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Kesha is ‘Raising Hell’

Still from the music video for Kesha's "Raising Hell."
Still from the music video for Kesha's "Raising Hell." By Courtesy of RCA/Kesha
By Joseph P. Kelly, Contributing Writer

Kesha is reborn again. The artist first departed from her signature electro-pop style on her redemptive 2017 album “Rainbow.” Its tracks ranged from power ballads to bouncy anthems and even a Dolly Parton style country track — complete with a feature from the country legend herself. Signaling this change, Kesha changed her name from the stylized “Ke$ha” to the more authentic (and less ostentatious) “Kesha,” which reflected her journey to reclaim her voice and create music that is distinctively hers. Her new single, the first from her forthcoming album, “High Road,” blends the newer sound of “Rainbow” with the party music of her past to create a uniquely “Kesha” electro-pop anthem. In spite of its underlying beat, “Raising Hell” is more melody driven — keeping to the newer sound introduced in “Rainbow.”

The song begins with a slow piano progression overlaid by a soulful vocal riff, implying the impetus of a song reminiscent of the iconic ballad “Praying.” The voice of Big Freedia, queen of bounce music, breaks this opening and ushers in the beat-driven tone of the rest of the song.

The song, like its name suggests, invokes religious language and twists it to relate the message of “raising hell.” The first word, set to the beginning of an electronic beat is “Hallelujah.” In the chorus Kesha sings the titular line, perfectly summing up the message of the song: “I don’t wanna go to heaven without raisin’ hell.” This line is immediately followed by a post-chorus breakdown featuring Big Freedia singing, “drop it down low, hit it, hit the floor with it,” over a party-style beat, mixed with synthetic horns and electronic drum.

That piano motif at the onset of the song persists, underlying the harder-hitting beats of the dance-anthem. That is, until an interlude of the song ushers in a church organ, further amplifying the religious connotations of the song. Amidst the religious references, her voice itself seems to mimic that of a gospel choir. At the end of the interlude, Kesha reaches for a note, coupled with underlying harmonies, that invokes the sound of a hymn.

The outro, set to the intense beats and the recurring piano melody, again references religious iconography and language. Kesha asks, “Can I get an amen? / This is for the misfits of creation./ Take this as your holy validation./ You don’t need to hide your celebratin’ / This is our salvation.” The message of this song seems to be in diametric opposition to that of “Praying.” Kesha manipulates the perception of religion as pure and sanctified, urging listeners to raise some hell and have fun.

Kesha is back to writing party jams, but this time it’s on her own terms.

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