us Now summarises Kesha's daily issues as she praises the power of love, with references to religion.
Hate Me Harder revolves around succumbing to the negative remarks to the point she feels her former loved one feels better about themselves ("So if hating me helps you love yourself, do your worst, baby, gimme hell, hate me harder"). This particular track managed to drive me to tears since Kesha's vocals are some of her strongest on display throughout the album and that's why it managed to hit an emotional chord for me, which doesn't often happen.
Gag Order is Kesha exploring her vulnerable side to the fullest extent, contrasting between dark topics to eventually searching for hope. Her level of evolvement cannot be underestimated on here, as she showcases the real her in just the space of 38mins of hard-hitting lyricism.
I just hope she's doing well and that something hopeful comes out of this lawsuit.