Kesha isn't exactly free, but if her newly released single "True Colors" is any indication, she's liberated enough to begin reestablishing herself as a performer rather than the woman at the center of a courthouse drama.
The embattled artist (a.k.a. Kesha Rose Sebert) dropped the EDM ballad on iTunes on Thursday night, marking her first release in the three years since suing producer Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald to get out of her record deal on his label, claiming sexual and emotional abuse. He denies all allegations against him.
Though the 29-year-old singer is still under contract with Dr. Luke's Kemosabe Records, on "True Colors," she teams with German EDM producer Zedd, whom she performed with at the first weekend of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
"True Colors" is not the fierce battle cry you might expect from the girl who has come to symbolize female artists' fight for empowerment in a very male, very misogynistic music industry (her last full album was titled "Warrior," after all).
The song is, instead, a graceful and even subdued reentry: "I won't apologize for the fire in my eyes," she sings. "Let me show you my true colors / It ain't your rainbow."
Though the lyrics may seem timely and personal a la Beyonce's "Lemonade," it should be noted that "True Colors" isn't a Kesha original; it's a 2015 Zedd track revised with her on lead vocals.
Still, as her most anticipated release — probably ever — it's hardly a letdown. Kesha's voice soars here, no party-posturing needed.
It turns out that the woman who once claimed in a morning-after rasp that she brushed her "teeth with a bottle of Jack" (Daniels, that is) can keep up with Ellie Goulding and Sia as a golden voice atop the blockbuster EDM track. While it's not a new role for Kesha, it's certainly a stylistic shift.
When Kesha performed the track at Coachella during Zedd's set, arriving onstage as his surprise guest, she was given a warm reception. Freeing Kesha in the music world is now looked on as a no-brainer cause, a given: Don't club baby seals, lower your carbon footprint and #FreeKesha.
The singer didn't squander the goodwill. She belted out the number, her voice brimming with emotion, as if to say "I'm back."
So what about her ties to Dr. Luke?
Though the idea of Kesha as a renegade who broke the law (or at least her contractual obligations) by making "True Colors" under the cover of darkness is a compelling narrative, in fact, the song was released with the permission of Luke's Kemosabe label and its parent company, RCA.
"True Colors" isn't a triumph, but more like a first dip back in the pool. Though autonomy is still a long way away, this small taste of freedom is a sweet reminder that Kesha still has a lot more to offer.
Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times